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Running head: OBSERVATION REFLECTION Stewart 1

Observation Reflection Paper

Maggie Stewart

University of Saint Mary


OBSERVATION REFLECTION Stewart 2

Abstract

It is easy for someone to say they want to become a teacher, but I found in my case that I

did not realize how much I wanted to teach until I spent time in schools and classrooms

observing how schools truly run, what teacher-student relationships look like, and what

challenges teachers face every day. Not all people respect the teaching profession, and many do

not realize the time teachers must spend preparing and reflecting over every lesson. Students

today also present their own challenges to teachers; however, students are the reason for what

educators do, and the relationship between student and teacher needs to be one of respect,

compassion, understanding, and a true desire for the student to learn. I observed many different

methods of teaching, as well as different classroom climates, academic and multicultural

diversity, and other elements that I would have never thought of as being such an important part

of teaching.
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For my observations, I spent time at a private school setting, Xavier Catholic School in

Leavenworth, and an urban school setting, Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth. I

enjoyed the time I spent at both schools, getting to know students and see how their teachers

went about teaching them. The differences in schools, teachers, and students helped me to better

understand the different types of schools and also to come to a better understanding of where I

would like to someday pursue my teaching career.

Xavier Catholic School is a kindergarten to eighth grade school, with only one class per

grade. The school consists of several different buildings, but all are fairly small. There are

Smartboards in all of the classrooms, but that is the only technology students have in the

classrooms. However, the school has two computer rooms that the students spend time in several

days a week if not every day. My urban school setting, Anthony Elementary School, is much

larger, with three or four grades per class and one large building. The classrooms that I observed

at Anthony have projectors and about six computers in the room for students to work on. Both

schools had about the same level of security: at the front door, visitors needed to ring the bell,

and the secretary would see the visitor through a camera and unlock the door. The visitor then

had to go through the office to sign in; at Anthony, however, this was done through a computer

with a camera that would take a photo of the visitor and print it on a badge for the visitor to wear.

As far as academic diversity, at Xavier I observed much more differentiated instruction

and hands-on activities in the younger grades than in the older grades; for example, the

kindergarten and first grade classes did several art projects while I was there, and the third grade

class put on a Thanksgiving play, for which they had created their own backdrops and props. In

the fifth grade class, on the other hand, I observed the teacher taught mostly through lecture,

presentation on the Smartboard, and individual work in their workbooks. While I understand that
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the information the students were learning will be on their standardized tests, I think there must

be a way to teach that information through lessons and activities that would reach all learners. At

Anthony Elementary, I only observed first grade classes, but in those classes I saw a good

amount of academic diversity, especially reading and math centers. The teachers gave the first

graders many different ways to explore the subject matter, and the students seemed very excited

to go to centers and do different projects. In both my observation settings, the teachers seemed

available to help students and give them one-on-one attention.

Student diversity includes many types of differences among students, such as ethnicity

and race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, and home background. At Xavier, I observed

that there were only a few students of diverse races and ethnicities in each class, and several

students in the school who were English Language Learners. There seemed to be generally more

girls than boys. I am also not sure if any students were of different religions, since it is a Catholic

school and I would expect there to be both Catholic students and non-Catholic students whose

parents preferred in the environment of the school to a public school. I also do not know much

about the diversity of the students’ home backgrounds, but a benefit of attending such a small

school is that the teachers knew all their students and their families well and were thus able to be

aware of any problems. Anthony Elementary was more diverse in that there was an equal amount

of white and black students in the class I observed, but less diverse in that there were not more

races represented. However, in the other first grade class in which I spent only one day

observing, there were several students of Hispanic and Asian background. Both classes had more

boys than girls, and following the general rule for children of that age, the girls seemed shy and

reserved while the boys were outgoing and tended to be a bit rowdy. The teachers I observed at

Anthony also seemed to be very aware of their students’ diverse home lives and needs, and I
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even heard one teacher telling several of her students who had behavior problems in the past that

she was going to make home visits to inform their parents of how proud she was of their child

and how much the child had improved.

The classroom climate is what I observed the most differences in between the schools. At

Xavier, the whole school had a family-like climate since the teachers all knew each other well,

the students knew all their classmates well, and the teachers knew the students because they had

all of them in class, since generally the same group of students is in class together from

kindergarten to eighth grade. There seemed to be good classroom management with typically no

real behavior problems, which is a benefit of the close teacher-student relationships. One

negative thing I noticed about the class size and small amount of students in each grade is that a

child who did not fit in with his or her classmates would have difficulty finding other friends,

and it was easy for the rest of the students to bully him or her for a prolonged period of time. I

worry about the impacts this would have on a student who went through school for years without

friends and enduring bullying from classmates. The classroom climate at Anthony Elementary

was not what I would have expected at an urban school, probably because the teacher was

proactive about handling the behavior problems typical of urban schools and held her students to

high standards as soon as they entered first grade. Her classroom was extremely organized,

students were given responsibilities, and her style of classroom management was strict but age-

appropriate; the students knew what behavior she expected from them and when they were

behaving in the wrong way, but her discipline of them was never emotionally harsh or insensitive

for the children. They knew that they would have to move their clip down on a chart if they were

not obeying, and that they could control moving their clip up and receiving a reward by their

good behavior and attentiveness to learning.


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The main similarities I observed between Xavier Catholic School and Anthony

Elementary School was that no matter what a teacher does, young students will behave at a

certain maturity level, and the teacher needs to be patient with them while still being firm and

holding them to high standards of behavior. The schools had different types of technology but

about the same amount; teachers were able to use technology to present to the class, and while

students did most of their work with pencil and paper or hands-on, they had exposure to and

opportunity to work on computers. In the younger grades at both schools, the teachers used a

good amount of diversity in presenting information in order to keep the children’s attention.

Also, all the classes I observed seemed to be a positive learning environment, managed very well

with little student disruption. The main difference I saw was the level of diversity among

students. The students from Anthony were more diverse in ethnicity and socioeconomic status,

so teachers needed to be aware of aspects of their students’ lives that could cause academic and

social challenges in the classroom. Xavier had a more close-knit environment, while Anthony

seemed much larger but also organized and maintained.

I loved getting to spend time with students in different school environments and better

understand the environments of varying schools. I think I would still prefer to teach at a Catholic

school because of the importance of faith in education and the overall feeling of close student-

teacher relationships. However, the students at the urban school were wonderful kids, and I

would be happy to work with students who come from difficult home situations so that I could

use my gifts of patience and empathy and be a positive influence in their lives. Overall, I learned

an invaluable amount from spending time in real schools, seeing the challenges and joys of being

an educator.