Classroom diversity teaches education majors lessons

Huntington, Ind.—Jennifer Weber begins reading a story about heroes to her special education class at Weisser Park Elementary School on the south side of Fort Wayne, Ind. Weber asks the students who their hero is, and a boy in first grade proceeds to tell her that his sister is his hero because she has saved him twice from being hit by a car.

“He is only a first grader, so that tells me it is an interesting neighborhood that he lives in,” said Weber, a junior elementary and special education major from Edgerton, Ohio. “That is a real problem, and hearing this made me realize that these kids go through a great deal.”

Weber was one of a group of 25 Huntington University students who were involved in a multicultural practicum in Fort Wayne in the spring of 2007. The students were spread throughout five elementary schools in Fort Wayne, including Weisser Park, Wayne Dale, Irwin, Harrison Hill and Maplewood elementary schools.

Katie Jo Brown
The multicultural practicum is offered to students of junior standing who are required to have teaching experience in a minority setting. Each student must teach two math and two science lessons along with interacting with the children.

These elementary schools have a balanced mixture of races in most classrooms. The diversity of the classroom gives the students a feel of what it would be like to teach in a multicultural setting. This experience exposes them to techniques which they may need to use in an alternative situation.

Kimberly Crist
“I think that the flexibility and the behavior management that we see in the classroom will allow us to make it specific to our classroom,” said Kimberly Crist, a junior elementary education major from Fort Wayne. “We can’t just use the same ideas with all children. This experience has shown me that you have to find something that works with all students.”

Each teacher in the classroom has a different way of monitoring the behavior of the classroom. The different techniques allow the student to see the variety of ways to enforce discipline and stability in classroom.

Jennifer Weber
“Some of my kids used to hide their behavior charts. Now we have a tag system where you pick a card, and each kid brings a behavior card home,” said Katie Jo Brown, a junior elementary education major from Eaton Rapids, Mich. “My teacher is really good at doing balanced literacy. She has a grammatical unit each week. That unit then becomes a good application to review and see what we have talked about in previous classes.”

The practicum showed some students that a teacher has to become flexible in the classroom. The teacher must adhere to the schedule, and if problems occur, they must deal with them accordingly. Whatever the situation, the teacher has to be prepared to deal with what happens no matter what is going on.

“One of the main things that I learned is how to be flexible. Since working with special education students, I experienced that not everything will turn out the way you want it to,” said Weber. “You have to cater to what happens because you never know what each situation will bring. Special concern is with some of the students that have emotional or behavior problems. Each day can be different because of their personality. You cannot be distracted when things go wrong because they will.”

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  


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