By Sam Richard, SED’19
This past semester, I took the School of Education’s Introduction to Education course, ED100. It’s hard to hear about SED without being told how great ED100 is, so I had high expectations for my experience in the course, and it certainly did not disappoint. ED100 is the first major step toward a degree from the School of Education and is an integral part of the SED student experience. Recently, my field placement for this course came to an end. Almost every Wednesday this semester, I spent the entire day in a third grade classroom at Harrington Elementary School in Lexington, Massachusetts. Even though I was there for a course about teaching, I actually found myself learning a lot from the students I was working with. Here are ten things that I learned in my ten days at Harrington Elementary School:
- Kids say the craziest things
Younger children tend to have no filter, and some of my students had a few quotable moments. One student told me, “Your voice reminds me of smooth jazz.” I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that, but I think he meant it as a compliment. During a science experiment, another student exclaimed, “Wow that smelled gross! I’m gonna smell it again.”
- Students are individuals
I was delighted to get to know each of my students as an individual because they each had unique personalities and abilities which contributed to the class as a whole. Instead of looking at the group as a unit, I tried to get to know each student who was a part of the class individually and make a connection with everybody in some way.
- Sometimes you have to be a bit silly
How do you motivate a bunch of third graders about standardized testing? With a rap, of course! One of my favorite moments from my field placement was when my cooperating teacher invited the class down to the rug while a drum beat played from the smartboard. To transition into a discussion of tips and tricks to succeed on the upcoming MCAS testing, he performed a rap which listed a few testing strategies.
The kids seemed to have mixed opinions about his performance, but I certainly enjoyed watching my cooperating teacher step outside the box and have some fun.
- Children are insightful
During Quiet Work Time one day, two of my students were working on making a puzzle. I thought this was a fascinating project, so I asked them a few questions about it, and they told me that each puzzle piece was going to represent a different country or culture that all came together to make the completed puzzle: the United States of America. I found their insight into things like diversity to be incredible at such a young age.
- Spending time working one-on-one with a student can make a big difference
While my third graders were working on their MCAS tests, I spent the day in a second grade classroom. During a math lesson, one student asked me to assist her with her two-digit addition. She was struggling when she asked me for help, but by the time we were finished working together, she was able to complete the problems on her own. I felt great about myself because I was able to help her understand, but I was also so proud of her for continuing to try and eventually getting it right.
- Students all have different needs
While it can be easy to assume that every student leaves a lesson equipped with the knowledge to successfully perform whatever they were taught, this is not always the case, and some students may pick up on a concept more quickly or take longer to understand. The teacher I worked with was fantastic at meeting students where they are and helping them to be successful on their own terms, whether that meant providing them with extra math problems to challenge them or conferencing with them individually to give them extra help with reading.
- Working with kids is fun but exhausting
I had a great time every Wednesday helping the students and learning from my cooperating teacher, but it was certainly a lot of work and I was always very tired at the end of the day. I can’t complain too much because I really enjoyed everything that I was doing, but I definitely needed some coffee to stay awake when I got back from my field placement every week.
- It’s the small moments that matter
On my last day, my cooperating teacher gave me a folder full of the students’ letters. So many of them wrote me kind and heartwarming messages, including some of the students that I didn’t feel like I had forged the strongest connections with. I was so glad to see that I had made an impact on them even if I hadn’t realized it in the moment. They referenced small instances where I had helped them to understand something, which made me realize that even the most minor and seemingly insignificant moments can make a big difference to a child.
- Goodbyes are hard
Turning away from a classroom filled with 25 students exclaiming “Goodbye!” and “Thank you!” is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I may have only spent ten days with them, but I had become a part of their classroom community and definitely did not want to leave.
- I have certainly chosen the right career path
I’m not a morning person, so anything that can get me out of bed with a smile on my face at 6:00 AM on a rainy Wednesday morning is probably something worth pursuing. The feeling of pride, hope, and purpose that I left the building with on my last day is one that I hope to continue to feel for the rest of my life as a teacher, and I’m so glad that ED100 allowed me to have such a great experience at Harrington Elementary School.
Sam Richard is a rising sophomore in the School of Education majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics Education.