Forty-five minutes with four wiggling, enthusiastic, elementary students may not sound fun to many, but for John Brown University senior Andrew Goode, this experience helped him decide what he wants to do after graduation.
Goode, an early childhood education major from Firth, Neb., is a member of the pilot class for the College of Education’s embedded field experience program. The program was started two years ago so elementary education majors would get more applicable practice in actual classrooms.
Last year, he worked with the four Limited English Proficiency students in Heidi Burgess’ third grade class at Southside Elementary in Siloam Springs, Ark. once a week.
“After my time with the students, I realized that I want to work with language learners once I graduate,” he said. “It was so fun to hear the questions they had, the stories, and the background knowledge. I grew so close to that group of students.”
Goode said that a large portion of his classroom and homework time was spent dissecting the lessons and time that he had in the elementary classroom. He is thankful that the professors worked vigorously to help the teaching candidates think critically about their experiences.
“We are able to learn something in class one week, let’s say how to assess a student’s literacy competency, and then the next week, actually assess a student’s literacy competency,” he said.
This is an invaluable experience for Goode, who said that the education department has been blessed to have this relationship with the Siloam Springs School District that gives teaching candidates a great hands-on experience to supplement classroom time.
“Embedded field experience bridges the gap between content knowledge and instruction,” he said. “For many programs at JBU, it is hard for students to get hands-on experience in their field of study.”
Grace Davis is an assistant professor of education and the Professional Development School director. Part of her job is to coordinate the relationship with the school district.
Davis said that the idea behind embedded field experience is to tie theory to actual professional practice. This gives both the teaching candidate and the student what they need from the classroom and shows the candidate what the real deal looks like.
“It’s cool to see that application and think, ‘Wow, I’m actually gonna use that when I’m a teacher,’” Goode said.
As part of the pilot class, Goode attended the yearly partnership meeting for JBU and the school district and met with professors to evaluate the program and help make decisions about how to make it better.
He said the experience would not be possible without the partnership of the school district, which shows much camaraderie and encouragement.
“It is so cool to see [the school system] caring not only for their students, but also for the next generation of teachers. They make sacrifices to have us in the schools, but they do it because they care about our learning and to help their own students succeed,” he said.
Burgess said that what she loves most about having future teachers in her classroom is knowing that they are investing in her students’ lives.
“The kids were enamored by [Goode]!” she said. “His ability to feel at home with kids while sitting on the floor or getting down to eye level with them came naturally.”
This semester, Goode does not have required field experience, so he took the advice of education professor Margo Turner to volunteer at the school instead.
“I got to know Mrs. Burgess last year and asked her if I could come on the first day of school. That’s an experience that I’ve never had before,” he said.
Turner said that one of the things she appreciates most as a professor is for teaching candidates to take a course seriously and show that they are there to learn, change and grow.
“Andrew is a great example of the kind of dedication and focus it takes to be effective as a teacher who honors Christ and honors their students, beyond course requirements,” she said. “He has been teachable, humble, respectful and genuine.”
Turner is thankful that Goode has responded to the call to teach as an elementary teacher who is male and specifically trained to work with Limited English Proficiency students.
She said, “He is a rare person who has made the most of this undergraduate experience and who leaves JBU in May as a blessing, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, a teacher that I know God will use in amazing ways for His kingdom in the lives of children.”