I am doing my practicum in the Children’s School at La Jolla. It is a private, project-based school. Last semester, I did my practicum in the second grade class at the same school. This is also the school where my two children attend which makes it both convenient for me to be there and makes them happy to have me be part of their school. Moreover, the school does not follow a dress code. The students also called their teacher and even the principal by their first names.
The children are encouraged to experiment and discover. In the process of learning, they are also surrounded with love and care. The school works to build both students’ academic skills and personality. Teachers talk to students with respect as if they were almost their peers. I was told that if a new teacher comes to school they would tell her the way that she should talk to the students in this school. Teachers also demonstrates empathy to students. One example is what I have heard from the teacher who I was working with when one of the students hurt his knee, “ I can understand your pain...” Showing such empathy and respect would make learning more valuable and appealing. It helps make the school a safe place to learn and grow. Furthermore the caring culture extends beyond the teachers and students to include the students’ families to help make them part of this school community.
The school’s demographic population is 33% students of color. Being at the school I have seen students from different countries or are originally from these countries: Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, Norway, China, Korea, etc. From what I have experienced, the students that have different backgrounds from the majority of the students are encouraged to share out their culture and religion practices with other students.
In my practicum I am observing the 7th and 8th grade humanities classes. I am happy that I am observing both of his classes. It is a good opportunity to observe how he deals with and teaches different grades. For example, in the seventh grade he gave the students a lot of time to get to know me and learn about where I came from because this might support the cultural unit in which they are learning to appreciate and respect other cultures and religions. However, in the 8th grade he only introduced me briefly because they were about to discuss persuasive essays.
David’s class consists of two big comfortable couches where they discuss issues and talk about things they need to do. The other part of the class consists of two big tables(students will change positions as projects are introduced) where students work on their essays and papers. In addition, the school has a big emphasis on developing not only the academic part of the students but also their character development and life preparations. One of the activities that helps students to reach these goals is asking the students to plan for a multi-day trip outside of San Diego. They have to raise money, book hotels and even learn to ride public transportations.
David gives the students real choices. He lets them choose to study what they are interested in, within reason. For example the students have to study eight cultures in depth. In this activity the teacher did not force his opinion. He listened to the students’ interests and the class created a Google doc to facilitate making their cultural unit choices.
Both classes use technology and have access to internet. They are allowed to bring their cell phones. I think it is a good opportunity for them to practice self control because they learn when it is appropriate to use their phones. They also have a class blog in which they receive their assignments and homework.
I am questioning how they would raise money for their trip. I am also so excited to see how learning occurs in a relaxing environment. I would like to learn how the teacher gives the direction to the students without monitoring them constantly. I would also like to learn how he controls his class and corrects behavioral mistakes by giving the students gentle reminders such as “ do you need to take a break?” “Thank you for raising your hands.” Lastly, I am questioning what is the way that the teacher will address reading in the class.