The phrase “laying the groundwork” has a general and a specific meaning. At a general level, the course lays a foundation for learning to teach by orienting students to the intellectual and moral work of teaching, introducing them to powerful images of teachers at work, and fostering skills and dispositions central to the study of children and their learning. The course reflects the central themes of the Education Program at Brandeis—teaching for understanding, teaching for social justice, knowing students as learners, inquiry. These themes point to a kind of teaching that builds on children’s strengths and interests, makes academic content accessible and gives students wider access to their world; promotes equity; nurtures fairness and decency; contributes to children’s life chances; and helps children develop the skills and habits to contribute to a democratic society.
More specifically the early weeks of the semester lay a foundation for child study. As a participant/observer in an elementary school classroom, students re-acquaint themselves with classroom life as they learn to describe what they see and notice how they make sense of it. Students study the uses of space and time in their classroom, practice taking field notes, and experience the power of learning with and from colleagues.