Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reflecting Upon My Fieldwork Experience: A Sad Goodbye

   My fieldwork experience involved working with fifth grade students from Bishop Dunn Memorial School in Newburgh, NY. Fieldwork is a great experience for pre-service teachers who are studying and preparing to become a teacher in the near future. Fieldwork enables one to become actively involved in the classroom environment, by both observing students in their natural habitat and participating in various lessons and class activities with the students. For example, during my fieldwork experience this semester, I was assigned an individual 5th grade student to work with for a total of eight sessions, or eight hours. During this time, I both observed my student studying and working independently on science content related tasks, such as reading his textbook and answering assigned questions, and on another day I was able to assist him in building a tinfoil boat to test how many pennies it could carry in water. As a pre-service teacher, one is able to absorb helpful hints and tips to do or use in his or her classroom, and is provided with an opportunity to gain some experience in teaching, as fieldwork is an indication of what one’s classroom will function as or be like one day. Observing how the classroom is organized is even beneficial for an individual studying to become a teacher, as classroom organization is important for both the teacher and his or her students to function in the classroom. For example, would it be best to face the students’ desks away from the windows, or allow the students to look out beyond the windows? As I have seen and witnessed during past fieldwork experiences, seating students facing the windows has lead to increased levels of distraction and inattention. However, I may have never realized how important the seating arrangement in a classroom could be unless I observed a real, functional classroom through my fieldwork opportunities. Therefore, fieldwork provides future teachers with many opportunities and meaningful experiences to be prepared for both student teaching and having their own classrooms sometime in the future.

      I was very excited to be able to work with my fifth grader, Shivan. I previously knew Shivan, as his mother was my biology professor at Mount Saint Mary College. Shivan is a very bright young boy, and we worked extremely well together. His independence and capable abilities were evident throughout our time together, as Shivan could easily accomplish any assigned task, often without my assistance. However, when he needed help either clarifying what a question was asking, or desired to hear my opinion and advice, he was not afraid to ask for it. Therefore, I felt that we functioned as a successful, cooperative team during our eight sessions together.

   While working with Shivan, I had the opportunity to be both an observer and a participant in his learning experience. During the first few days of fieldwork, I was more of an observer, simply getting to know my student by watching how he worked, how hard he focused, a demonstration of his abilities, and how efficient he was while working. During the first day of fieldwork, the fifth grade class teacher, Mrs. Benfer, introduced the concepts of a mixture and a solution to her students by demonstration. Mrs. Benfer mixed a bowl full of pretzels and trail mix, and a water bottle containing a packet of Crystal Light. Therefore, she was demonstrating to the students that within a mixture the contents do not dissolve within each other, as the pretzels and the trail mix are still pretzels and trial mix after they have been mixed. In a solution, however, the solute dissolves into the solvent, as the Crystal Light dissolves into the water. Shivan raised his hands numerous times and appeared to easily grasp this science content. I also observed Shivan reading his science textbook very diligently, and then answering the assigned questions at the back of the chapter with great care and organization. It was evident that Shivan cared about his work by simply not rushing through the assignment. In addition, I had an opportunity to observe Shivan playing a Smart board interactive game with the rest of his class. The entire class was extremely excited and motivated to play a game on the Smart board that was related to the science content they were currently learning in class. Shivan and the other students all eagerly raised their hands to participate, and I now realize how important it is to motivate your students to want to participate and learn.

    Besides being an observer, I was also provided with the opportunity to be a participant aiding in Shivan’s learning. Whenever Shivan needed my assistance, I would certainly provide any additional help or guidance he needed along the way. However, I was able to participate in an even more active way besides being an additional support system. During one of the first few sessions of fieldwork, we were asked to help our fifth grader construct a boat either out of clay or tinfoil of dimensions we were able to choose in order to hold a certain amount of predicted pennies in a bowl of water. Therefore, this investigation and activity allowed Shivan and I to work together through collaboration. We shared ideas about what dimensions to make our boats and how many pennies we predicted each boat could hold. Perhaps, the most help I was during this investigation was actually constructing the boats out of tinfoil and clay- it was not easy! Then, I helped Sivan create an organized data chart to collect his data in, and I also assisted him in realizing what his results and the purpose of the experiment were demonstrating-density. I did not simply tell Shivan to calculate the density, but I guided him along the path to realizing what he already knew by demonstrating that he had the volume of the boat and the mass of the amount of pennies each boat could hold. Then, suddenly, Shivan realized he had all the necessary data to calculate the density of his materials (tinfoil and clay) by using the equation: D=M/V. 

     In addition to helping and participating in Shivan’s learning of science content, I was also provided with an opportunity to instruct the entire class on a lesson about chemical reactions. This was accomplished by working with my group, The Bill Nye Group, during fieldwork to design and implement a 5-E lesson plan on temperature’s affects on chemical reactions. I truly enjoyed having the opportunity to work with the entire class-something I had never done before- while working amongst the comfort of my peers. I now realize and understand how challenging it is to teach and assist an entire classroom of students. Not all of the students are always listening, and some of the students may be on different tasks compared to others. Therefore, it becomes slightly chaotic to control and mange all students during an inquiry-based, hands-on activity. However, with the support of my group members, I believe the experience and lesson was successful, as all of the students followed directions clearly and carefully and were able to support their conclusions with evidence and data from their experiments. In addition, the students appeared to have fun and remained curious and interested throughout the entire investigation. I feel that for the first time teaching in front of the classroom, my group did a great job instructing the fifth grade students by providing an inquiry-based science activity for them to explore. As dedicated learners and future teachers, we will all certainly learn and improve from this meaningful experience in the field. 

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