Posts in: ED101

The Classroom Culture

Kathy stands at the front of our circle of chairs around the board room table. It is the last day of class and despite the laughing, there is a sense of sadness in the room. We all are going to leave for spring break the next day and may never convene in the same room together again. Our assignment for the day was called “the non-a-paper project.” We had to show something we learned in class through any medium but a paper. Basically, we could do whatever we wanted and be as creative as we wanted.

The first person to go was Olivia, she had us do an art project on a fixed v. growth mindset. The idea was to create an art piece on a sheet of paper that reminded us how that we should have a growth mindset, so aim to think of obstacles as places for growth not as the end of our journeys. The picture of her art is below, personally, mine was not pretty enough to be put on the internet. 

Next, Dova had us create cardboard arcade games. On the first day of her observations, her 3rd-grade class was presenting on their cardboard arcade games. For us, we split into groups of 3 and had 5 minutes to create a game. Personally, I felt our group had the best game and we ended up playing with it after class also, called “Get Iced.” 

For my project, I had each person write a personal fact, peculiar fact, and favorite memory from observations. Each person put their papers in a bowl and we picked one up at a time and pointed at the person we thought had written it. The goal of my project was to show how interpersonal relationships between students and teachers create a better learning environment. From my observations, I realized that teachers who had personal relationships with their students had a less disruptive classroom and the students were more focused. Therefore, I wanted to show our class because we became close to each other, we had a more productive learning environment.

The other projects included learning sign language, doing brain games to test our observational skills, writing one act of kindness we did in the past day, etc. This was a really fun way to end a fun and interactive class. After spending the past week working on a research project and presentation, we were able to be creative and have fun one last time together. Kathy had plenty of jokes that had us cracking up and in tears. She even had herself in tears multiple times, but those jokes will stay between our classmates. 

Reflecting on this class, I am so grateful I chose to take the chance to come the first day and see if there was an open spot than not take it. The value of experiential learning was so valuable to combine the discussions and practicum. What gave the class life was our professor Kathy and my other classmates. Without an engaging professor and welcoming class community, learning can be stunted. In the end, I learned classroom culture is created by a professor and is translated by the students. Classroom culture is created not given, and it is a special and powerful skill to create *the* classroom culture like we were lucky to experience.

-Lucy

Nick and Avery working on their game.      Olivia and our game, Get Iced.    Olivia’s art activity on a fixed v. growth mindset.

30 Hours and Connections

Our last day of class observation has come and gone. 30 hours of K-12 class observation under our belts. Looking back on the past week I did not know how the class would end. It had been a rollercoaster of laughing and professionalism and overall block pandemonium. We spent week 3 doing more of the same class schedule. The biggest part of the week was that we had to end our time in our K-12 classrooms. For my fellow classmates, their students gave them notes and big hugs. This block has been so special and nostalgic. Going back to school for 7 hours a day took a toll on our energy, but I know for each of us it was an irreplaceable experience. We each created a bond with our host teachers. 

For me, I appreciated being able to be part of the Colorado Springs community and learning about the city I have begun to call my home. The school district we were in is not based on the location of their house but instead where their parents want to send their children. Compared to my hometown, this is different because parents can choose which school is best for their children. One of my projects in class was to lead a discussion on the debate around school choice. School choice is when parents choose where they live to determine what public schools they will send their child to. Furthermore, it is linked deeply with socio-economic privilege because people with more money have more options of where they can afford to send their kids beside the neighborhood public school. This class has linked discussion and reading learning to experiential learning. In more ways than just observing what teachers do, we are learning how schools and school districts work and what that means for children’s learning and education opportunities. 

The class was also a reflection based class. We spent many discussions in class talking about our own educational experiences. We talked about what types of schools we went to, how our teachers were, and all the contours of our educational experiences. I valued these discussions because I was able to reflect on the system I spent most of my life in so far. My educational experience shaped who I am and lead me to CC. Discussing our school lives also bonded us more as a class for we were sharing about experiences that shaped who we show up to class as today. When I was sitting in on classes, I spent much of my time observing the children and how they interacted with the classroom structure. I saw myself in many of the children and I began to connect who I was as a child to who I am now. Through the observations, I saw my growth from an introverted and socially anxious child to a confident college student. Making those connections for myself made me see how these children are going to learn so much in elementary school and learn way more when they grow up. I was seeing the importance of a productive education system to educate children and let them grow as people. 

We all need space to learn and grow into who we are meant to be. This education class taught me so much about how beneficial experiential learning is and how looking at other K-12 educational experiences can help me understand learn about my own experiences. I was taken full circle and given space to make connections between educational philosophy and my own educational experiences. The block plan has provided me with so many special learning opportunities and this class is in the top 3 incredible ones, behind going on a hike and talking about existential philosophy. I would take this class over and over again if I could.

 

Notes to Susanna from her 2nd grade class.

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.

Intro to K-12 Classroom Culture: Week 1

A week in the Classroom

Another first Monday, the students sit around a conference table with the hopes and worries for a new block written in front of them. It is the smallest class I have been in with only 9 students to fill the air space. The professor, Kathy Greene, comes in dressing with intention and greets the students. With a few quick words of humor, she has broken the stale air and everyone’s mouth has opened into smiles. We spent the first hour going over introductions and the assignment work for the class. Thanks to our icebreakers I can now tell you that Diya in the white headband hates peanut butter and Dova with the black nose ring really likes climbing. Some classes at school drone on, even with only 2 hours of sitting, but today suddenly I was aware it was 11 and it was time to leave. Kathy pulled our attention to our class by blending her light-hearted jokes with the finer points of the class. Our next assignment is to create a poster of a significant moment in our educational career. This class is not just a lecture, it is a combination of reading and active work in a k-12 classroom, then swept together under the direction of our 3-hour daily class meetings. The block looks educational, one could say, but a perfect example of the benefits of the block plan. Being able to learn about classroom culture then practice and observe a K-12 classroom experientially. Colorado College is about experiential learning, and Intro to K-12 Classroom Culture is the poster child.

Our class consists of 3 days of 3-hour classes at school and 2 days of sitting in on a K-12 class for a school day. For our Tuesday class, we spent time going over our readings and going on a walk. Kathy is an enticing teacher and also knows how to read a classroom and could tell we were all losing focus. So we walked around campus in the snow and talked to each other outside of the classroom setting. The cool part of having a class of 8 people is that we are able to bond together outside of the classroom setting. For example, Nick and I spent 15 minutes talking about our favorite board games and now our class is going to have board game nights. The block plan allows us to focus on one class and also create friendships with our classmates that reach beyond schoolwork. 

Thursday was our first day in the K-12 classrooms. I was placed in a 4th-grade gifted class at Stratton Elementary. Susanna, Dova, and I walked in bright and early at 7:30 am to be greeted by the smiling Principal. We were each introduced to the teachers we would be shadowing for the next three weeks. My teacher’s name is Mr. Hoepfner. I spent the day observing as he walked his kids through improper fractions and The Westing Game. I had forgotten what being in class for 7 hours was like. Yet despite the long day of observing, I am grateful to have the opportunity to be immersed in a real K-12 classroom. The block is special for so many reasons, but this class has shown me how much I can learn from experiential learning. The ability to apply concepts in our readings to observation in a classroom is education that is irreplaceable. I am thankful we still have 2.5 weeks of learning inside and outside of a normal classroom and more adventures with my classmates.

Olivia Coutre and Kathy day 1.                      First day of school selfie.                              Our class on a mid-class walk.