Newbie to the Public School Scene

Yup! Today was my first time visiting a public high school school during school hours. It was quite interesting and definitely different from my educational background. A lot of the stereotypes that people associate with the public high schools definitely proved to be true.

When we arrived to the school, the principal was very welcoming and excited that we were there! We went to a classroom where we were able to ask him questions about the application process and about the school. What was interesting that he mentioned was that compared to the other public high schools, theirs require the lowest minimum, which can explain the work ethic of some of the students I saw today. Unfortunately, the teachers did not know we were coming, and I experienced some unwelcoming tones and facial expressions. My host student was shy, but I think we bonded quite nicely because we both shared similar interests in business and cosmetology. I wish I would have been able to stay longer to go with my host student to her cosmetology class! *sigh*
My host student’s day, which became my day:

1st Period: Algebra 2: The teacher was not very welcoming and had a certain negative attitude about why I was there. I was able to ignore it and not react and just do what I really came to do. The teacher was an African American lady who looked as though she was in her late 40s-early 50s. All she did was problems on the board, and gave a worksheet, that they did in class. There was no homework given. There was only one young lady in the class who just was not interested at all, but for the most part, the children answered her questions, but in a tone to just get it over with.

2nd Period: English: They were working on Allusions based on a Zora Neale Hurston book. I liked that the activities and books they were reading and around the room were from African American authors. This is good when it comes to relating to the children. The girls were very talkative in this one class, and there was also one young lady who would just blurt out the answer to everything without giving others a chance. At one point, I could tell some would not even try because they knew she would answer. The students would also curse in class, and I really was taken-aback by that!The teacher was an African American female who probably was in her late 20s-early 30s. She never corrected the kids when they would use derogatory terms.

3rd Period: History: Taught by a white male, he was very helpful, and I think that played a part in the students liking him. He didn’t necessarily give them the answer, but he made sure they understood why the answer was what it was.

A few things I noticed across the board: There was no urgency from the students to get to class. They showed up late, and there were no consequences on the spot or acknowledgement of there arrival time. Teachers could have at least said something after class or something! Another thing I noticed was that cell phone use was an extreme issue! Technology is really going to ruin the public school education of children. They already don’t want to be there, and cell phones don’t help because their attention is strictly on the phone. One girl was on Instagram THE WHOLE CLASS! For a 1 hour straight! High schools can’t really use Midtown Academy’s approach of taking phones at the beginning of the day just because high schoolers need to learn how to be more responsible, but there has to be a better way! Another thing I noticed was that pregnancy was almost like a normalcy. Some of my classmates told me that students even asked them if they had kids. I saw one pregnant girl, and one other girl was screaming in the hallway about how she hates needles because she was poked with them so many times during her pregnancy. I also noticed and was told that homework was rarely given. They pretty much do all work in the classroom.

I can go on and on about the negatives of my visit. All in all, I enjoyed myself! It was new to me being that I grew up in private, Catholic schools my WHOLE life! I’m even in a private school now! I really enjoyed my student host. She went to a private school before attending the high school which explained to me why her work ethic was really good, and how conservative she was.

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Buses in the rain..

The day started off at around 9:00 for me, which was great because I really needed the sleep. After getting dressed and ready, we headed out to a cafe place called David and Dad’s right around the corner from the hostel. It was a pretty nice start to the day. Then, all of us who were going to an elementary school headed outside, where it had started raining, so we could catch the bus. I’m always really skeptical about buses because my experience is that they come late about half of the times I take them. And they’re always late when you need them to be on time, and the times when it doesn’t matter, they’re exactly on time. The ironies of life..

So, of course, the first bus we wanted to take was about 15 minutes late and originally, we had 14 minutes to catch the next transfer, so we missed the second bus and had to wait. Luckily, this bus was on time, so we made pretty good time to the elementary school. When we got there, the person at the front didn’t know we were supposed to be there and we had to explain to them that we were from Gettysburg College. The kids were still testing so we had to wait a little bit in the auditorium. It was only for a couple of minutes and then we were taken up to our contact teacher’s class. He went down to hand in the exams somewhere. While he was out, we took some time to talk to the students. I started off talking to two of the girls. I suppose all fifth grade classrooms get like this, but I realized that it got really loud real quickly because I was having a hard time hearing what the girls were saying. They were telling me about their after school activity and walked through their schedule in a day with me. They were also really excited to be going on a field trip to the science fair.

Our contact came back and had a student to take Andrea and me to the fourth grade math teacher’s class. He was really friendly and introduced himself and then introduced us to his class. There was an officer that came in that day to talk about anti-gang and anti-bullying. He told us he didn’t plan a lesson for them because they had been testing that day, but he wanted to help us. So he pulled out four of his exceptional students so we could just talk with them. We walked through their school day and asked them about the school. They all said they liked the school and especially voiced their love of math; it seemed like teacher was the type of person who was really for the students and knew how to have fun with the kids. They talked about the food they get and said how it was too greasy and they were making a proposal for a salad bar to be established, which I was really impressed with. But it seemed like we saw the exceptions. When we were finished talking to them, we walked into the hallway and witnessed a teacher yelling across the hall at a student about how they were being disrespectful. The math teacher’s class was also a bit hectic and he had to ask more than once for them to sit down. He then asked if there was anything else he could do for us and then we thanked him and left.

We got to Midtown Academy around 3:10. Today’s theme was “Where are you from?” We started off with a warm-up called ‘Wah’, which went okay, but I had wanted the kids to get more excited about it. So that was a little disappointing. The rest of the day went pretty great though. I feel like we got some really good kids and all of them are always very willing to participate. We talked about their backgrounds first like: their family, their heritage, and any traditions they might have. This transitioned into interviews where we told them they want to talk about what makes them unique. They wrote down strengths, weaknesses, activities they participate in, and their interests. Charrisha then conducted some mock interviews with them. We used this experience to talk about positives and negatives of an interview process, which Doug facilitated really well. The day wrapped up talking about their role models and what characteristics make a role model, which was pretty successful.

DSC07794

Then it was time for them to go home. Overall, the day started off really well, traveling was a bit of a bummer, and then the day ended well.

It’s Tuesday, so it must be raining…

My day began at 6:30 this morning- definitely an early start for me.  And like every other Tuesday in the Pennsylvania/ Maryland area, the rain was coming down hard.  After finding a nice jolt of caffeine for the morning, half of our class group made it successfully (although soaking wet) via bus to a vocational technical high school.  Our day started off interestingly given that people were unaware that we were visiting and shadowing students for the morning. But, around 8:30, we were paired up with students from the high school and let them show us a morning of their life in this school (which we will be using for a student case study paper for the class).

My student was a junior boy, who’s trade at the technical school is business.  We arrived at his first class, biology, where the students were working on genetics (blast from the past), but the teacher could not control her class.  Students were walking in 20,30, even 40 minutes late, sleeping (like the drooling kind) on their desks, running around the classroom, texting, cursing up a storm, and doing everything but their work.  If the teacher confronted them about it, they would just sass her back and she could barely get a sentence out before having to yell at another student.  During the first few days of Urban Ed, we discussed stereotypes of urban education based on movies, tv, or anything we had previously been exposed to, and I was suddenly wide-eyed and a little bit shocked that I was surrounded by those stereotypes.  The boy I shadowed was very reserved, and as his teacher pointed out to me after class, didn’t let himself get caught up in misbehaving.  Although he struggled with his punnet squares, he stayed somewhat focused.  I spent his lunch period (which is at 10AM) and math class getting to know the student even more and found out that he wants to open his own martial arts business.  He hopes to go to business school at Johns Hopkins in 2 years.

After a nice bowl of soup to warm us up after being caught in the rain and a short rest at the hostel, we headed to Midtown for Day 2 of our career institute.  The kids had great feedback from day 1 and were excited for another fun day of activities and learning.  We focused the day on options after highschool: college/university, the military, and technical schools.  We played some games and talked about these options.  Rex did a wonderful job leading our day, where we had the heaviest lecturing and keeping the students engaged!  Tomorrow is my day to lead, and although I’m a little nervous- the fact that a student told us “I wish this program was everyday for the rest of the year.  I went home and talked for hours last night with my family about how much fun I had” made me feel energized to lead a busy day tomorrow!!

Day 2: Chaos on the Courtyard

I was really excited for the opportunity to shadow a student today. I went to an elementary/middle school–no special reform model–and my group did not have to leave until late morning due to the school taking standardized tests. Initially, this sounded like a nice perk…

Basically, after awkwardly navigating the bus system to the school for an hour and getting rained on, we were really hoping this visit would go smoothly…NOPE. The principal–the PRINCIPAL–was not even expecting our arrival. We waited in a 5th grade classroom that just finished testing while we waited for more guidance, and we were eventually paired up with some of them to be shown around the building. I mean, those kids were super friendly and inquisitive, but from what I had been told, I was expecting a pre-organized plan and selection of student guides. I was dropped off in a random 3rd grade class. The teacher welcomed me kindly, and a couple students noted my presence, then a few more, then the whole class was trying to introduce themselves at once, and for the rest of the time I spent in that class the teacher struggled to keep students engaged in “free time” and not fighting or running around. When I spoke to students one-on-one, they did seem compliant and willing to answer my questions. But where there was no supervisor, there was madness. The volume level certainly did not die down when I visited the 7-8th grade lunch period either. The girls I met were definitely interested in talking to me, but when they weren’t, their interaction with each other involved a lot of ‘friendly’ yelling and pushing. The disciplinary staff in the cafeteria used this method too…not exactly what I would’ve recommended…

This experience, plus the long bus travel, had very much drained me by the time we had to start Day 2 of the College & Career Institute at Midtown. It was hard for us to go from a chaotic morning to more teaching. Although we had a bit of fun in the beginning, we did not maintain as much of an energetic tempo as we could have, so we lost our students’ attention at times. This is something I intend to work on for my lesson tomorrow, after a lot of coffee…YEAH LEARNING!

Technical Tuesday

Today felt like walking down memory lane. The Urban Education students had to decide whether they were interested in going to a public elementary school or a city-wide vocational-technical high school. Two completely different options, it was an easy decision for me — the vocational-technical high school. I graduated from a vocational-technical high school and was really familiar with the curriculum and the numerous trades that students were allowed to pick. In addition, I had a closer connection because both the schools were in urban areas.

When I entered the high school, I immediately saw how nice the interior was. The lockers, the flooring, the decorations, the classrooms, everything that you saw pertaining to the school was high-quality. There was, however, a contrast between the interior and decorations of the building to the high school student body.  I was assigned a student tour-guide and basically followed her to her classes. I had great discussions with the students about an array of topics — how would they describe the environment of the high school and the study body, the difference between a good and bad teacher, future goals, and much more. In the classrooms, the students were very loud, and during my first period class, there were students coming in late sporadically. Also, compared to Midtown Academy, the high school students did not work quietly and independently on their classwork, and frequently did not follow the teachers’ directions. I told the teacher that I will be going to lunch with my student, and they told me that I should be prepared because I will be entering the “jungle.” A lot of the students appeared that they had goals to go to college and to be successful. Several of the students discussed how their school was pushing them to go to college but it “just wasn’t working” because many of the students weren’t driven. But it was difficult to see how their high school was preparing them for their higher-level education.  Unfortunately, this high school reminded me of my high school experience. Loud classmates, frustrated teachers, rowdy students in the cafeteria, my trade class was the highlight of my day, college was barely promoted, and more. Despite my negative experiences and awareness that urban teaching is rigorous, I continue to strive to be an urban educator.

Then we had our second day of our College and Career Institute and it was my turn to lead. Our theme for today was “Options after High School” and I discussed about the various options — college & university, vocational-technical & career college, and the military. I tried my best to give most of the leadership to the students and have them take the lead. Initially, a few of the activities would of been led by me, but after receiving some advice from Professor Rinke, I decided that the students should do the work themselves. The students were split into groups of two and then assigned an option. They were to find five facts about their opportunity then alter two of the facts to make false statements. When the facts were gather, we played the Four Corners — Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. It was great seeing what the students knew and didn’t know. After the Four Corners activity, I provided additional information about the options and answered any questions. In addition, we had the students take a personality test and they really enjoyed learning more about themselves. To end the day off, I answered the questions that students wrote in their journals the previous day, and we had some great discussion. I absolutely love the students I am working with and couldn’t ask for a better group. But as I ponder about my great experience at Midtown Academy, I wonder how the program would of look if this was implemented at the high school. Would my group members and I be effective and efficient teachers with the students, or would we be burnt out from  trying to maintain the students?

Earlier in the semester, we watched a few films of urban education, and my classmates and I who visited the high school felt like it reflected the stereotypical urban school. But Midtown Academy reflects what an ideal urban school should look like. I am still challenging myself on how could I possibly make a public school classmate resemble a charter school classroom.

What to expect tomorrow: We are meeting with the Recruitment Director of KIPP School and will be learning about their educational model. In addition, it’ll be around third day of the College and Career Institute.

Keep reading!

Day 2

Coming off of a 4 AM wakeup yesterday, being able to sleep in until 10 AM this morning was a nice change of pace. After making my way down to Dunkin Donuts for a nice breakfast and a crucial cup of coffee, I was ready to embark towards the Elementary School. It was a little rainy to start the day, and the fact that the bus was 20 minutes late didn’t help. Eventually, the bus did come and our group made it to the elementary school. Upon Arrival, I was a little surprised to find that the principle of the school was not expecting us. After a phone call, we met up with our contact, who also seemed a little surprised to see us. We walked in on a class of fifth graders finishing up standardized testing, which was common throughout the elementary and middle school. I was a little discouraged that we didn’t get to see a lot of actual teaching, but what I did see was very humbling. Two fifth graders escorted me and mike to a class of seventh graders in science class, and I was shocked to find at least 30 students being taught and “baby sat” by a 22 year old girl. Personally, I have never had a teacher under 30, so this was a little different for me. After observing the class for a little, I found that not only did the teacher have a hard time teaching the class as a whole, but the students themselves had a hard time approaching the teacher as well. Because the class was doing group projects, many of the students approaching the teacher for questions would have to wait for sometimes up to 5 minutes, which seriously took away from their learning time.

After observing the seventh grade, I found my way to the second grade where the students seemed extremely excited to see us. It was here that we met up with several fifth grade tour guides that seemed very excited and anxious to show us around the school. After the second grade class, we toured the school for a while before we found ourselves lunchless and due back at The Midtown Academy in less than an hour.

Arriving at Midtown was a lot less stressful while already having a full day under our belts. Not surprisingly, that relaxed attitude correlated with our group performance in the class room. Today, our theme was “Where are you From?” and it seemed to go really well with the students. They were all much more relaxed (which says a lot) this time around, and I could tell our group was more relaxed as well. The interviews we conducted seemed to go well as well, as the students all seemed very interested and excited about what conducting an interview would feel like. Still, the most rise we got out of the students was when we told them Gettysburg was ranked 9th in the nation for college campus food. Hopefully we can shift this excitement towards more productive things by the end of the week, but overall things went very well today.

Day 2: The Journey

Today we traveled nearly an hour to a Public Elementary School in Baltimore via bus and light rail.  The ride was long and the rain didn’t help but as we got closer the sun came out and we passed by a really cool building mural.

Building Art

Building Art

Upon arriving to the school, I was anxious to meet with the students and interact with them.  At first glance I felt that this elementary school was designed much like the one I attended at home.  Both are very structurally different from Midtown Academy.  Like my intermediate school at home, The public school seemed to be very disorganized and wild with masses of students wandering the halls unsupervised.  Many teachers seemed to be unprepared and unable to control their classes with the exception of a few teachers.  Since we arrived right after the testing period, things were understandably chaotic and I would like to give the staff the benefit of possibly being overwhelmed by the process.

North Bend Elementary

Public Elementary School

We ended our day at Midtown Academy where I directed our lesson.  The lesson was geared towards career goals and I thought we did a lot of good things for the students.  The activity that they responded the most to was the Life Map.  Unfortunately the students weren’t able to finish in time but hopefully they will be able to tomorrow.