I’m currently enrolled in a 2-week summer class, Multicultural Practicum, which focuses on diversity and culture in education, and ways that teaching can adapt and be changed by the environment of the school or the students.
Today we headed to Waterloo, Iowa to see a community struggling with diversity, and working to adapt and change for the growing, cultured community.
I went to George Washington Carver Academy first, a middle school, and was encouraged to see how the school was working to relate to the very diverse population. In the Library, for example, I noticed objects and artifacts of many cultures and places around the world. I also noticed signs, created by students, that were hanging on the walls with positive describing words, such as ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Strong,’ ‘Dope,’ ‘Smart,’ etc.
This is something I’d love to add to my classroom. I’m a big fan of positives, and something as small as a positive describing word can help a student to focus on the good in himself/herself, which can make a big difference in self-confidence and overall classroom performance.
I spent the majority of the day with a middle school history professor. He was great, and I loved to see how he could interact with his students. A lot of authority is needed to be an effective instructor, but what I noticed is that he had a very calm demeanor, which I think allowed him to be successful with behavior management.
After spending about half the day in Carver, I went to Cunningham Elementary School to observe students. As a Secondary Ed. student, I haven’t had a lot of experiences in elementary schools, so I was excited to see how this would be a new experience, and new because of the very diverse population of the school. I learned, upon walking in, that Cunningham has about a 30% non-English speaking population–wow!
I spent the afternoon with a fifth grade teacher. He struggled a lot with behavior management, and his fifth graders were crazy! There were students talking out of turn, whispering during a quiz, cheating, getting out of their seats, throwing pencils, etc. Two students almost got into a fist fight right in front of me at one point! Good thing I was able to break that up!
Needless to say, the elementary school was a very different experience for me, but I was able to spend about an hour working with two different students individually.
- The first student was working on a creative writing story, where he completely made up the entire plot, characters, and idea. He shared the story with me and I got to help him with his spelling and punctuation. I read the sentences aloud and asked him where the periods or commas would go. From hearing it aloud, he was able to identify where to place punctuation marks–and it was amazing to see him learn that in such a short time!
- The second student was working on a vocabulary worksheet. He was trying to switch around letters and words and think critically to complete the worksheet. I helped by reading questions aloud and encouraging him think in new ways. He was very shy at first, but by the end of our session seemed motivated by my smile!
Before leaving Cunningham, I snapped a picture of this poster on the wall because I thought it was great for my future English/Reading classroom:
I think overall, I’m encouraged. Though I had a somewhat challenging day in the elementary school, I’m excited to see that the Waterloo area is working to accommodate for their culturally diverse population and helping make schools even better for their students.