Wednesday, September 5, 2007

first day madness

disclaimer: tech related in part, but i'm also in need to process the first day of school. jeff and liz, this is a cross-posting. i don't have my field journal with me, so these reactions and observations are off the dome. drawing off of the "participant observation" article, i realize that the most difficult part of my ethnographic observations of my classroom will be to be mindful of the language i use when writing down field notes. i am a practiced ethnographer and have often noted differences in language due to my background in English, but it will be crucial to keep good verbatim records of what is said, instead of summarizing.

tou fue and i arrived 45 minutes early on the first day, as i know the tendency for things to go wrong, especially in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants district of Detroit, and we wanted to feel fully prepared for the day. both of us were wearing an earhart dark blue polo shirt and khaki's, it made me feel like we were part of the team. kitze and i received some of our class rosters last week, but found quickly that they were quite wrong, as half of the students in our homeroom were not in the right place. miss kitze appeared flustered as she was trying to figure out where the students were who were supposed to be here. we kept hearing announcements over the loudspeaker as to the locations of stray students and new students located in the cafeteria.

to assist in bringing order to the situation, i found myself trying to take over the administrative duties of filling out the scan sheets, taking attendance records down to the attendance office (met mr. sanchez and the whole staff there, too) as well as passing out pencils and forms to students, who diligently filled out the 6 different forms that the district requires of them for attendance and scheduling/counseling. miss kitze sent students out originally to try and locate students that should've been there, and asked about the whereabouts of each student she named. when she came across a familiar name or face, she always asked if they had a brother or sister, or if she had substitute taught them -- and in many cases, remembered the exact play, story or science lesson she was teaching when she met them.

i located myself at her desk, in the front corner of the classroom, and introduced myself to the homeroom as the student teacher for the whole year, that I was from U of M and that i would be here tuesdays and thursdays. given the chaos of the day, i decided that i would take a more observational stance but try to be helpful to ms. kitze as much as i could. the first question they asked me was whether or not i had a myspace account. i learned that the school system has a social networking site called "gaggle" and that there's also a computer program that many of them used last year called "accelerated reader" that i want to learn more about. i also heard the word "ATLAS" thrown around a lot, which is a district-wide professional development seminar/program that they're involved in, and must do more research on that.

the homeroom time that we spent together was spent on going over lunchroom procedures, locker procedures, reminding them about dress code -- i did not participate in most of this section, but noticed that our homeroom is quite talkative and seem to know each other quite well. i noticed that some students were not in dress code, but they have the first few weeks of school to "get into" dress code and can be provided with proper attire by a special program at the school if they cannot afford it. miss kitze told me between class changes that 100% of the students are below the poverty level in this school.

i took particular notice of locker assignments, which was one of the things that we did during lunch, before the students were called down to the lunchroom. the majority of homeroom divided themselves up into pairs for splitting up lockers, but i noticed that there were 5 students - serge, griselda and i have yet to learn the other 3's name - who didn't have partners and had to go out into the hall with kitze to be paired up. i noticed the way that serge looked at the floor the whole time. these students also were all seated at the back of the class and didn't seem to be interacting with the rest of the homeroom class with the vigor of the majority. kitze and i discussed this after class).

we then went to ms. brakefield's room down the hall for the ATLAS portion of the day -- which were activities designed to build school pride and community within the houses -- for instance, we're in house A and the teachers thought that it would be good to have the opening activity acquaint the students with the teachers in house A (even though we will not be teaching them), as well as giving us an idea of who the students are in house A, so that we can begin to get to know them. since each teacher MUST stand in the hallway right outside of their door between passing periods, the teachers want to know which students are supposed to be in the house and who isn't.

this is to be continued later... i must go to class, but here are some highlights -- after watching ms. kitze and ms. brakefield teach two sections of the activity about amelia earhart's life, i taught the final two... assessing KWL (prior Knowledge, Wonder/Want to know and Learned through the activity) before reading a page on her life and accomplishments. we asked the students to pull out two facts about her life and were interesting to them and also to define a few vocabulary words. each subject area (science, math, social studies) had their own related activity -- for instance, the math classes took at a look at angles of flight patterns and the science classes looked at directionality variables with paper planes).

there is much more to say about getting to know the students during lunch, and what happened after lunch when our real classes came for short sessions with us. class personalities and the differences between them are no joke!

anyhoo... this is just the beginning, it was a hectic day, but i loved every moment of the chaos, and ms. kitze responded by just laughing about it "what else can i do?" she asked. i need to break out the old ethnographical lens again. and learn that it's okay to be long-winded, i'll have a lot of "evidence" to sift through. ooh, and i want to talk about generational differences in technological know-how as i feel that i may become the tech expert of the classroom (there is a technology coordinator as well as a computer teacher -- the computer teacher is a mac specialist, mr. dominguez, and the tech specialist is ms. yglesias, i need to talk to her about the existence of a digital projector for my laptop, note to self).



Anonymous said...

Hey Lauren! I loved reading your post. It looks like you had an eventful first day. Slightly more chaotic than mine!! I'll definitely be watching for more posts about your experience teaching in Detroit :)

Liz Kolb, Ph.D. said...

I felt as though I was reading a non-fiction novel introduction, what great literary skills you have.

I'm glad you brought up Gaggle It is a nice alternative for schools interested in social networking (blogging) or email for students. Gaggle is a "monitored" social network, so it allows students to blog and have email in a safer environment. In addition you have to be a teacher (they actually call the school to check to make sure that you are legitimate) in order to create accounts for your students. Therefore if you want your students to participate in some of the web2.0 sites such as gliffy or wikis and they need an email address, Gaggle is a nice option for them. Again, thank you for bringing this to the MACers attention.

Panayiotis said...

Hey Lauren,

It's really interesting to read about how some MAC students have so much "getting acclimated" to do, while others (like me) are in placements that are so very similar to previous high school environments. I'm in Ypsilanti, and the classroom was a pretty easy transition for me. Sometimes I wonder if I should have tried a teaching placement like yours to broaden my horizons, but my gut instinct said that I might as well get practice teaching at the type of school you envision yourself being at in the future.

I know you will have a great year with lots of stories to share!


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