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Field Log #1

julialbertson's picture

Overall, my experience at Heather High School* was almost exactly as I expected. I do not typically get nervous in new situations, as almost everything in the last year of my life has been a new situation to some degree. I have now worked in both affluent and low-income neighborhoods, for student’s ages 5-18, and in urban and rural settings alike. The biggest adjustment for me at Heather*, as well as other schools I’ve been involved with on the east coast, is the effect of the physical space in which the school is located. I understand there are plenty of practical and safety reasons behind constructing an entirely indoor school building. Yet it continues to make me feel incredibly claustrophobic and even mildly paranoid to have that many people traversing the same contained space, having grown up in California with entirely outdoor schools.

As I mentioned in my first response for the class, the most striking part of my praxis placement was the obvious role race played in my position at the school. Although the school’s coordinator had explicitly indicated that her school was “diverse,” based on our walk around the halls I would guess I was one of a couple dozen white individuals in the building, the most of whom appeared to be teachers. It was uncomfortable to try and walk into a space in which I clearly stood out, and even more uncomfortable to try and sit in an empty classroom and watch as students merely peered at us through the doorway in passing.

During our two-hour period at the writing center, only one student came in. Anna* was a 9th grader who just needed a quiet place to do her history homework for the next period, so instead of actually helping her with her work we asked her questions. We found out she really likes soccer and cheerleading, but no longer participates in them because she was getting home too late. Anna lives in center city, and takes two trains to get back to her house in North Philadelphia each night. Anna really liked Heather, however, and appreciated the freedom her teachers gave her to complete her work in ways that made the most sense for her. My fellow Haverford students and I were all really impressed with Anna, and ended up talking to her for almost the entirety of the lunch period.

The teacher in the room, however, could not have been more uninterested in what was occurring in her classroom. She explained that it was the end of a quarter and grades were due, but student after student kept coming in looking for her, and were all met with a sharp “I’m too busy” before they could even get a word in. I realize the day must have been particularly stressful, but it was just uncomfortable to watch these students get turned away by their teacher. Moreover, the teacher did not acknowledge us once during our two hours, save a brief greeting and acquiring us the Wi-Fi password.

At my next visit I hope to talk more with both students and the teacher. While I really appreciated learning about Anna’s personal experience, I am eager to actually work with students on their writing, and hopefully discuss more about classroom pedagogy with the teacher.