This morning I woke up bright and early, threw on some professional attire and headed to my old Middle School for a classroom observation.
Since the school year is winding down it seems the classes aren’t doing as much. It took a while to find a classroom that wasn’t testing or watching a movie. I ended up in a 7th grade Accelerate Language Arts class.
I thought the classroom itself seemed pretty dull save for several posters, but that may just be due to lighting? As for the 7th graders……….they. were. TINY!!!! Seriously, I was always tall for my age growing up but jr. high was definitely the time where others began reaching my height or towering above me. In the classroom today there were a few kids who I would believe were 7th graders but the rest?! So small!
Anyway they were supposed to have a book talk with the librarian but since it was rescheduled they did another activity instead. They paired up and did a scavenger hunt on the internet using in-class I-Pod Touches…………………sweet deal.
It was alright. Some of them didn’t seem to know what search terms to use and after helping one student the teacher mentioned this activity was helping them narrow their searches and pick out key words from sentences. Finally! Because I had been trying to figure out what the point of it all was. There didn’t really seem to be any clear goal other than to have a replacement activity for the day.
The teacher I was observing seemed to have good command of the room but at the same time a good relationship with her students. Before I left I asked her a few questions and received some interesting responses.
I asked her what students were expected to know coming into and leaving the 7th grade. She showed me a basic outline of their standards, but told me there is a gap. She said the gap is due to curriculum differences that will be resolved next year so ‘hopefully that will solve that.’ I asked if she had had to work extra hard to get all these 7th graders caught up. She said basically the first semester was spent catching them up, but instead of saying by now they are all caught up she gave me a little nervous smile and basically said not really. She then said it wasn’t quantifiable whether they are where they need to be, and restated her hope that the gap would be fixed for the next round of students with newer curriculum. Um, k.
I asked her if students were able to get extra help and she went on about budget cuts. I understand some teachers don’t want to come in earlier, stay later or give up part of their lunch without being compensated for it; but at the same time I don’t understand how teachers who acknowledge the achievement gap aren’t compelled to do so anyway. She did mention that since there is no late-bus many students cannot stay after school. But she also said the lunch program where teachers help students is being cut and this I’m not sure I can wrap my head around. The crazy thing is, I went to this school! And now definitely have a new perspective on it.
I did ask her what her biggest challenge is to which she replied – differentiation. This I can understand and I hope I will be able to address it well.
Overall I wish I had gotten to see some more teaching. I also wish I had had enough guts to quickly tour my old hallways before leaving but alas, I did not. On Tuesday I will be observing a high school English class. I no longer want to do this – I would much rather observe a 6th grade class now that I have my placement. But I don’t feel I can back out now. Oh well.
In the meantime I still have pre-work to do..! And then the ever-daunting…packing!!