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Thomas Steele

Community Assets 2nd Placement


3/21/18

Part 1: Community/District/School/Classroom Profile

A. Community - REDACTED, New York has a population of 28,267, according to


the U.S. census data for 2015. A large part of the population is made up of white
individuals, with 80% of the population identifying as such, with 12% identifying
as being of Asian descent, 5% identifying as being African American, 2%
identifying as Hispanic, and 2% as biracial. 6.2% speak a language other than
English at home. 52% of the inhabitants identify as female, and 48% as male.
The median household income is just over $61,000 per year, and nearly 11% of
people fall below the poverty line. The median age of people living in the area is
27 years old. 95.8% of the population have completed high school or some form
of higher education (U.S. Census, 2016).

The district is a mix of urban/suburban. The school itself sits on the edge
of a heavily developed area, surrounded by stores and restaurants on three
sides, bordered on its fourth side by homes. A large number of the students live
in this area, within walking distance of the school. The main road through the
commercial area also serves as a main trade and shipping route. Many of the
students spend their free time amongst the many stores and restaurants that this
area has to offer, and they are allowed to leave campus for lunch to go visit
these, an opportunity that many of them seize (Personal Communication,
REDACTED, 2018).

B. District - The school district is 82% white, with about 3% African American
students, 3% hispanic students, 9% Alaskan or island native, and mixed race
students making up about 3% of the population. Enrollment is 51% male, 49%
female, and the district has had a graduation rate of about 89% over the last four
years. About 19% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. The
district serves around 3,225 students (NYSED Report Card, 2016).

The district is made up of 8 schools: one high school which houses grades
nine through twelve, one middle school which houses grades seven and eight, 5
elementary schools for kindergarten through sixth grade, and one pre-
kindergarten school. The district sits in REDACTED County and encompasses
many small towns and villages. Their mission statement is “to provide instruction,
programs, strategies and challenges in a caring, positive learning environment.
Each student will become a critical thinker, a lifelong learner and a responsible,
contributing citizen in a changing global society,” (Mission Statement, 2014).
Their sports teams produce a high number of students who go on to play sports
for a college team and receive scholarships for that school.

C. School - I am placed at the High School, under AP Physics teacher REDACTED.


The school principal is REDACTED, who oversees the activities of both the
students and the staff there. There is an active PTA community throughout the
entire area, which actively participates in fundraising for students events and
resources. The student body is very socially and politically active. The school
was one of many schools to participate in the recent walkout to protest gun
violence in schools, organized by the students.

D. Classroom - I teach both sections of an advanced placement 1 Physics class,


which follows the AP1 Physics curriculum in order to prepare student for the AP
exam at the beginning of May. There is no textbook for the class and all of the
lessons have been created by scratch by Mr. REDACTED and myself, following
what we feel to be a logical progression. I have a total of 28 students, with one
enl student, and 5 students who fall under an IEP or 504 plan. These plans cover
things like attention issues and extra time for assessments. The class makeup is
about 25% female, 75% male. The room is 40’ by 45’, and includes lab tables
and equipment storage separate from the seating area that students occupy
during normal instruction.

Part 2: Exploration of Community Assets

A. Educational Resources - Educational resources within or near the School


District include the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center, which is a public
observatory and museum dedicated to Astronomy, the Binghamton Science
Discovery Center, which serves to support general science education for all ages
in an interactive manner, Binghamton University’s own Science program, which
offers tours to local schools for students to get first-hand looks at the science
labs, and the Roberson Museum and Science Center, which offers a series of
STEAM workshops and activities for further education in those fields.
The resource that I thought would be most beneficial to my students is the
Kopernik Observatory and Science Center, due to its focus on Astronomy. The
center houses a lab area that was specifically designed for use by K-12
individuals in their science education, and was the first in the state to exist. It has
a large number of resources for education in all the physical sciences, including
multiple optical, laser, and heliostatic telescopes, as well as labs which are
individually focused on astronomy, physics, earth science, and meteorology
education. The center’s self-declared mission is “to offer hands-on investigations
and outreach programs for educating all ages about astronomy and science
using advanced optical telescopes, computers, and other tools.” Tours of the
facility are open during school hours and are free by scheduling. The observatory
and its many facilities are open to the public mainly on Fridays, with a discounted
admission price of $3 for students. It is also open to the public on many other
scheduled days throughout each month. On these open nights, they give
presentations and conduct educational and informational programs (About
Kopernik Observatory, 2015).
This is a wonderful asset to have so close to the school for many of the
science teachers, and it is especially useful for me. In this teaching placement, I
will be covering the electricity and circuits unit. An incredibly important analogue
which we use for many of the rules and laws of these units actually lies in the
laws of Astronomy. Charge particles behave like particles under gravitational
stress, electrostatic forces are identical to non-contact gravitational forces, and
electron orbitals follow similar non-constrained paths to those of the planets, to
name a few examples. Because of these similarities, we are constantly using
astronomical examples to help illustrate the ideas we are covering in the unit,
because these kinds of behaviors just seem to inherently be easier for students
to understand on a larger scale. These are students who are opting into a class
(AP) which explores content much more in-depth than a standard regents class
would. As such, having a science center nearby with a focus on bringing these
examples to life in multiple ways is an excellent tool not only for teaching the
Astronomy unit, but multiple other units as well because of the parallels they
draw. The many other, non-Astronomy focused resources that the center has
could make it an excellent tool for any part of the curriculum by helping to bring
the topics we teach out of the students’ notebooks and into their hands. Since it
is open to groups by scheduling during school hours and is so close, it serves as
an excellent opportunity to help broaden the ways in which I educate my
students.
It also serves to help broaden my own ideas about teaching, as well. The
content-focused labs and many other interactive demos and presentations that
the Science Center houses present any number of learning opportunities for me
to figure out how to bring this content to my students in more interesting, but still
meaningful, ways. There exists a number of opportunities for me to improve labs,
in class activities, and even just my presentations by examining the ways in
which the Science Center communicates the same ideas and looking to see what
I could be doing better. Given how important being reflective of my pedagogy is
to ensuring that I am educating my students in the best way possible, having a
resource like this nearby that allows me to do just that is a huge benefit.
B. Recreational Spaces - Recreational spaces in the area include the multiple strip
malls located right near the school, with their large number of shops and
restaurants, RobotCity Games, which is the largest arcade in New York State,
and the Binghamton University Nature preserve, which is a huge attraction for
students in the warmer months who like hiking and picnicking.

I have a large number of students who are on the school’s robotics team
and are very interested in computer programming. This has lead to a large
number of them, about 80% being incredibly interested in video games of a
particular type. Old school arcade games performed a lot of interesting
programming and hardware tricks to get around the technological limitations of
the time, so many of my students love to play and learn about them for
inspiration on how to solve similar limitations with their own technological
exploits. As such, I chose to take a closer look at RobotCity games, a place
where many of them choose to spend their free time (personal Communication,
2018, various students). RobotCity is the largest arcade in New York State, and
hosts over 140 cabinets representing different eras of technology. It is open on
the weekends and after school until 9:00 p.m., meaning students can visit it
pretty much whenever they want (About RobotCity, 2018). More importantly to
the students, the owners and employees there are incredibly knowledgeable not
just about the games, but the technology involved in creating them. These
individuals will lay out the history and functionality of the cabinets and chipsets
for anyone who wants to ask, serving as another valuable resource for the
students who are interested (Personal Communication, Various Students, 2018).

This is an important resource not just because it serves as a place of


relaxation for many of my students, which is incredibly important to developing
education and mental health, but it is an important reminder that education can
come from places that one might not label as “educational” at first glance. For my
students who are interested, which is a large portion of them, RobotCity serves
as a place to go and expand their understanding of the technology that they want
to deal with, to work out gaps in their understanding that are preventing them
from solving a problem, or simply wind down and let their brain deal with a
problem in the background while they give their working memory a much needed
rest. This is something incredibly important to realize as a teacher, because you
can only learn what resources are most beneficial to your students through
knowing your students. If I were simply to present this place as an arcade without
any knowledge of why my students love it or what their interests are, it would
seem like nothing more than a distraction. But because it is meaningful to my
students, it gains the potential to be educational, and that is exactly what they
have made it into, whether intentional or not.

Part 3: Implications and Considerations for the Future

Coming here and observing throughout the fall gave me one expectation
and one expectation only: that things there would be different. It is a different
type of area than what I grew up in, a different type of school than I went to;
everything there just felt different. One of the main things that I noticed was that
the area, especially the school, had a sense of being much better off, financially
speaking, than where I went to school and I started to worry, foolishly, that these
students were going to be difficult to deal with. I was afraid that, with more
students coming from a slightly more affluent area than I was used to, the
students would be difficult, snobby, or disrespectful. Even at the time I realised
that I was letting my own biases shape my expectations before I started there,
but it was hard not to. I grew up in an area where the few people who had money
were the ones that would rather act in their own self-interest than help a
struggling school program or help support a sports or art program when the
school was forced to slash its budget, and all I had to shape my expectations
were my own past experiences. I should have known better than to expect that
past experiences would inform future ones. Throughout my time spent here
getting to know the students and the few parents I have met so far, I have come
to find that they are no less agreeable than the people I grew up working with
and learning from. The teachers and parents are eager to help and to invest
themselves in students’ education. The students are individuals, not defined by
my own expectation of them. I have encountered my fair share of difficult
students, but not in the manner I expected and not to the detriment of the
reputation of the rests of the students. There are no more disrespectful students
than one would expect to find in the average classroom.

Once I realised this, I found that it was easy to connect with my students.
Not only are we not that different in terms of age, eliminating what is usually a
difficult generation gap to bridge, we aren’t that different in terms of who we are. I
have found myself able to talk in-depth with many of my students about their
interests, because many of their interests are my own. If they are talking about
another of their interests which I am not familiar with, I have found myself able to
ask them about it and get excited answers from the students at someone else
expressing interest in it. Knowing and better understanding their interests allows
me to better tailor their learning experience in the classroom, and knowing them
better as people allows me to better communicate with them, instead of simply
holding onto my preconceived notions about them and communicating with them
through that lens. Being able to see that I was wrong, to toss aside this notion,
and to get to know the students has also helped me to expand my notion of what
education can be, as with my students’ interest in arcade games. In many ways
this experience is very similar to my expectations going into my first placement,
and yet somehow exactly the opposite as well. If anything, these experiences
have shown me not to expect anything of my students until I have allowed them
to be the ones that form my perception of them.