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School Visit: George Clarke Elementary School

Introduction
The school visit is an important part of the teacher training program at SBC
Collage. The goal of the visit was for me to experience the organization and culture of a
school other than that in which I have been completing my practicum for the past six
months.
George Clarke Elementary school is part of Public School District 401. It opened
its doors in 1988, and currently serves 3,540 students between ages 6 and 12. The
average class size of the school is 25 students, with one lead teacher and one assistant
teacher per classroom. The school is ranked 7th in the region, and it is particularly well
known for its French Immersion program.

Site Visit Outline


​I visited George Clarke Elementary School from 8am to 3pm on March 24th, and
spent the day following the activities of a 3rd Grade class. I observed as the teacher led
the students through Language Arts, Mathematics, and Reading lessons. During the
students’ lunch break, I attended a presentation at the school’s auditorium by Dr. Mara
Lewis on the benefits of bilingualism for children under age 15. I spent the afternoon
hours interviewing two teachers on their experiences working at this school, in order to
get a sense of the unique challenges and rewards that teachers find from their specific
work environments.

Points of Note
During my visit, I learned that one of the things that makes George Clarke
Elementary School unique is the value placed on language education. The teachers
with whom I spoke expressed a genuine passion for sharing French language with their
students. They each cited recent psychological research which suggests that
bilingualism may be a mechanism to foster empathy. The school’s staff generally
seemed to view teaching children empathy as an important goal of their community.
Teachers expressed a sense of resistance from some parents, however. They
mentioned that some parents were not enthusiastic about their children learning French,
and they told me that these parental attitudes often seemed to prevent students from
investing time and energy into their language studies.
The teacher I observed during the morning hours used a Socratic form of
dialogue with her classroom and often let her students make mistakes without any
interference. She would then guide them through the problem-solving process in order
to rectify their errors, but would not interfere before the mistake was made. She told me
that her philosophy is that children learn best by experience, and that she wants to give
them tools to overcome challenges for themselves.
The classroom was set up to encourage students to converse amongst
themselves: the teacher had placed the desks in groups of four, and often paused her
lesson to ask the students to discuss a question within their groups.

Conclusion
My site visit to George Clarke Elementary School was immensely beneficial. I
learned that different schools have unique cultures and unique challenges. It was an
excellent opportunity to experience an environment that prioritizes language education,
as this is quite different from our focus at Southern City School.
I benefited greatly by observing by the teaching strategies in use at this school. I
will definitely attempt to integrate more independent experiential learning into my own
lesson plans for my students. I will also brainstorm ways to arrange the physical space
of my classroom in order to facilitate more conversations among students.