The Virtual Field Experience Assignment takes a walk through one of the sessions of a 9th grade Social Studies Class which includes 8-9 IEPs and two teachers. One of the teachers – Todd is a teacher of the subject whereas Alisha is a special educator. Since the class includes IEPs and a special educator it might seem natural to assume that the IEPs get extra attention over the other students. However, it is not so. Alisha and Todd are specific about the fact that no student gets any extra attention over the others. Their classes are structured such that all students can cope up with what is being taught. The session reviewed involved a task on understanding a piece of writing on Augustus Caesar – by himself. The standard based competencies evaluated in this assignment are –
Candidate knowledge, Skills and Professional Dispositions
Standard Competencies based by Todd and Alisha
Candidate knowledge, skills and professional dispositions evaluate educational content knowledge and skills of individuals who wish to work in schools as teachers or other schools professionals. It is essential that these candidates possess the skills to help students learn. Instructional strategies focus on adapting teaching strategies and materials to the special needs of students. Especially when it comes to IEPs there are exceptional learning needs. Collaboration is an important aspect of teaching/education and can sometimes model techniques for others.
The task for this session of the class was to read a piece of writing by Augustus Caesar himself. Todd had prepared notes that went to all students without exception. The idea behind making the notes available to all students was to cover up for the disadvantages of note making/taking for students who find it difficult to listen and write simultaneously and who have other processing issues. This way no one student would be at an advantage or disadvantage. Even Alisha works with all students in the room and does not pay special attention to any or a group of students only.
Todd and Alisha know it is a challenging read even for them. So they divide the class into groups and give each group a particular part (set of paragraphs) of the text to read. Each group is to present their key points of understanding on a board when they feel they are ready to. Todd starts off by giving them tips on how to read and arouses their curiosity by asking questions related to the topic. One valuable tip was to make use of highlighters, but both Alisha and Todd pointed out that the children had still not grasped the concept of highlighting important words/points – more often than not they ended up with all lines highlighted. However, they do not seem to be in a hurry to force children into learning to use the highlighters before they are ready for it themselves. Todd also encourages the groups to take their own time and come up with their points whenever they are ready. This kind of atmosphere brings in a sense of relaxation and facilitates better learning among the students.
Alisha notices that a group of girls are confused about the requirements of the task and the probability of Augustus writing about himself. She explains the task to them again and ensures that they have got the right point of view. She also informs Todd about the girls having a hard time grasping the requirements of the task. When Todd does a quick check he notices that a lot of students had trouble with grasping the language and the task itself. He then goes on to explain the task in different ways and repeatedly so that it would get through to the students in any one way.
After a while a group of girls start preparing material for the board. However they are anxious about not having got the requirements/point of view correct. They are not sure about themselves and their answers. Alisha lets Todd know about it and when they begin discussing points Todd ensures that he lets each group know that they have done a good job of the task and that everybody has come up with the right points. It is reassuring, because the teachers know how their students are feeling and are doing everything possible to make them feel more comfortable in class. Todd also specially marks important points brought up by the students and discusses about why they are important – in other words – lets them know about what they have done correct and why it is considered correct. Overall the students in the classroom were encouraged to think of ways to interact within their groups and complete the task. The emphasis was on understanding and executing the task rather than on the time taken to complete the task. The different learning needs and grasping issues of students were identified and worked upon.
The teachers have demonstrated the working of a successful relationship in the classroom. The way they communicate with each other during the class does not leave any space for any missed issues or children with unsolved problems. While Todd knows his Social Studies, Alisha is more aware of learning disabilities than the subject itself. She admits she does not know all the intricate details and always confirms with Todd. She served as a great model for the children by showing that it was alright to not know something and that it could always be learnt.
Todd ensures the subject matter is conveyed and Alisha ensures it is conveyed in the right manner. The teachers have a deep understanding of how their children learn. This is evident from the way their classes are structured and the way discussion or feedback is always a part of their instruction.
After reviewing the video and the methods of working of the two teachers it can be concluded that they complement each other and work as a team. They individually possess the skills required to teach students. Todd is more of a subject teacher while Alisha is more of a special educator – they are both qualified in their fields and satisfy the requirements of the standard based competencies. As mentioned in their dialogue – an important recommendation would be to spend some more time on reading and asking more questions to determine what the students are interested in.