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Observational Fieldwork and Journal
Inclusion: The Right Answer?

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This section is my recorded journal from observing at Schwarting Elementary School on October 31, 2003. While my observation time consisted of learning in an Inclusion classroom some of the events didnt relate to the this website. The journal below has been cut from one day of my journal to include items about and related to Inclusion.

Fieldwork - October 31, 2003

Upon entering the class I noted that the tables were grouped together. There are 4 groups of desks in the room, each group consisting of 6 desks. I thought this to be a Vygotskian idea of grouping the children together so even when they are not involved in group activity they could turn to their neighbor and ask a question if neeeded. I also noticed the surrounding environment was very comfortable. There were a lot of pictures created by the students on the wall, and posters such as "How to take notes" and "Study habits" posted everywhere. The class also had a job bulletin board. Every student was given a job in the classroom. For example, some students were responsible for handing out dittos, another was responsible for ordering the book stack in the class. I thought that this was a great idea to get students involved in the class and make them feel important and needed. Having students do the jobs in the class does not only make them feel needed but i think it also makes them want to keep the classroom organized and clean to show a reflection of good character.

The teacher is very interacting with the students, she makes the atmosphere very relaxed and at the same time the students know they should not cross a certain line. Most of the students are disciplined and attentive to the class. I talked with the assistant teacher of the class and she told me which students were the "at risk" students. There was a variety of students who had depression, anixety, trouble reading, and other learning disabilities.

Before the spelling test the asst. teacher worked with 3 students who need extra attention before the spelling test is given. These students are children who would normally take their test in a "resource room". Although they work at a seperate round table they really aren't taken out of the class. These students are also only required to answer the first twelve spelling words as opposed to twenty all the other students answer. If they answer the other ones they receive extra points.

Because of the fall season coming the teacher decided to do a finger painting lesson with the children. She taught them which colors mixed with which to make other colors and then she showed the children what she wanted them to make. The goal was to make two pictures: one doing with a fall theme and another was their choice. While many of the students jumped right into the assignment anxiously one student didnt. Ryan, a ten year old boy suffering from depression was not actively participating in the finger painting. He didnt want to do anything and was going to leave his paper blank. Both the teacher and asst. teacher had tried working with Ryan but he was so persistent on not doing anything that they could not harp on him and neglect the whole class. Even fellow students tried to encourage Ryan to paint but he was stubborn about it. I asked permission to try and work with Ryan and convince him to paint with me. I asked him to paint with me and he said no. So I said to him ok, I am going to paint and if you want to help me you just left me know. I started painting trying to show him how fun it was and after he heard other students were having trouble making brown, I asked him if he wanted to try making brown. It was then, that i hit a turning point and started to interact more.  Ryan was telling me what he wanted to paint, where he wanted everything and now was creative and involved. I think what Ryan needed was the encouragment and reinforcement of someone else. I also think that me being male has to factor in because there is not a male presence in the classroom or the school really (there is one male teacher on the staff). I'm glad that things with Ryan went smoothly after our rough start.

By the time we were done with the first painting he already knew what he wanted to do for his second painting. I think his participation level is huge effect of his depression state. Some times he doesnt seem to grasp concepts and ideas while at others he seems so bright and confident in himself. I know that Ryan is bright because during a word association game the teacher was playing Ryan was the first to figure out the relation twice in a row. To me, his condition means that his behavior and participation is scattered and always unpredictable. I look forward to getting to work with him and other students more. 

When the class returned from the library the librarian spoke to the teacher about a problem she had had with two students in the class. Ryan and Nolan, a child who has anxiety problems and ADD were unable to answer there quesitons on the "library quiz". The quiz had consisted of questions about where to find information, and topics such as the Dewey Decimal System. There grades were very poor and the teacher thought that they should be taken over again.

The teacher allowed myself to work with the asst. teacher and the two children in order to help them understand the answers without giving them to much of a push. The assitant teacher told me, "we dont want to just give them the answers but we are trying to point them in the right direction towards the answer and make sure that when they get it, they can remember it if the question was asked a different way." I thought this would be a good hands on experience and it was. During our time the children seemed to do well, once again what it seemed like they lacked was the motivation and encouragment to complete the quiz. Nolan the student who has anxiety actually was so nervous about getting one question wrong, that he couldnt realize that he had already answer the question previously.

At the end of my day I was glad I was able to interact with the children and get a first hand account of what being in an Inclusion classroom is like. I thought about students like Ryan and Nolan. Would these students be placed in a regular classroom if this was not an inclusion room. Although the teachers are aware of conditions students have, would their needs be met in the classroom? I think that having an Inclusion class is beneficial to children who need futher assistance with some topics butit also benefits students without disabilities by teaching them they can help other people different from them and also teaches them tolerance of other children.  

The names of the students in this journal have been changed in order to protect their identies, I felt that their names were not important and shouldn't revealed.