So, the SUNY system is great, and SUNY Fredonia is also quite great. But do not go there for the Education program. The teachers are wonderful. But the field experience? Not so much.
The idea in theory is great. Get you in the classroom ASAP each year so you can figure out if you really want this, and they can figure out if you can actually do it. In practice, it’s not going so well. I experienced too many cooperating teachers that were not very cooperative. I lost something within me that helped me work with kids a couple of years ago. I did not really notice it until one year ago. And even then, I thought I could still truck on to complete what I started as well as I possibly could. One of the cooperating teachers noticed I was missing something, and said so in her evaluation. But no one told me this. I was going along all this time thinking the school saw me as a fine Education student. And why not? My grades were great.
So, communication is minimal in this field experience process. It also does not allow room for error. Deadlines are perfectly timed, so you better get your lessons in and be pretty good at them. There’s little room to actually learn, discover, and discuss.
Continuing the little room for error, a friend of mine was told she lacked the confidence needed in front of the classroom, so she shouldn’t teach and was not allowed into her field experience. Thing is, she’s just a Junior. Who has given her tips? Pep talks? Who even told her this before this semester? No one. She is not being given the chance to grow and gain that confidence. Rather, she is being kicked out. That is not the way to run an educational program. A program in which we are supposed to learn, experience, and grow.
We are not given much of a chance to defend ourselves. To begin with, I was given no information as to why I was not allowed back in my cooperating teacher’s classroom. I had three and a half days to worry and stress—for I had not noticed anything wrong. When I walked into the meeting, I felt like an elementary child again. They had been discussing the issue without a single bit of my involvement. Just the “adults” talking. Sure, if there is importance in that, at least do not make that meeting obvious to me. I do not think it is acceptable to put someone—anyone—on the immediate defensive and submissive like that. To add more to my submission (of course, I am only assuming this was what Big-Boss-Lady wanted to do to me. I cannot say I know this for certain), I had been given absolutely no information about the whole thing. Whereas Big-Boss-Lady read a very long e-mail from the cooperating teacher before the meeting. As well as met with two other professionals. I did not have access to these other professionals before the meeting. No one had heard my side of the situation that I knew next to nothing about, anyway. To top it all off, I was shot down immediately. This is a technique I cannot figure out how to explain, so I will give you a dialogue. Keep in mind, it is not in my nature to be big and stand up for myself in face-to-face situations. I have more of a nervous nature, especially when given the above circumstances:
Big-Boss-Lady: Hello, Lacey. So, why do you think we’re here today?
Me: Well, I think there has been some miscommunication between me and -cooperating teacher-. *Nervous pause*
BBL: Really? I think her instructions were pretty clear.
I was immediately shown that BBL was not going to listen to anything I had to say, despite the little preparation I had managed. My plan to use the Student Teaching Manual went out the window. And given how easy I can be to manipulate, I was playing right in her hands, now.
I had a little chance to stand up for and defend myself. But by that time I had been so berated that I had kind of given up. Why bother? She will stand for the teacher, not for me. No one is really on my side, here (but that is understandable because BBL is the boss of the others in the meeting. The other ladies in the room are wonderful women and really supported me after the meeting. I do not hold a single thing against them and I never did to begin with. I totally understand their stances). I cannot remember, but I don’t think I had a chance to mention anything I thought the teacher could have fixed up about her own self. Rather, it was all focused on me and what I did wrong. And let’s take a quick look back to the communication issues: the teacher’s complaints? I had been completely unaware of all of them. Select few were valid enough (most were exaggerated), but she never approached me to discuss them or tell me she did not appreciate this or that.
Well, now to the climax of this tale-within-a-critique: BBL kicked me out of the Education program. Think about this. I thought things were going fine. No one was telling me something I was doing wrong. I was given no warning, no information, no chance. The meeting was basically a formality. I came in immediately being made to feel like a little child with no valid opinions or point of view to offer the situation. I realize I am a student and not nearly as experienced as these ladies, but I am also 21 years old and the only other person that had been in that room every day, all day, besides the teacher.
The Education program screwed me over and sent me into a depression that is threatening my chances of graduating.
My friend is a bit luckier, I’m happy to say. I, obviously, was not there, but I’m quite sure her meeting was quite similar. She was given no chance to stand up for herself. She has time and energy to change her plans for the future, but the stress put upon her was certainly unnecessary and uncalled-for.
This is not the way to run a field experience program. The students are not the only ones that can screw things up. I experienced several women that should not be cooperating teachers. But it’s me and my friend that are blamed and tossed around. Our lives that are being screwed up. I realize it is extremely hard to find cooperating teachers, but should you really take on anyone at the risk of damaging (yes, damaging) your students?
Fredonia, I never thought I’d ever get depression. I had heard great things about your program. I had believed that if I worked hard, I would achieve what I was reaching for. I never thought I would be betrayed so easily. Fredonia, your job is to support and help us in making our own life decisions. Not to make them for us. We are adults. We have every right to stand up for ourselves. It is wrong to deny us information and not let us prepare. Do not give me a “that is life” lecture. It is wrong, and it should be fixed.
But I doubt it will be. Maybe if I send a letter or something. Because I do still get angry and upset.
I do not want this rant to be only negative and demeaning. SUNY Fredonia, itself, is great. It has its faults, and it has its greatness’s. Everyone else on campus has been more than supportive to me and my friend during these messes. The teachers are wonderful people, most of whom are really concerned about you; personally and professionally.
But, everyone that read through this exhausting rant, I advise you: do not go to SUNY Fredonia for Education. I do not want anyone else to experience this kind of mess.