Contrary to popular belief, Eliestoun is not a haunted Victorian murder house, but was once home to students majoring in education. These students no longer live together in Eliestoun or Williams, but they still bond during a semester-long intensive program commonly known as “ed block.” Facilitated by education professor Nikki Gamrath, ed block has 19 students this semester.
So why don’t all other majors have an intensive study like ed block, and what’s the deal with all those Friday afternoon field trips? Is ed block essential in preparing students for success in the field of education?
Passionately devoting her time to teach 15 semester hours of ed block courses, Gamrath shared why she believes ed block is crucial. “The content is so integrated. It’s not just about breadth of knowledge, it’s about depth,” she said. “They’re ready to go in the classrooms and into their internships, and that’s because we’re with each all day, every day. The exposure to all these schools is available to us and we couldn’t do that without block.”
Students in ed block are able to sit in and observe the ways different schools operate, as well as get a glimpse of what a day in the life of a teacher really encompasses. The exposure allows them to visualize theory being practiced and applied in a classroom setting. Over the course of the semester, the students will visit Montessori, Waldorf and public schools. “If they’re going to be educational studies majors, they need to know what’s out there as far as all the options,” Gamrath said.
“My ed block experience my sophomore year was one of the best semesters during my Principia career,” said senior Elissa Matheny, a former ed block student and current teaching assistant for the program. “The relationships I formed with my fellow students and professors were incredible.” Matheny also shed some light on how prepared she feels the students are for entering the world of teaching. “We learned theory, buzzwords, etc.; skills that will give us an edge in today’s ed world,” she said. “I also worked in an inner-city school for two weeks, which gave me my first real exposure to the field, an amazing way to learn more about myself and my career goals for the future.”
She went on to say, “I believe that while schooling can prepare you in some aspects, teaching really comes from the result of experience and hard work. The students in ed block this semester are becoming more aware of what it means to be a teacher and learning about themselves as students, teachers and members of a community.”
“You can read about a classroom management strategy and agree with it, but it sheds a whole new light on things when you see how the kids react to it when it’s implemented,” said senior Melissa L’Heureux, a current Ed Block student. She finds the field trips to different schools as a helpful middle step between studying teaching strategies and observing how they are applied in real life situations. “Seeing good and bad examples before we begin student teaching is extremely beneficial,” she said.
At the beginning of the year, while Gamrath was abroad, students were encouraged to self-plan and facilitate their own field trips in order to get a sense on how much organizing and planning is involved in the field of teaching. You may have wondered why these students scheduled trips to learn how to trapeze and juggle with Circus Harmony. What does this have to do with school? “From an outsider looking in, it was pretty interesting to see who took on leadership roles, who stepped up and made things happen, who took care of logistics, and did they accomplish the learning outcomes,” said Gamrath. The field trips were intended to teach students the importance of teamwork as well as leadership and organizational skills.
Because the students are considering teaching as a profession, they are engaged and, as Gamrath said, “want to do the work.” She elaborated, “It’s a ton of work, but it’s meaningful and once they get into their internships, it’s real life work.” The ed block program is like a mini-abroad. The students are spending a large majority of their time with other ed students and take six classes within the program.
Ed block is meant to aid students in figuring out whether or not they wish to pursue a career in helping other people achieve success. “We are focused on developing people,” Gamrath stated. “We’re interested in authentic learning and making learning real and tangible, the skills transferrable from the classroom to real life.”