Dispatch from The Philadelphia Urban Seminar: Days 8 and 9

May 28, 2008

Editor's Note: Rachel Mountz just completed her freshman year at Penn State University Park, studying elementary education. This summer, she is one of roughly four dozen Penn State students taking Curriculum and Instruction 295 A, Philadelphia Urban Seminar, with Dan Thompson, assistant professor of education in the College of Education. Thompson's students have joined hundreds of students from universities throughout Pennsylvania at LaSalle University in north Philadelphia for a two-week, intensive experience observing and teaching in urban schools. Mountz is chronicling her experiences for Penn State Live and the Newswires.

Days 8 and 9: Back in the schools

By now I'm finding that I'm really getting into a routine. I'm pretty surprised that I have been able to wake up every day at 6:30 and that I'm not rushing out the door at the last minute. Urban Seminar Tip #16: Eat a good breakfast every day.

I've figured out the school's routine too. The school day seems to fly by because we have our morning activities and then our prep period and lunch all together in the middle of the day, and then just over an hour of lessons in the afternoon. I didn't teach any big lessons on Monday or Tuesday because I was working mainly with my small reading group and Ms. Stevens was teaching a writing unit.

Monday afternoon when we got back from the schools we all got together to hear a parent panel. There were two parents with kids in the Philadelphia School District and later another parent joined them, and we got the opportunity to ask them questions about the schools and hear a parent's point of view on "the issues." I eventually thought of a question that I thought was a good one to ask and I got to ask it as the last question. It was something like this:

"I have noticed that discipline in the elementary school I'm in is much harsher than discipline in the suburban schools I went to. I understand why this is necessary but some of the teachers say things to the kids that our teachers could never say to us and that I find inappropriate and unnecessary. (I gave examples of some of the things I have heard teachers say to students.) Where do you as a parent draw the line with what you think is appropriate for a teacher to say to or in front of a student?"

The answers they gave me were exactly what I was hoping for. They said that they would definitely not stand for a teacher saying anything even the least bit degrading to their child or to any other child. I went up to the panel once the assembly was over and talked to two of the parents for a few minutes and it was great to find that they agreed with what I thought about how to discipline in schools.

On Tuesday we heard from a new teacher panel. There were five young teachers who all had been a part of the Urban Seminar in years past and we heard from them about their experiences teaching in urban schools. The floor was opened for questions and through answering our questions, the panel was able to give us some very good advice and tell us some very entertaining stories at the same time. Urban Seminar Tip #17: Don't rule out an urban school until you've tried it. I'm definitely considering teaching in a more urban area after I graduate.

Penn State students also had forums to attend on both Monday and Tuesday nights. We broke up into smaller groups to discuss what was going on in our classrooms and our schools. My group definitely had some good conversation. It's interesting to hear how other students' experiences differ from mine and how a lot of us are experiencing the same things.

For the full series, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/30949 online. For photos, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/1707 online.

  • School rules prohibited Rachel from photographing the students, but this is the classroom in which she has been teaching. For more photos, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Rachel Mountz
Last Updated January 12, 2011