Being in a classroom setting to observe can sometimes give potential teaching candidates a unique opportunity to be critical and subjective to veteran teachers. While I know I'm still very new to this and naive about the inner workings of a classroom, I do notice when things may not be quite right.
The teacher I observe, we'll call her Mrs. B, is very old fashion, and that is an understatement. In one assignment in my methods class, I was supposed to track how the teacher interacted with the students based on ethnicity and gender. When I did this assignment, it only drove home the conclusion I had already drawn: that Mrs. B acts kindly towards the white students and harsh and cold towards the colored students. I actually saw one colored girl ask a question and Mrs. B snapped at her, but an hour later when a white girl asked the same exact question in the same tone, she got a very calm answer.
I was even more surprised by an assignment I saw the students doing yesterday. They were given a primary source to break down and paraphrase. Mrs. B handed out the assignment, paired the students off and then sat down at her desk. While I roamed the classroom to see what students were doing, they were asking me all their questions, while Mrs. B just sat there and did her other work. It's no wonder the students didn't want to ask her questions though, I would be fearful to ask her for help if I was one of her students based on how she treated her students. This left me the opportunity to wander around and tend to the students' needs. This also gave me the chance to take a look at some of the progress reports being passed out. There was definitely a big difference between the colored students and the white students. Most of the grades of the colored students I saw were around 50%, while in the above level class, which had only 2 African American and 2 Hispanic students in it, the grades ranged from about 95%-105%. The African American boy in the above level class, however, stood out since his grade was about 75%. This only drove home, once again, my thoughts that Mrs. B is biased against these students.
You might be saying that these students who are failing simply don't care enough about their grades, but that isn't always the case. While working with one boy, he said to me "I really need to raise my grade." So I told him that when I come in every week I will be asking him about his grade and what he's doing to raise it. He wants to learn, he wants to do better, but he just doesn't know how, and it should be Mrs. B's job as their teacher to help them learn.
Mrs. B definitely has an attitude toward her students, particularly the African American and Hispanic ones, and it comes out not only when she interacts with them, but also when she has conversations with me. She treats them like they shouldn't even be there and not with any respect, so they don't give her any respect in return. When I expressed how enjoyable I found it working with her on level course, Mrs. B said to me "Don't let them fool you." I don't care what she says though, I love working with her on level students, no matter what she says about them. I know I can't change how Mrs. B teaches or even views her students, but I feel stuck, like I should be doing something to help them. Should I offer my skills as a tutor after school? Should I just do the best I can with them right now? I feel very stuck and conflicted, since I feel like it is my obligation to help them out, somehow.