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Field Notes #1

Lchase's picture

Field Notes

27 February 2015

Day 1

  • My field placement is with a 3rd grade inner city classroom. All I knew before arriving to my placement was the general location of the school. I was a bit nervous but mostly excited to start. I have not been in a 3rd grade classroom yet (My first placement was with a 4th grade afterschool program and my second placement was in a 7th and 8th grade health education classroom working with IEP students)
  • The first thing I noticed when walking up to the school was the size—it was extremely small! It also did not have a playground; instead it had a large blacktop (more like a parking lot).
  • I did not know which door to arrive in but I noticed the side door was propped open with a piece of paper so I entered that way. I do not think this door was supposed to be open or I was supposed to enter this way.
    • My past placements had a lot of security measures to ensure no one came in or out of the school (the afterschool program would not allow anyone to enter the building after a certain time along with having a buzzing in method of entry. The middle school had a buzzing in method as well along with a security station at the front of the entrance along with needing to scan in your license at every visit. Both past schools only had one way of entering the building.) This school does have a buzzing in entry but when I arrive it is not enforced. They also have about 3 ways to enter the building.
    • When I arrived I went straight to the office and signed in. My teacher was having a meeting with the principal along with the other 3rd grade teacher. I waited and then was introduced to Ms. G.
    • Ms. G explained to me what I would be doing today—helping the students with their writing assignments, specifically 3 students that were behind on the assignment. We went down to the basement to collect the students.
      •  The basement was dark it seems they have their lunch and recess there. The celling is extremely low—if I was a bit taller I would hit my head.
      • The students go to the restroom down here. I think it is the only location for student’s restrooms.  
      • I think Ms. G was a bit hesitant about me since I was a bit quiet with her because I was nervous but I opened up once I met the students.
      • I was introduced to the classroom as either Ms. Chase or Ms. Lilly but I chose to be named Ms. Lilly. One student wanted me to go by Ms. Chase but I have been called Ms. Lilly for my past placements.
        • It makes me wonder how much these students are used to addressing older individuals by their last names and why this is a thing.
          • Being addressed by your last name, to me, feels like it is enforcing a power dynamic.
          • When I was younger I was uncomfortable calling a teacher or administrator by their first name (I still call my placement teacher by her last name. My past placement teacher specifically asked me to call her by her first name but it just felt weird)
          • All of the students were African American and there were more boys than girls. About 5 girls and about 10 boys.
          • The students went to music class after about 5 minutes of heading to Ms. G’s class from the basement. Music class was literally down the hall.
          • One student was not sitting still or listening to Ms. G. After she warned him a few times a lady came into the classroom and she told her (in front of everyone) that he was misbehaving and had a rough morning.
            • When they were walking to music class this lady cornered the boy. She was extremely close to him and he seemed very uncomfortable.
              • I wonder how much a teacher can push the boundaries with students to be efficient and how it can be perceived by other individuals. How much this student would benefit from being literally cornered and uncomfortable.
  • While the students were in the class, Ms. G brought me back to her class and explained to me the class style on Friday’s. First they went to music, and then they had a bathroom break/ silent reading, after they had a weekly quiz, and finally they worked on workbooks/worksheets.
  • She explained, or rather warned, me about inner-city students and their academic progress. She said they were very bright students but a bit behind and two have temper issues (there are people that come into the class to work with these students, IEP? The lady I encountered earlier that had cornered the boy was one of them).
    • Ms. G spoke to me as if I was unprepared for this classroom style and was not aware of inner-city school issues. But I told her I had been in inner-city schools my whole life in Los Angeles and she immediately said “oh then you know!” sort of relieved.
      • I wonder if she thought I was going to judge the students or her style of teaching.
  • She also informed me about this one girl. Ms. G told me the student was extremely behind in the classroom. I had encountered the girl before music class when I was walking around the classroom—she smiled at me and seemed extremely sweet. I told this to Ms. G and she said wanted to know what was going on in her household because the student does not know simple words and her sibling in the 1st grade does not know how to use a fork or knife. She also told me that she is sweet and kind in the classroom but loud, angry, and foul mouthed at lunch. She cursed and gets into a lot of fights.
    • I was actually pretty taken back by her statements. I expected social services to be involved by what she said. What does a student need to do in order to get social services involved?
    • Ms. G gave me a few essays I was supposed to help the students with for Black History month. Each student needed to choose a person in history that has impacted their lives.
      • I needed to help two students that were behind on the assignment. One was behind because of absences due to asthma (inner-city students and asthma prevalence) and the other had copied and pasted his research but he insisted his mother helped him with the work and he did not plagiarize.
        • I wonder how much a parent should be involved in their student’s work. It was evident the student did not do the work himself and it made it seem as though he had got it off the internet. We learn about the importance of parental involvement but I wonder how much is needed and how much would hinder their student’s learning.
        • The students then had their weekly quiz.
          • Some students were very quick some were not. A few students looked like they accepted failure and gave up. One girl was very upset and wanted help.
          • As I walked around the classroom I saw a lot of spelling errors and a few comprehension errors.
            • There was an auditory section (state testing skills?) but a few students were not able to process the word/ try to spell it before the next word was said.
            • They kept asking me for help but I could not. I was probably asked because I was new and they thought I would slip up.

Overall today was exciting and I am looking forward to keep coming to the classroom.


jccohen's picture


I like the way you captured lots of different aspects of your first day in this classroom.  What stands out to me is several instances in which there's a disjuncture between what was expected and what happened or was described as happening.  In the first, you surprise your classroom teacher by your familiarity with urban kids and schools - and I'm curious about what you understand to be her assumptions with regard to this topic now that you know her and the classroom a bit better.  The second instance is with the girl who seemed so nice and then was described by the teacher in such a troubling way.  Again, how have you made sense of this in your subsequent trips to the classroom?  On another note, what have you experienced in your direct working with the children?

Lchase's picture

"[...] what you understand to be her assumptions with regard to this topic now that you know her and the classroom a bit better"

  • After being at my placement for the whole semester, I kept thinking about my first experience with Ms. G, specifically her warning. In a way, her warning can be interpreted as being uncomfortable with outside members and lacking confidence in her teaching. She may not feel like the students are at the level they should be. This experience makes me question how the schools implemented purpose of education and their standards hinder a teacher in both a personal, emotional way and in their own preferred style of teaching. 
  • I am constantly reminded of her various achievements in this school by numerous awards scattered across the campus all achieved through her hard efforts; alongside this, she is constantly praised by administrators while they describe her. The principal came into the classroom on a few occasions and specifically told me she is one of her favorite teachers on campus and how much the school loves her and needs her. But even though she is constantly praised and it is evident she is doing wonderful things for the school, I keep thinking about her warning to me this day.

After analyzing the school throughout the semester and looking at the school’s mission statement, I realized how much the school emphasizes state testing. The schools emphasis on state exams seems to impact Ms. Gilliam’s teaching and confidence. Because testing scores serve to assess both the student’s knowledge and a teacher’s teaching, it creates a stressful environment in which the teacher constantly is assessing herself in a negative manner. The school’s regulations have placed a burden on the teacher in which there is little means to relieve.

On one of my last days at Oakley Elementary I was able to talk to Ms. G one-on-one (which is something I was not able to do throughout the semester because she really wanted me to stay with the children at all times. When the students were at recess, lunch, or she had PR I felt as if she wanted the break to herself to unwind and have personal time. Because of this, I did not want to stay around and invade her time, plus I ADORE the students and love spending time with them so it was no big deal at all. If I had questions I could send her emails.). During this rare moment I asked her about her beliefs on standardized testing (specifically because I am focusing my final field based paper on the subject). She told me she thinks testing is very beneficial because it is a great way to determine the level the students are at (I was a bit surprised about this since I personally don’t think standardized testing actually tests a student’s knowledge, but I did not want to bring this up because I wanted her unbiased answer). She did say that it was unfair to compare inner-city students with students from well off communities (she specifically said students from the main line or lower Merion). She said compared her child with her students saying her little girl was in 1st grade and already knew how to read and write whereas the students at Oakley struggle with such skills even in third grade. She went on by explaining how much parental involvement (or rather lack of) hinders the student’s development and growth. Ms. G told me the school has a partnership with an online program that specifically targets each student’s weakness in various subjects which can be completed both at home and in her classroom; but her students are not able to take advantage of the program at home because almost all of them do not have access to a computer at home. On the contrary, well off families have this advantage which allows the students to practice at home and with their parents. Additionally, she told me the student’s parents have trouble helping their children with their school work (she actually said the parents just don’t care about their student’s progress. She explained this by saying the parents do not check their students work [because they work so much and do not have time or because they simply cannot comprehend the material] nor come to teacher conferences). She concluded by saying she thinks testing would be extremely beneficial but they must have a complete makeover first.  

The girl that has two sides of her, little Sasha*... "How have you made sense of this in your subsequent trips to the classroom?"

  • I really do not know how to answer this question. She is extremely loving and a wonderful student. One of the last times I was at my PRAXIS Sasha raised her hand and answered a vocabulary question during Ms. G’s study session before her weekly quiz. It was completely evident that Ms. G was super excited and proud. Sasha confidently explained the definition of “transferred” and Ms. G promptly exclaimed AWESOME! Good job, Sasha!!
    • Over the semester I have been working with her one-on-one with her reading and comprehension. I read with her and ask her comprehension questions about the readings. Over the weeks I watched her grow more and more confident in her reading and answers. It has been a wonderful, fulfilling experience.
    • Additionally, I have watched her interact in the cafeteria during lunch. She is a lot louder and confident around her peers. I saw a few cases where she misbehaved (throwing food at other students. I saw it in a playful manner). But I really did not see her “cursing up a storm” or getting in fights like Ms. G told me this day. There were various fights this semester but she was not a part of any of them!

“On another note, what have you experienced in your direct working with the children?”

  • I have experienced so much! I can write a paper on this if I really dove into it. But, ultimately, I realized how much different teaching strategies help each student. Most importantly, I realized how much discipline hurts students. I had quite a few strong feelings over Ms. G’s discipline (more so at the end of the semester. Which she actually brought up during our one-on-one conversation. She apologized to me about her discipline and told me that she needs to be even stricter towards the end of the semester with “these kids” because they like to act out and stray away from their work). What I really encountered in the classroom is an “accepting failure” (“I ain’t writin’ nutting’…” Ladson-Billings) issue. I countered this by sitting next to the students when they did not want to do their work and reading each question with them. They really received this warmly and I think it worked very well (except when Ms. G. decided to discipline them while I was doing this on a few occasions which was quite upsetting).


Lchase's picture

I'm not sure if I used the term PR correctly. I forgot what it is called but it is when each teacher has a class period to themselves. Usually they plan lessons or relax.