CI 3211: Introduction to Elementary Teaching
Instructor: Tracy Leitl
“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing”. – Aristotle
Learning has never been a spectator sport, and a great way to learn is through experience. This is why the students enrolled in CI 3211 are involved in a practicum program where they get the chance to observe elementary school teachers in their classrooms. This allows the students to interact with little kids and to learn more about various teaching styles. These education majors are getting hands-on experience and are being taught in a dynamic way. At the beginning of class, the students in CI 3211 had the chance to discuss how their practicums were going thus far. Undergrads took this time to share their stories with one another and to reflect upon what they had been learning. After listening to this engaging discussion, it was apparent that these undergrads were getting real world experience. One student in particular ended up instructing an elementary level Spanish class after finding out that the assigned substitute teacher couldn’t speak any español. This CEHD student wasn’t afraid to take the initiative or to break out of her comfort zone, which is admirable. Although the young woman was taken by surprise, she was happy about overcoming this challenge. She said that instructing this class was a great experience. It had enabled her to apply classroom concepts in an authentic environment.
After talking about their practicum experiences, the class began wrapping up their language and literacy mini presentations. These presentations were designed to help students learn teacher lingo, and they were also very informative. Additionally, the presenters were energetic and seemed to have a knack for public speaking. After each presentation concluded, Ms. Leitl would teach a cheer to her students. She taught them how to “raise the roof”, and “ride the rollercoaster”. These cheers were fun and they helped to create a likeable classroom environment. Ms. Leitl was teaching them to her undergraduate students in hopes that they would one day share them with the elementary kids. These peppy cheers ensure that students feel a sense of accomplishment and they tell students that their hard work is appreciated.
Next, this 3211 class was introduced to the idea of “knowing the learner”. Questions like “who are we?” and “how do we get to know our students?” were posed. Then, the class began to delve deep into the artifact activity where students were asked to share a special story with their peers. They were all told to display their artifact and their description of it on their desk. After each desk exhibited a sole artifact, the students were asked to participate in a museum walk. The museum walk allowed students to roam around the classroom and to observe their peers’ artifacts. As students wandered around, instrumental music began to play. The atmosphere in the classroom was truly inimitable in the way that you could feel the students getting to know one another on a more personal level. This activity was responsible for taking surface relationships to the next level. Now students were beginning to form an emotional connection with those around them, and this was awe-inspiring. Belongings that once meant nothing to the students now seemed to hold a sense of importance, and they empowered the students to look at each of their peers in a new light. For example, what was once just a necklace was now an emblem of a beautiful love story. It was interesting to see both the similarities and differences that existed among the classmates and to see what made each artifact distinct. When most professors want their students to learn about each other, they assign a group project. But, Professor Leitl knows better. She understands that students can benefit more from a 20-minute activity than they could from spending two weeks working on a mundane group assignment. There was a lot of purpose behind the museum walk, and this activity did impact the culture of the classroom in a positive way.
Following the museum walk, the undergrads discussed how this activity might have panned out differently if done with elementary students. They spoke of what might have happened and the importance of setting expectations as a teacher. Since the undergraduate students were old and wise, Leitl didn’t need to say much in regards to the rules of the museum walk. However, she explained that if she were to do this activity at an elementary school, she would have to go over her expectations with the students first. Establishing rules beforehand ensures that classroom activities will run fairly smoothly. Professor Leitl then covered the look/sound/feel teaching technique with the undergraduates to show them how they might set expectations as an educator. Once again, the students in CI 3211 were learning how to apply course concepts in a way that would be beneficial to their future students.
Lastly, Professor Leitl discussed course readings with her students. She addressed the meaning behind each text and explained why it was significant to the teaching profession. Each reading related to the overarching theme of “knowing the learner” and exemplified the importance of mutually beneficial teacher-student relationships. She spoke of how an educator must understand the needs of individual students and be cognizant of the fact that people learn in different ways. A teacher must also realize that there’s not a “one size fits all” teaching style and therefore, she instructed her students to cater their teaching style to meet the needs of the class.
This course revealed that if an educator wants their students to learn, they must first learn about their students. And although this notion seems rudimentary, I think it’s one of the most important concepts that a teacher can grasp. This class, CI 3211, did a remarkable job of covering best teaching practices and clarifying how these practices will be beneficial to learners. Not only are enrolled students learning how to teach, but they are also learning about the significance behind this profession. I think this makes the course both unique and worthwhile. CI 3211 offers students the chance to learn through experience, and it’s often been said that experience is the best teacher of all.