6 November 2006
I went to two different schools to complete my volunteer work, Providence High School and Irwin Avenue Elementary. There were pro's and con's
to the two classrooms I visited, though my overall experience in each was both impressive and rewarding. The children involved – despite having
academic and behavior issues – were bright and eager to learn, which makes me feel as if teaching really is the right field of study for me. After all, if
we can make a difference in even the most difficult of lives, then there's hope for the entire world.
The first classroom I visited was at Providence High; an E.C. math and science class with Ms. Patterson. Due to an unfortunate mistake involving the
bell schedule, I actually had to leave for about an hour and a half and then come back to complete my necessary hours for this visit. Thus, my
experience was a little inconsistent due to the time lapse, but I enjoyed my time there nonetheless.
The first class I sat in on (math) involved a lot of student participation, which I thought was an excellent format for the students. Involving students in
any classroom – special ed and regular – is a worthwhile pursuit, but these kids really seemed to respond better when asked questions. By creating
examples on the board and asking different people to solve them, Ms. Patterson gave everyone an opportunity to see common mistakes and how to
The classroom itself was also conducive to learning. Rooms without helpful posters and/or student work on the walls, I believe, reduce the
effectiveness of the learning environment by creating a dull, monotone atmosphere that doesn't allow students to become excited about curriculum.
Ms. Patterson's walls, however, had pictures and posters and excellent examples of student work on them, encouraging the students to get involved.
My favorite decorative aspect of the room, however, was the series of posters that gave instruction on behavioral issues such as introducing oneself,
giving criticism, receiving criticism or a consequence, accepting "no" for an answer, etc. I thought that, for students with emotional/behavioral
problems, these posters were particularly effective. The things that most of us take for granted are difficult for these kids and these posters provide
an understanding environment for the students. If they experience some sort of adversity in one of these areas, they can simply look up to the wall
and remind themselves of the proper behavior for the situation. I thought that this was a wonderful addition to the room, assuming that they're used.
In contrast to all of the positive things that I found within Ms. Patterson's classroom, I also found some negative aspects. One student, Mark,
seemed to have more trouble than the others with outbursts and, instead of exhibiting patience with him, both Ms. Patterson and her teaching
assistant snapped at and insulted him. While nothing was terribly extreme, I felt a little uncomfortable listening in on these interactions because,
frankly, I don't believe that students should be treated that way. They went out of their way to single Mark out for his faults on several occasions,
inciting the other students to join in on the mistreatment. Honestly, it seemed like poor classroom management to allow situations such as these to
reach such levels, not to mention completely unprofessional.
Ms. Patterson talked to me about Mark after the bell had rung for the day and the students were released and admitted that Mark's behavior really
wasn't his fault; she blames adults for allowing him to behave in a disruptive manner. Also, to be fair to Ms. Patterson and her assistant, Mark did
make frequent outbursts both in discussion and during a test, so I can somewhat understand their impatience with him. Still, as an outside observer
for the day, I was a little shocked by the treatment.
My visit to Irwin Elementary was also, unfortunately, a little disrupted. I had been informed that the day wouldn't be "business as usual" by the
school because of an "IB Attitude" parade that was supposed to take place between one and three, but it got cancelled (probably due to rain). Still,
I was able to participate in a classroom that was on its usual schedule, so I wasn't too terribly disappointed (I do admit that I was a little, though).
In any event, I think that this visit was the most rewarding of my two observations. Not only was I able to observe two grade levels (third and
fourth), but I also got to interact directly with a few of the students who were working on their reading skills with the teaching assistant, Ms. Smith.
While the teaching assistant was out of the room for a few minutes, I and the other UNCC student observing the class were called over to help the
three boys at the reading table with their assignments. The student I was helping read to me and then I asked him reading comprehension questions.
Apparently, they later take computer tests to gauge how well they understood the material they read, but the computers in the room were down so
they weren't able to do so that day. The boy that I worked with seemed to grasp the concepts of the books that we read really well, though, so I
have faith that he'll do really well on his test when he gets the chance to take it. All three of them were very bright and eager to learn, though
obviously at different levels.
I also got to observe Ms. Allen's math lesson for a little while before helping the younger students with their reading, which was also interesting. I
thought she seemed a little impatient at times, but overall very effective with her teaching methods. Like Ms. Patterson, she encouraged her kids to
participate in the lesson and answer questions, even going so far as to let them give her the examples to work out sometimes. Her group consisted of
about five students, some of which were a little more active than others, and each of them got to participate.
My observation experiences this semester were both rewarding and disappointing at the same time, but definitely leaned more toward the former. I
haven't decided yet if I want to be a general or special education teacher yet, but at least now I'm better informed about the other side of the tracks,
so to speak. I think that all children are special no matter their academic level, so it will be a tough decision, but I'm sure that I'll come to the right
conclusion for my path in life, thanks in part to these experiences.