School Observation: Springfield Gardens Middle School
The focus of this school observation is PS 59, Springfield Gardens Middle School in New York City. The observation was conducted in three separate settings: a math class, the cafeteria, and the school's main office. The goal of the observation was to gain insight on the relationships between different stakeholders in the school community, including teachers, students, staff, administration, and parents, and how these relationships influence the connectedness of the school environment. The assumption is that school connectedness as summarized by Blum (2004), can be measured by the presence or absence of factors such as positive student-faculty rapport, high academic expectations, and publically displayed efforts to strengthen school culture and safety. The observations of the school, thus, considered school connectedness as evidenced by student-teacher rapport, exhibition of student work, teaching methods, and classroom comportment, and interaction between staff members. In addition, student body and staff demographics were noted in each observational setting.
The first location for observation was Mr. Duggan's math class. The students arrived to class tardy, and took some time to settle in. Mr. Duggan has a strong rapport with his students, and as soon as the class got underway the students were attentive and engaged. Mr. Duggan return a recent test during the second part of the class period, and the student's response shifted, as many students seemed less engaged. The class average on the math test was approximately sixty percent, and Mr. Duggan noted that some pupils performed quite well, he expressed his disappointment in the overall scores. The material on the test was mainly geometry, and appeared quite advanced for the grade level. Mr. Duggan's class was engaging and his style of behavior management was direct and very effective. There were few disruptions during the class period, but the overall tone of the class, especially the low test scores, seemed to indicate that a good number of students were not working up to standard. They was no discussion of strategies for improvement, and no mention of any remediation tasks, such as corrections or extra assignments, for students who scored below average. Overall, though, this classroom environment was quite a bit more orderly than the hallway area, which was observed during the transition to the lunch hour.
Staff members were present to supervise lunch before the students arrived, but the rush of pupils from the hallway into the cafeteria was quite overwhelming, and it took several minutes for students to form an orderly line and get their food. The food selections for free lunch, which included fried chicken nuggets, were of markedly poor nutritional value. Students did not have assigned seating, and, rather, sat in self-selected peer groups. The atmosphere in the lunchroom was fairly orderly after students settled down to eat, but a good deal of profanity and inappropriate conversation was noted. The cafeteria lacks any displays of student work or educational materials, so the school seems to be overlooking the opportunity to engage students while they are eating. The staff members in the cafeteria were well prepared and professional, but there was little direct or informal interaction between adults and students, and this tone carried over into the main office.
Three female receptionists, who answer phone calls and respond to visitor, teacher, and student needs, staff the school's office. The principal's work area is connected to the main office, and the staff members call upon him as needed. A fairly bleak space, the office has few decorations or visual information about the school's culture or student body. The staff members running the office are professional and collegial with one another. At one point during the observation a student arrived and stated that he had been sent out of class because he was not supposed to be in school due to suspension. The principal, Mr. Gordon, and parent liaison both addressed this issue, and after a bit of an argument the young man sat quietly until his mother arrived to escort him home. There was also a disruption in the hallway, as several students engaged in horseplay. It was unclear why they were not in a classroom, and Mr. Gordon emerged from his office, verbally reprimanded them, and told them to go back to class. Towards the end of the observation,…