Saturday, April 30, 2011

Classroom Observation and Reflection Paper (MTE501)

Classroom Observation and Reflection Paper
I observed Ms. Holman’s 1st grade class at Castleberry Elementary in Fort Worth, TX. Ms. Holman taught the class for the entire day. The students only went to other teachers or faculty for lunch, physical education, and music/art. The students spent most of their time in the classroom during the day. The morning session followed this sequence: morning announcements, attendance, on the carpet for challenge words and word meaning map, activities daily 5 (writing, reading, computer, TV, fluency, packets, and matching games), on the carpet for oral language chart, then more activities daily 5, and finally a YouTube video on pollution. The experience was very interesting and informative. I feel like I have a lot to learn. The remainder of this paper will cover the educational philosophy of Ms. Holman and an explanation of how I will apply what I learned in her class to my own teaching experience.
Educational Philosophy
Both the answers to the teacher questionnaire and the interview questions clearly indicate a progressivist educational philosophy on the part of Ms. Holman. Kauchak & Eggen (2011) explains that progressivism entails a, “…curriculum [that] should be composed of experiences that reflect today’s world, and instructionally, teachers should guide students in the process of development” (p. 204). The main thrust of such an educational philosophy is that the curriculum should be made relevant and timely to the students so that it promotes thinking and understanding. Ms. Holman was strictly against any kind of standardized testing, indicating a shying away from an essentialist philosophy. She also talked a lot in the interview questions about how teachers have a responsibility to society to produce students that are an aid to society. Furthermore, the YouTube video that the students watched was about pollution, and Ms. Holman discussed at length different ways that pollution can be avoided or minimalized. The way she went about the spelling words was quite in line with progressivism as well. Instead of simple rote memorization she had them fill out and discuss a graphic organizer on the word “warm”. The children had to write the word, the definition, a synonym, an antonym, draw a picture of the words, and use the word in a sentence. The students did not do this on their own; rather the teacher guided them through the exercise and asked many open-ended questions. Overall, she exhibit an educational philosophy quite in line with progressivism; however, it cannot be discounted that 1st graders do not have to take a standardized test in order to pass to 2nd grade in the state of Texas. So, it could be that she has such freedom of instruction only because she doesn’t have to worry about students passing a test to progress to the next grade.
I suppose the biggest thing I will take away from the experience is how to handle children who are hyperactive. The teacher talked quietly and calmly to them and never got them excited or upset. When they acted up she moved to isolate them, but did not chastise them or punish them. It was more a matter of restraint and separation than punishment. When I was in school teachers were always the punishers. They were the ones who put us in the corner or sent us to the principle or called our parents. Ms. Holman did not foster that kind of environment; rather she worked to make the learning experience smooth and fluid. At no point did it look like she was asking the children to do something they did not want to do. They were always happy to do whatever she asked them to. As it applies to my own teaching experience, I will try to incorporate this type of practical disciplinary style into my educational approach. It seemed to work very well with students, at least better than the consequence-based approach I have observed in the past.
In conclusion, I have always been more a perennialism with a twinge of progressivism. I personally thought that she spent too much time talking about ways to address pollution. Even though I know it is an important topic as of late, what did the students really learn? Her approach to discipline and instruction were quite novel to me and presented a well thought out methodology of learning. She based her teaching style on past experience and her knowledge of children in general. She did not like standardized test because she thought that they did not teach the students anything. I am inclined to agree. We both wince at any type of essentialist philosophy. In all, it was the thinking behind her teaching style—rather than her practical implementation—that I will most remember and incorporate into my own teaching style.
Kauchak, D. & Eggen, P. (2011). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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