Elementary Education: On Field Experience, Science Fairs & Cohort Potlucks

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This past week was rather a whirlwind, but also very fun. I started observations at a new school in Chinatown, taught the Hunger Games lesson plan, acted as a special awards judge at a science fair, and threw a cohort potluck to welcome us to our spring break. I hope to share photos from our teaching experience soon. The students learned a lot (so did I) and really enjoyed themselves in the process. I’ve found myself reflecting on the lesson all weekend long. I am becoming enamored with middle school social studies. It’s such a rewarding age group and a complex subject matter. But more on that in a future post. Now, onto Chinatown!

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I observed for the first time in Chinatown this week. Thus far I’ve observed in North Center, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Pilsen. One of the major requirements of our program is that we spend time observing students of varying diversities. The goal is to become well rounded, thoughtful, adaptive, and to be able to teach without bias. Learning how to teach without bias (while taking into consideration each child’s varying needs) is one of my major missions. It’s something that we talk about constantly in class and is also something that I think is important for us to be discussing, not only as teachers but as active citizens. As a country, we are still working on our biases, whether they be towards gender, race, or sexuality. This is a big part of why I want to become a teacher. I want to be a role model to students, and I also want to inspire them all to be empathetic towards others, to act without bias, and to feel confident voicing their opinions in their communities. I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin case, and my heart aches when I think of his parents and his community, but especially when I think about his school. How do you talk to students about something like this that seems so clearly motivated by race? How do you get them past anger and grief and help them think about what changes they’d like to see in Florida or in the United States? It’s a huge challenge to move forward from something like this in a positive way, but I hope we can do it.

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I have to admit that I was nervous to complete the next task of my week, which was to be a judge at the Museum of Science and Industry Science Fair. I couldn’t imagine how to compare one project to another, especially when you take into consideration how varying the topics are, how prepared the students are to give their speeches, and the work that goes into their displays. Fortunately, my cohort and I were assigned the task of handing out the special awards. The special awards are given out to students who are very excited about their project, but seem to have been lacking in resources (either no help from adults or very little in the way of materials). The goal of the award is to encourage a student who tried their very best, but can’t compete with a student who had more to work with. We spent the morning listening to awesome kids talk about ideas they’d had and wanted to try out. We shook hands with every student we met, complimented them on their hard work and dedication, and walked away from the experience feeling very moved. I want to be a science fair judge every year!

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While I write this post, we’re going into our spring break. I have many tasks to complete, but I’m looking forward to a little bit of rest and relaxation. To cap off our very busy week, some of my cohort members came over for an impromptu potluck. We sat around my kitchen table for hours telling stories and letting the stress of the semester roll off our shoulders. I feel so close to my classmates. It again reinforced for me how much I love the cohort experience. Even though a week away will be nice, I have to admit that I’ll miss seeing their faces this week.

Have a good week everybody!