School in Real Life

Posted by Paula Paine on February 20, 2011 in education, "Kansas City", "School of Education", teaching

Not all schools are created equal. The size, location, demographics, and budget of a school make each one a unique experience. Unfortunately for someeducation majors, they don’t discover which environment is ideal for their skill set and passions until they’re in the thick of teaching. Ottawa University has a solution to this common and frustrating problem. For more than five years, Program Assistant Denise Cook has offered a course in real life to OU-Kansas City students who are on their way to becoming teachers. They take her course, Teaching Profession II, before completing their student teaching requirement.

Students visit rural schools in Paola, Osawatomie and Spring Hill, as well as observe in urban settings like downtown Kansas City. A newly-added aspect of the training incorporates volunteerism in the form of soup kitchen or food pantry duties. Students are also required to view a film or read a book about teaching outside a middle class setting. The idea is to stretch students and encourage them to be aware of their students’ backgrounds and home lives.

“I really think the students benefit on many levels,” says Cook. “For some, this is their first venture into a classroom, and going as a group gives them a comfort level. We can talk about the importance of context before we visit and again afterwards.”

One of Cook’s students, Cyndi Lyons, agrees. “I learned that kids are kids and they all need to have a challenging and fun learning environment. The challenges that children face may be different, but they all deserve to have a great teacher.”

This course puts students right in the middle of the action in varied school settings, so before they leave OU-Kansas City, they can verify where they want to begin teaching. Their needs might change when they grow as educators, but practical, hands-on encounters put them ahead of education graduates from other universities.

“Not only did I learn about creating lesson plans and engaging activities for my future students,” says Lyons, “but I also learned ideas about classroom management and creating differentiated learning opportunities. This course helped me realize that I am making the right decision in my career.”