Educational Forays

Jan Andrea
EDUC 900: Internship
2 October 1997
Journal Reflection #4

Thursday, 25 September. Aside from my day-long observation of Xxxxx Xxxx, the Language Arts teacher on the Polaris team, I also spent a period trying to coax Tony, a special-ed student, into doing a little "experiment" to help him learn about independent and dependent variables. He was to go to the multi-purpose room with me and a fellow student, Keenan, and together we would see how the shape of a paper airplane (the independent variable) affected the distance of its flight (the dependent variable). I should have known right away this wasn't going to fly (as it were) -- Tony was so easily distracted on our way over that I felt more like I was a babysitter, who needed to hold his hand on the way over. He has diverse emotional and mental disabilities, and although I have been told that he's got a bad situation at home, English is not his first language, and he has some processing difficulties, I have been given little to no information on how to help him learn. Nevertheless, I started our session with hope and enthusiasm, assuming that perhaps those qualities would make a difference; but no dice. As soon as we got to the multi-purpose room, he started wandering around, and it took several attempts just to get him to sit down in the center of the room. At that point he lay down on the floor and began tearing up the tape strips that demarkated different sections, and he would not stop when I asked him to, even after repeated friendly attempts. I tried to prompt him into answering a few basic questions, but to no avail -- I could say something a million times, ask him a very leading question about the information, and still get nothing but an "I don't know" as an answer. I tried different examples, using soccer (his favorite sport) as the subject -- for instance, how would changing the amount of air in the ball (indep. var.) affect its flight (dep. var.) but although he could make simple predictions, he was unable to identify the variables even when prompted explicitly. Finally I gave up on that, and decided to proceed with the "experiment" itself. He and Keenan folded different airplanes, and we got Tony to make three trials with each plane, attempting to get across the fact that each trial had to be conducted the same way, which he eventually seemed to get. However, once we had collected all the data and Tony was no longer free to play, he regressed once again into lying on the floor picking at the tape, and despite having shown a rudimentary grasp of the variables during the experiment, would give no verbal feedback besides "I don't know" or "I don't care" or "Science sucks." By this time I was absolutely at my wits end, and found myself wondering how I could possibly deal with a student like Tony on a day-to-day basis -- he receives more aid from the ESL staff than the special-ed team, and all they have said is, "Modify his activities" without telling us what modifications are acceptable. The whole incident was very frustrating for me, and I felt extremely ill-prepared for this exercise in futility. I have spoken with those who deal with Tony on a regular basis, and even they can't give me much help. What I really want to know is, what is the point of keeping him in a regular classroom: he consistently refuses to participate, he bothers and distracts the other students, and he definitely doesn't seem to be getting anything out of that activities that we create specifically for him. What else can I do for him?!?

Friday, 26 September. The Odiorne Point field trip. The whole team (two classes of seventh and two of eighth grades) went first to Odiorne point, where they received a brief instructional segement of their choice (history of the area, pond study, geology [by me], watercolors, and two sections of journal writing); and from there we went on to Hampton Beach for the annual clean up. I had a fairly small group of students, ranging from the fairly committed to the highly unmotivated; my lesson plan (attached) dealt with the geologic history of Odiorne point. Although I felt somewhat less prepared than I had thought I was the day before, the kids all paid close attention, asked questions, and participated well, giving gratifying oooohs and aaaahs in all the right places. I asked several of them after the lesson (which lasted about 15 minutes total) what they had thought, and they all said that it was interesting and that they had learned a lot. (I can do no wrong for most of my students :) It was essentially my first real lesson plan, and though I'm sure there were things that could have been improved with my presentation, the students and I all thought it went well.

Monday, 29 September -- Wednesday, 1 October. Merrowvista trip with Polaris (and Odessey) seventh graders. Through the whole field trip, from the bus ride up to the bus ride back, I had the same duties as any other teacher or chaperone. I ate, slept, and worked with the Polaris seventh graders, observing and participating with my homebase (7-2) in particular, but also with the other section (7-1). It was an excellent trip, giving me many insights into my students' lives and personalities; I was responsible for a group of 12 girls at night and when they had free time, and so I got to know them a lot better than I could in class. I'd love to write more, but I'm out of space and I dare not defy the formatting instructions.

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