Experiencing Classrooms

“The block is halfway over” says Kathy as she starts Wednesday’s class. I am taken aback, it feels as if the class just started and now we are closer to the end than the beginning. The week was a whirlwind of 4th grade class observations and discussions. Monday and Wednesday were typical days in a CC class. We discussed our readings on what it means to be a teacher and debriefed our observation days. In a class of 8 students, there is no room to hide and not participate in the discussions. Tuesday and Thursday were spent in our K-12 observation classrooms. I am observing different 4th grade classes at a local elementary school. Everyday we have observation forms we fill out to turn into our teacher. They ask us to observe certain things about the class like interactions between kids and their attention or the decorations in the classroom. It focused our attention to not just what is being taught but to how the classroom is working. For me, it helps to understand the dynamics that make teaching difficult or easier. Lately, I have been reflecting on my time in K-12 also and how I contributed to a focused learning environment or annoyed my teachers.

I love this class for multiple reasons, but the main reason is because we are learning through experience. Spending over 12 hours in a classroom studying what a teacher does to control a classroom and how students contribute to a classroom’s culture is so special. I am able to connect our 3 hour discussions to the real world. One of my classmates is observing in a highschool and he is able to work with students as well as observe. Being in a classroom means we are interacting with students in the Colorado Springs community also. Sometimes Colorado College can feel like a bubble but the college creates opportunities and classes where students can be part of the Springs. For me, I spend significant time talking to my host teachers and asking about the dynamics of the school. Culturally and socio-economically, my school’s makeup is so much different than my friend’s school a mile away. I am grateful to be in this class doing such a cool immersive program and also being able to learn more about the city I am going to be living in for 4 years.

Friday was one of the best days of class this block. We went on a field trip to the Manitou Springs middle school to see their farm program there. The program was created by Barack Ben Amots, son of a music teacher at CC. 24 students at the middle school can take the farm class for their language arts class and they spend 3 hours before lunch learning in a classroom then doing work on the farm. They take care of the goats, build structures, or can read or write around the farm. It is a way for kids at the school to learn in an experiential setting and get outside. Talking to the students they said they like the farm because they do not have to be in a classroom all day and they are able to choose how they want to spend their time. They are encouraged to read and write if they do not want to do manual labor that day. The most incredible part for me was that they work on their teamwork and interpersonal skills also. For example, they do baskets where they gather in a group and either say what they are grateful for or what is making them sad that day and the group maintains an open communication about how they are feeling. I wish I had this program when I was in middle school for it would have helped me with friendships and also be more engaged in my learning.

I am grateful to be at CC receiving this experiential education now. Being able to see how the Colorado Springs community works and how reading relates to the real world is a special way that the block plans lets students learn outside of the classroom.