Student Study Winter 2016
Observation & Analysis
Overview: I observed a sophomore male at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, Chicago, IL. This was on a Monday at the beginning of the new semester. In the morning the student was called to the office and was told of my request by the assistant principal and he allowed it. He is an athlete and participates in afterschool activities. The school is majority African American. I went from class to class with this student introducing myself to the cooperating teacher before each period. I observed each class, only communicating at small intervals (like in the hallway) throughout the day. The student did not seem to take note of my being there, and seemed comfortable with my presence.
Notes: My notes consisted of coding terms: Personal Observation, Data, Behavior, and Teacher Analysis. There were only a few Data collection notes because I wasn’t able to acquire certain assessment information from the teacher, and mostly because my primary concern was with the manner and conduct/order of the classroom. I could have taken observational data on student population/size, specific amount of times my student spoke out, but some things went unnoticed. I think there is a reason for this; it shows my preoccupation for a classroom setting that suits my ideal learning environment. I was mostly concerned with the ways in which the class was conducted, not knowing how the class was conducted the day before or how it will be for the next day. There was a lot of judgment in this sense, but it shows me that I may be too concerned with a day’s operation, not looking at the whole picture.
Reflective Analysis: Before going into the assignment, I wanted to check that I wouldn’t be adding too many personal observations. This is because I wanted the assignment to reflect a scientific study, rather than an opinion. I think this way would’ve suited my study more appropriately because it would have been useful to a broader audience. Instead I did find myself making personal statements. This also tied into the behavior modes I was taking note of. Some behaviors may seem quite normal to an experienced teacher, though from this perspective, I may have a focus that is looking for excitement, or an unfamiliar approach that isn’t seen everyday. For instance, six of nine of my notes on behavior had to do with student boredom. A seasoned teacher may consider a student’s quietness an improvement over misbehavior. Though for reasons that I’d like to insist that all my students be engaged in one way or another, there may still be some bad days.
Some notes on behavior may also be used for other types of research too; some of which could affect policy. There was a teacher who was trying to upload a video from the web and it took 14 plus minutes to complete it. During this time kids were starting to fall asleep. They were being watched for not getting on their cell phones, though most were, and weren’t restless, but tired. This room was also very hot. The temperature and climate made it very easy to become drowsy. There were two other classrooms were the heat was so high it was exhausting. This is also part of my personal observation; it could be specific to my opinion. Though the matter at hand is that the heat could have been addressed the day before, and the teacher wouldn’t waist more time on it. However the class could have also been bored because they were waiting for so long. This teacher who looked experienced quite possibly could have had an activity or discussion prepared for when media issues like this exist. The problem of boredom was not addressed in this class either. In fact there were only two instances throughout the day where the student was asked to think ‘on their feet’ (to give hypothesis in Science, and response to Harlem jazz in English class) not to give appropriate answer. This is where I see boredom as an issue for something I would not like to exist in my classroom.
It was also clear that the student fooled around in class a bit more frequently where the content wasn’t registering, where he may have trouble. He was passing notes in a class he least liked. He also was distracted when he was in a corner of the room, which placed emphasis on classroom management and social situations of a classroom. He was attentive along with the rest of the class when the teacher had a “do now” on the board at the beginning of the class, but also was attentive when there wasn’t. There was a class where he did not address the “do now” by sharpening his pencil, and walking the room slowly. It was not clear also that a stricter teacher had his behavior managed compared to other classes. It was mostly the subject matter. This supports my hopeful teaching career in that I think the challenge and goal is to make the task or subject or concept interesting to all, in some way or another. What may be difficult is to develop a practice that allows for tasks to be depending on the student. In Art class, some students can pick their subjects, so why not in other classes. One may also be able to build upon their own knowledge by presenting it, even if it’s different from the next. I feel like some evidence of the instruction and boredom from this observation would be dismissed if the student had more control over his curriculum and assessment. I’m visualizing this student completely engaged in the tasks leading to lessons, and it looks like more freedom. The class-to-class monotony felt more like a prison.
Teacher analysis didn’t have much to do with what was being taught, but more to do with how they treated the classroom and students in it. There was a lot of language geared towards a lesser, coming from a superior. Now this could possibly reflect our society precisely, but should not reflect our personal relationships. So I’ve asked myself before; do I want to be a friend to my students or a superior? The answer I think is neither. I’d want to be a source of information, to be respectful and to be caring. I heard assumptions from teachers to students, idealistic approaches like, “I’ve been to Italy, if you go, no, when you all go to Italy someday, you…” and belittling statements like “talk less.” What I take away from that is I hope to learn to be very careful and precise with my language with the students. It’s important to be sensitive to all people and all types.
I saw that it is incredibly difficult to be a high school student; more difficult than college in my opinion. This opinion isn’t based on the learning but it was the lack of freedom in personal value placed on education. High School seems to be a ‘be told’ environment. I find it incredibly valuable to give the power of education into the student’s hands, not that they get it from you, but they receive education through you. I believe that this style of educating can be set up through curriculum for self-assessment or reflection in student progress, with the student. It can also be set up through teacher autonomy. If the teacher feels free to teach, then the student will feed off that freedom. All told it seems that the education my student is receiving can be related to the way in which the school policies are addressed. What I argue for in education is less of a testing environment. This will relieve the pressure from policy to please government, which relieves teacher’s obedience, and gives air to the student’s power to educate.
Overall the idea of the student study struck me as a lesson in self-development, which also seems to be my education philosophy. My biggest challenge is not that I’m worried about my first couple years in education, but the later years. Teaching has to be tough that one must adjust constantly to the class characteristics. I will hope that I will set up traps or triggers for myself, reminders to not get stuck in any one way approach to education. Curriculum and communication should possibly be adjusted from class to class. Going class to class is challenging within itself, to the student and for the teacher. Cross curriculum, and student development could be approached outside of the classroom to create a coherent and seamless approach and understanding for why the student is in school. I wonder how many students know why they are in school, or if they would just answer that it’s just what they need to do.