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Victor Lynde

Education 302-303
Prof. Sara Leo
Final Reflection Section
Final Reflection

Over the past few months I have been blessed to work with and grow

closer to the students in a number of Social Studies classes at Grand Rapids

Christian High School. The culmination of that blessing was the theorizing

and constructing of my Unit plan as a whole. In this reflection Ill be reflecting

on the process of determining the content, how my perspective and my

circumstances shaped (or didnt shape) the Unit plan, the construction of the

plan itself, and the effectiveness of the Unit plan as a whole and what Ive

learned as a result.

Lets begin with the process of determining the content. When my

mentor and I began this process of determining what I would be teaching on,

I didnt have very much say on the matter. I suppose that I understand this;

the school has a specific curriculum that they want to follow, its difficult to

break from that mold, and no one wants a student intern they have never

met trying to run the show. Thankfully I did not end up teaching what was

originally intended for me to teach. Originally I was going to have to teach a

Unit that strung together several disjointed topics in the 1960s, which I then

would have had to teach before Calvin Colleges Spring Break; but thanks to

the concerned expression on Professor Leos face when my mentor

suggested such an early date for the Unit he wanted me to teach (this was at

the first observation) he decided to find something a little later in the


semester. And so I ended up with a fantastic Unit covering the Legislative

Branch in late April. Political Science is my minor and I have a love for the

subject, so I began rereading all the literature I had on the American

Legislative Branch as well as calculating some of the different unique ways I

could try to teach the subject matter.

Moving on to how my perspective and my circumstances shaped the

Unit plan, I was again faced by the challenges of restriction. The restrictive

challenge was that I needed to teach all of the same specific facets of the

content and same perspective on the content that had been taught in

previous years. The key then became teaching these facets while also adding

in other important elements that I believed the students needed to be

exposed to such as the idea of a Hispanic woman running for political

office, a foreign concept in a classroom that was overwhelmingly white, in a

school that was overwhelmingly white, in a neighborhood that was

overwhelmingly white, in a class with only one Hispanic student. After our

readings from class, I remember back to OLAS chapter 1 where important

issues of diversity, inequality, and democratic values were discussed. In a

country with so much diversity, GRCHS is at times lacking, especially when in

the public schools 22% of students are Hispanic/Latino (OLAS 6). The text

dived into the complex issues of race and immigration as part of our history

and culture, yet when the immigrants dont look like us its easy to reject

them. Having a meaningful conversation about social justice in regards to

immigration or race is hard when only one of your classmates is Hispanic, on


top of which she is already quieter and shy. I was thankful and relieved that

my mentor was quite open to me including these elements, but I digress.

When I began to construct the plan itself there were a few things I definitely

wanted to be sure of; first, it was important to me that the students be

engaged, autonomous, and somewhat active if possible; second, it was

important that I try and relate the content area to the students; and third, it

was important that I covered the required material while also engaging the

students on the Congress from facets that these students werent exposed to

while also not overstepping my bounds as a student intern. These are the

elements of my perspective and my circumstances that influenced the

writing of my Unit plan and set us up for the construction of it.

The next step is the construction of the plan itself. It is because of the

elements of my perspective and my circumstances, which I just discussed,

that I constructed my Unit plan as I did. Specifically, I pursued strategies like

large group activities, small group activities, and simulations. These were to

help me engage the students minds and bodies as well as provide some

level of autonomy. This also included giving the elected class president and

VP more responsibility and power, to try and demonstrate a level of

autonomy that comes with democracy. This, I hoped, would consciously or

subconsciously help the students reflect upon the questions and issues of

passing laws that they were being challenged by. It also meant including

outlets for expression of classroom thought and reflection. Throughout my

Unit plan I placed opportunities for me to learn what my students thoughts


were as well as for them to grow through the expression of those thoughts.

As I conclude this section, I will admit there were moments of frustration

when I realized that some of the things I wanted to do just wouldnt work,

either because of school policy or the specific context of the classroom, and I

was forced to edit, alter, or completely change what I had planned and

rewrite parts of my lessons. My mentor was a wonderful in many ways;

however I did find that he was trapped at times by the repetitiveness of

having taught the same lessons year after year without too much change.

Overall, however, I found my mentor helpful and instructive in curtailing

what at times was a more optimistic but perhaps unrealistic picture for

learning.

Lastly, I want to reflect on the effectiveness of the Unit plan as a whole

and what Ive learned as a result the experience. I only ended up teaching

two of the four lesson plans that I constructed, and those four were situated

at the front end of a 7 to 8 lesson long Unit. Many of my thoughts on the

specific effectiveness of each of those two lessons can be found with the

lesson plan for each day. But more generally I think that the Unit was

effective, but there are definitely some hurdles. For one I think that the ideas

of self-directed and democratic learning, like what we find in OLAS chapter 8,

are somewhat foreign or new to these students. There is definitely

community at GRCHS, but is there classroom community? I wouldnt really

say so. There is a group of students, who all know each other, that are placed

in a classroom together and work together; but outside and after the class
these kids ultimately just revert back to their traditional cliques. When OLAS

speaks of socially just classrooms for African-Americans on page 245, I

cant help but look to my discussions with my mentor Nate Vanderzee, who

identified the self-segregation along racial lines within the school (OLAS 245).

I really connected with the idea of teachers giving students a chance to

learn how their actions affect the success or failure of the group, but you

cant really do that if your classroom isnt that close-knit socially just

community (OLAS 246). So when my lessons used activities which asked

students to address these issues with a special kind of unity, the class

worked and yet it didnt work. What Ive learned is that once I am a teacher it

will be foundational, if I want to really do a lot of the things I think a teacher

ought to be doing, to establish certain classroom norms from the beginning.

These norms should structure the class to effectively incorporate certain

types of strategies (like self-directed learning and simulations) as well as

address bigger issues that may feel theoretical and far away for some

students, like the reality of white privilege, but are very close to other

students who suffer as a result.

In conclusion I have truly had an excellent experience. GRCHS has

given me much to ponder, wonder, and reflect on. I met and taught real

people with real struggles, not just theoretical ones in an Education textbook.

I also got to develop a practical Unit plan which, despite the things I was still

required to include, I can confidently call my own. This was an essential part

of my time at GRCHS that cant be understated.


Works Cited

Oakes, J., Lipton, M., Anderson, L., Stillman, J. (2013). Teaching to change the

world, 4th ed. Boston: McGrawHill