Filling the shoes of an education major at Cabrini University is a tall order. Aside from the typical curriculum associated with the study of an undergraduate degree in education, eligible students are encouraged to engage in a full-day field experience at local schools.
The Children’s School is just one of the many local schools in partnership with Cabrini University’s field experience. The Children’s School is a pre-school and kindergarten that is a part of the Cabrini Education Division. The school itself employs teachers who are certified in early childhood education.
Maria Merino is a junior education major at Cabrini University. She has completed three field experiences during her sophomore year. Her first field experience was in a fourth-grade classroom. Consequently, it was in her previous elementary school.
Despite her uncertainties of working with an older group of children, she ended up enjoying the age group. If it were not for field experience offered at Cabrini University, she would have never discovered her love for that age group.
“I was placed in an English Language Learners (ELL) classroom, which ironically enough I was an ELL student when I attended the school too,” Merino said. “I was really able to connect with them and see them learn.”
In her field experience at Cabrini, Merino also learned that she really enjoyed working in a classroom with children who have special needs.
“I noticed that kids with special needs need more interactive work,” Merino said. “Sometimes embracing their disabilities into the classroom will also help them learn better.”
One of Merino’s field experiences led her to Golden Gate Elementary, located in Naples, FL. Merino enjoyed seeing how school districts ran outside of Pennsylvania and compared the differences and similarities between.
“There we were able to see more techniques that would help not only manage a classroom but a whole school too,” Merino said. “We visited four schools, each within towns of different socio-economic status, but you wouldn’t be able to tell because the schools are all funded equally.”
Effie Soldatos is a senior early education major. Her passion is in teaching children pre-k to fourth grade. During her time at Cabrini University, she has been working on completing her field experience. Soldatos says she has been placed in different types of classrooms ranging from general education, ELL, inclusive and special education.
“Field experience allows you to teach lessons, interact with the students, and work side by side with your co-operating teacher,” Soldatos said. “It has really prepared me for when I start student teaching in the spring. “
Colleen Poole is the associate director of field and student experiences at Cabrini University. She places the sophomore and junior education majors for field experience in schools each semester, prior to their senior year. According to Poole, each individual education major is placed in a school for 10 Wednesdays each semester, beginning with the fall of their sophomore year. They are there for a full day each week. This totals approximately 80 hours per semester. This means that they will total approximately 320 hours of field experience before senior year.
Poole continued to explain that the purpose of education majors changing their placements each semester is to get them accustomed to various types of schools. These schools range from public, private, urban, suburban, small and large. In addition to the change in the physical type of school, students are placed in different grade levels per semester.
“The students are given assignments and asked to critically reflect on their classroom experiences each week,” Poole said. “This helps them to understand what they are learning in their education courses at Cabrini University, and how it applies to real life classrooms.”
Poole believes that all of these experiences help them to grow as teachers but also help them in deciding which school setting they feel is best for them.
“They also grow as advocates for their future students because they experience some of the inequities in education,” Poole said.