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Westfield State students learn at Westfield Middle School

WSU education students ask questions of WMS student leaders. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

WESTFIELD – Westfield Middle School Principal Jessica Kennedy and Westfield State University Field Placement Coordinator Pamela Nadeau teamed up this week to give WSU education freshmen and sophomores an opportunity to virtually observe WMS classes.

Nadeau said the university class on “Schools in American Culture” would normally go into schools to observe, which is not plausible due to restrictions. Instead, the 80 WSU students spent Feb. 24 and 28 virtually in different classrooms at WMS, and were given opportunities to ask questions of panels of students, parents and teachers on how they are navigating the virtual reality of schools today.

“It was such a great opportunity for Westfield State students as they start their journey to becoming teachers,” Nadeau said.

Kennedy said it was also an opportunity for WMS student leaders and teachers to give feedback. “It’s such a huge boost. A chance to share what they do, for teachers, and for students to give feedback,” she said.

At Friday morning’s session, WSU students were able to ask questions of middle school student leaders, some of whom were in school and some learning remotely that day.

Caitlin Daniels of WSU asked what the biggest difference was between in person and online learning.

Makayla Ellis talked about the disconnect between what students were learning while in school and out of school, and talked about a divide.

Abigail Jemiolo mentioned internet issues, and said teachers get disconnected and kicked out of meetings sometimes.

Fallon Boze said she had a lack of motivation being at home, which didn’t feel like time to do regular school, but time to relax.

WSU student Emily Lasek asked what teachers have done that’s been helpful during this time.

“Letting us talk to them, not necessarily about school,” said Makayla Ellis. She said asking about how your day has been, just basic conversation, which has been missing.

Abigail Jemiolo said that on remote, “You feel you can trust them more. You can tell them anything in the break out room and feel safe.”

Katie McGuirk of WSU asked what teachers have done that are right and wrong to help with stress.

“Teachers have been doing it right, marking sure we understand it,” said Zoe Velevitch. She said when she goes into breakout rooms for small groups, she finds some of the students don’t talk to them.

Goodness Odunukwe agreed. ”In the breakout room, some people don’t do it. One person does all the work, and the teacher never finds out,” she said.

Brandon Cekovsky said teachers are too focused on getting the technology correct, rather than focusing on students’ needs. “If they’re trying to figure out technology, you have to wait for them,” he said.

Daphne Vetch asked the middle school students what type of teaching they like.

“We can’t do hands-on learning, that’s what I do best. It’s difficult to adapt to a learning style you’re not used to,” said Fallon Boze.

Sophia Paredes said “story works.” She said they had just read a story in school about Bigfoot, and worked together in a group on a project about it, which was “fun.”

Katy Schlaefer asked what was their favorite activity.

Fallon Boze talked about “escape rooms,” which can be done in school and at home, and you have to solve a puzzle to get out of the room. “It’s an entertaining way to learn,” she said.

“During hybrid, I’m a better learner in person,” said Shanna Avery. Jess Kennedy said a lot of students feel that way. “When they’re coming in, they’re excited,” she said.

Lexie Barrett asked the students what they are doing for their mental health.

Sophia Paredes said going to guidance every day and going to swim every day makes her happier.

Brandon Cekovsky, who is fully remote, said he looks forward to family time after school.

Nicole Dolat asked what their favorite subject is in the way it’s taught.

Zoe Velevitch said she enjoys science, because the teacher makes it fun.

Sophia Paredes said she likes social studies, and prefers learning about it on paper. “I love history,” she said.

Both Abigail Jemiolo and Goodness Odunukwe, who are in the same math class, said that was their favorite class, because of the way it’s being taught. “She teaches the lesson, then gives us a sheet on the lesson to work on, and goes over any questions with the whole class,” Odunukwe said.

Nicholas Estrada of WSU asked if their teachers have ever done destresser activities.

“That’s a highly debated subject at school,” said Makayla Ellis. “Mindfulness – I’m not a big fan.” She said in her class there are two kids who actually enjoy it, while others are typing or reading through it. “Not great, in my experience,” she said. Kennedy said she was proud of her for speaking her mind.

Shayna Avery said her teacher plays a song at the start of every class, and she can email a recommendation for a song, also.

Fallon Boze said for some of her teachers, in the last couple of minutes they give the class time to relax, go outside, cool off and then get back to work. She said some also take a couple of minutes to talk to them.

Justin Crowley asked what the students do at home to change up their learning spaces.

Abigail Jemiolo said she tries to use her desk. “We’re all just laying on our beds. The desk is helping me be motivated,” she said, adding that sometimes she gots to the kitchen table for a change. “I can’t sit on my bed. I have to stay out of it,” she said.

“We’ve gotten really positive feedback. They’re excited about it,” Nadeau said about the university students’ reaction to the project. “We want to create inquisitive learners who want to teach inquisitive learners.”

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