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Diana Miculescu

Reflection Paper

EDCI 6600

1 July 2018

Alternate Teaching Experience Reflection

The alternate teaching experience at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership

Academy of Summer 2018 was an eye-opening experience in teaching in an urban setting as well

as teaching upcoming middle level students. This experience had its ups and downs, but the

outcome that displayed the students’ achievement of goals set out in the beginning encouraged

me. Even though there might have been many moments when teaching seemed difficult, the

students were determined to accomplish that overall goal. I enjoyed this experience since it was a

summer school camp and the students were more laid back than if it occurred in a more formal

setting (this being my first official teaching experience in the program).

I believe the setting played an enormous part in my experience there, as well as the

students who attended the school. My initial thoughts were first, that the campus and building

were beautiful and welcoming. The outdoor garden in front of the school was an unspoken

testament to the type of school I was entering—a school dedicated to hands-on, real-world

learning activities. Secondly, the hallways were dressed in quotes inspiring women to be unique,

determined, and impactful at school and in their communities. I believe schools have power in

influencing students and the way in which the school delivers itself to its students can foster

students who serve their communities.

Before I stepped on CSKYWLA’s campus, the class was tasked to develop a research

question and goal for the students. We were given a lot of freedom regarding what the students
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needed to accomplish and how they were going to spend their time each week to achieve their

goal. Group 4, which I was a part of, included two students as well as another student teacher

(who later dropped the course and was no longer part of the teaching experience). Our research

topic was “Beginning and Maintaining a School Recycling Program” and the research question

was “How can we implement and maintain a school recycling program?”. The research goal for

our students was for students to be able to determine which items can be recycled and what are

the outcomes/benefits of recycling through a slide presentation.

Regarding the goals we expected the students to achieve, I believe the students exceeded

our expectations in creating presentations that so clearly defined the research process, including

different aspects of research such as background information and how it relates to the real-world,

the problem/question, the solution, and the sources as evidence of their research. One reason we

might have had lower expectations was because the experience and progress during the one hour,

once a week meeting time we had with the students was not as productive as we thought

necessary to the students to complete the final presentation. Many times, I felt the students were

drifting off task by pulling out a phone or even pulling up and looking at past assignments in

their Google Drive. The informal setting, time management skills, and student’s disinterest to the

task may have discouraged the students from completing the work with eagerness.

I also learned that students will not always be eager or interested in a topic or task that is

taught, and some deviations need to be made depending on how the students are responding to

the content and task. This requires the teacher to be flexible in a sense and to remember the

overall goal is to have students learn. The overall goal is not for students to complete a specific

assignment, because the assignment is only the path that the students take to learn the
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information. If the path set out by the teacher is not compatible with the student, the teacher

needs to be able to adapt and modify the specific assignment.

Initially, I had planned for students to form their own research process on their own, but

as soon as I saw they might benefit with a more structured lesson plan, I put together a research

task in which the students had to answer questions that they could later on use as background

information, identifying the problem, and planning a solution to their research topic. In

retrospect, I should have been more aware of pre-assessing my students in the beginning to be

prepared even sooner with a more structured lesson. This obstacle showed me that lesson

planning needs to be extremely intentional not only to the final goal, but it depends heavily on

the students’ prior knowledge, feelings, and assumptions about a subject, and their understanding

about what might be a problem regarding the research topic and how this relates to themselves

personally and to the school. All the research topics provided to the students were actual real-

world learning experiences in which students can involve themselves in what they were learning.

As rising sixth graders, since my students researched this topic, in the following school year they

will be more knowledgeable about maintaining a recycling program at the school as well as

willing to participate in recycling (also, encouraging other students to recycle).

My time at CSKYWLA further validated that teaching students is something I not only

desire to do, but that I am called to teach as well. This experience should me how easily I can

relate to the students I come in contact with because I am learning from them just as much as

they are learning from me. Even with time constraints or content and skills issues, the students

persevered through the weeks to create an impressive presentation for their final project. This

experience gives me confidence and optimism for future teaching experiences. I have learned to

not get discouraged so easily when students veer off task, even when time is limited. The truth is
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that the reality of the constraints present in a certain learning environment will become obvious

and it is the teacher’s responsibility to become aware, manage, and adapt to such constraints.