Education Is The Key To Success”
Education is the key to success”, that is what most children are told at a very young age. No matter where you are from, that is universal. Learning is a never-ending process and it a teacher’s job to help students gain a sense of who they are academically and personally to achieve growth and change in each area of development. As an observer at Public School 13 in Yonkers NY, it was stated by the principal that “School 13 serves 651 students in grades PK-8. Minority enrollment is 94% of the student body (majority Hispanic) and operates within the Yonkers City School District.” The classrooms I observed were Pre- K and 1st Grade. Distinguished behaviors and patterns were more prevalent in Pre- K in the area of Social and Language Development.
In Ms. Heidelberger classroom, it’s a child centered, center-based model that allows the children access to all areas mostly independently and teacher instruction is not the focal point. The way the classroom is set up, it allows for mostly small group targeted instruction and the rug area is used for meeting time and mini lessons of introduction or review. Ms. Heidelberger organized her centers based on “quiet” centers near quiet ones and “noisy” centers near noisy ones to create control and less distraction when they are working on their own. She has a calming chair “not time out” so they “calm” down rather than “be good”. According to Ms. Heidelberger “we are all good people; no one is “bad”!
Some learning centers are Dramatic Play, Reading Area, Block and Water/Sand Centers. Each table in her classroom has different colors and numbers on them. On the side of the tables there are dots to help children be aware of how many should be at each center and the color codes help them to recognize what centers they need to be in based on the levels they are (not known to them). Breaking up the room into sections seem to give a sense of coziness to the environment, as there is a form of control and children were less likely to engage in rough play. The classroom is bright and clean which help creating an environment that is both welcoming and appropriately stimulating for the students.
From my observations I saw that she grouped students based on assessments she performs informally and by observations in order to meet their needs academically and socially/emotionally. She has groups for children with similar needs and mixed groups for kids with different needs where they can help one another. One of the students that stood out to me was Johnny (name changed for confidential reasons). He was of particular interest to me because during my hours there I saw that of the 18 children in the classroom, he was the only one sitting on a chair on the outer circle of the rug area. The daily routine that Ms. Heidelberger has is that once the children arrive and place their belongings away, they all take a seat at their rug spot (a specific Letter assigned to them). John could not stay seated on his chair nor stay focus at the task at hand. He kept getting up, circling his chair, jumping around and touching materials that were placed around the classroom.
Johnny had to be redirected many times to stay seated and the assistant teacher had to be close to him at all time. Every day I went to observe at the same time and I saw the same types of behaviors were prevalent throughout structured and unstructured activities for Johnny. I spoke to the teacher to get some insight and she told me that he has a speech impairment, lack of body/impulse control and he cannot communicate clearly what his wants and needs are clearly. She said that “Johnny continues to struggle with body awareness and speech. He is better at speaking Spanish than English even though there are still difficulties for him to communicate effectively.”
Johnny behaviors fit into the social and language area of child development since he cannot verbally socialize appropriately. He copies others especially some of his peers that engage in other negative behaviors such snatching and pushing other students to get what they want. The poor behaviors seem to get him more stimulated and is a bit challenging because he cannot not sit still, has short attention span and cannot play appropriately with other children. He showed lack of self-control skills especially when trying to take turns, letting others speak and sharing.
I was given the opportunity to work with Johnny in a small group with two other students. The activity was to circle the things that started with letter Q and write Q three times. At the table it was clear to me that he could not communicate clearly as I could not understand anything he was trying to tell me. He got super frustrated and I had to change the way I spoke to him so I can try to understand. I also had difficulty with understanding communication that isn’t spoken because the messages he sends through body language, facial expressions and tone of voice did not match up with what he is trying to convey. Slowing down things example learning how to wait causes problems with coordination and balance as he then starts to wander and jerk his body around. His language difficulties affect him academically since reading and writing skills are directly connected.
Research has shown that good oral language is the precursor to functional reading and writing. Tsurata stated that “Language is the foundation of all learning and one of the major milestones during the birth to age 5 developmental phase” (2018). Having language is very important as it is our way to communicate with each other and members of society. With Johnny not being able to fully express himself, he needed lots of help. “Vygotsky’s (1962) social development theory indicates the importance of reasoning and language development in the zone of proximal development, specifically interactions with adults and participation in language-rich environments. Teacher-child interactions and interactions with peers are the foundational ways children learn” (Tsurata, 2018).