Classroom Observation

On February 14th my classmate and I went to McDonough Middle School to observe Amy Dougan as she taught her class. The goal of this observation was to learn about the school, that ways in which the students learn, the students in the classroom, and what Ms. Dougan would like from us when running our own workshops later down the road. The observations I had were of core classes 4 and 5. For the first few minutes of both classes the students are noisy and so it takes some time to get everyone seated and focused. One of the tactics Ms. Dougan uses to get the students focused is the daily paper. She begins class by going over the daily learning target. As simple as it may sound, going over the daily learning target was much harder to do in Core 5 simply because students were disrespectful. In Core 4, students read the daily learning target after some tension between two students, which Ms. Dougan calmly handled. In Core 5, students refused to read the daily learning target so Ms. Dougan had to read it while the entire time some students were being disruptive. Ms. Dougan did not let this get to her while trying to teach the rest of the class. One thing that certainly caught my eyes about this was that situations like this do not have cookie cutter solutions. Addressing the student while trying to teach will disrupt the class but ignoring the student may also be very disruptive for the class. She handled the situation nicely allowing the lesson to continue and in small moments where she could she would attempt to get the disruptive kid to focus. The moods of the kids and the situations in which a lot of these kids come from impacts the dynamic of the classroom. From the two classroom’s I observed, it was apparent that every classroom would have a different dynamic that would have to be adjusted to. In addition, the background of the students is also different in each classroom which plays another role in creating the dynamic of the classroom and also the way in which they are taught. Below is an image of the Daily paper handed to the students at the beginning of the class.¬†Along with the dynamic of the classroom variation, students also had various levels of understanding of the material. Some students were thoroughly confused about the assignment and what the answers were while others understood it easily and began answering it right away. The assignment¬† was to support the argument that “Yes, energy drinks should be regulated for people under 16 years old. -OR- No Energy drinks shouldn’t be regulated for people under 16 years old”. Students had the option to choose the answer for themselves and support their claim with evidence from articles they have read. The students were encouraged to form their own argument and instead of being given a single option or single path towards what is right or wrong, they were given the option to choose a solution and support it. These are some of the crosscutting ideas that translate into different classrooms. It also, teaches the kids how to provide evidence for their argument and encourage them to understand the material in their own way. Another thing observed was that students had their own assigned seat and they needed to be assisted step by step with the assignment. While the class was working, Ms. Dougan went around the classroom helping students who asked for it. Various mediums were used to teach the kids. Some examples include worksheets, graphics, and dialogue from the teacher. She also has inspiring quotes and pictures along the walls. She also has a word wall to display the kinds of terms students should begin understanding and using for their lessons. Overall, I felt that the students lesson was geared towards an inquiry based learning activity but fell short. One reason was that the students background knowledge in the question/activity kept them from understanding the activity entirely on their own so they would had to be helped step by step at times. This could be from forgetfulness of the material from previous classes or from previous teachers who might not have done a great job at teaching the students. Another reason which contradicts the first, is that students were lazy and did not want to do the work so they asked for help to get the answers. This brings up a difficulty in where the line between helping and not helping a student can be beneficial or harmful. One student commented that they did not want to be in the class while another wrote on the assignment that they were bored. So, both reasons could be acceptable but overall there are a lot of factors playing in just one classroom and many more that differ for each class.