E1 – Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice. In order to ensure that my teaching practice is both professionally-informed and growth centered means engaging in constant self-assessment and reflection. But more importantly than reflecting on the effectiveness of my instructional strategies or classroom management techniques, pursuing professionally-informed growth means setting goals and making specific plans for improvement. It is so easy to be consumed by the many daily and weekly tasks of planning, grading and teaching, but throughout this program and my internship, I have learned the absolute necessity of taking time for personal reflection as a means to setting attainable, measurable goals and benchmarks to signpost my personal and professional growth and development.
A specific example of reflection and goal setting is the draft I made of my Professional Growth Plan for Residency Teacher Certification:
By assessing myself according to different rubrics in different areas: effective communication of expectations, differentiating instruction, using multiple data elements to plan and adjust instruction, and collaboration with families and community members concerning student learning, I was able to assign a numeric value to my skill level and performance before identifying goal, specific goals or skills needed to meet my goals, specific actions steps I could take toward the accomplishment of my goal, as well as what types of evidence I could use to demonstrate improvement. Goal setting not only directs attention and behavior, but demands action because one must rely first on the knowledge or skills he or she already has, in order to then identify and pursue the new knowledge or skills required to achieve the goal (Locke & Latham, 2002). Goal setting fosters patience and persistence, a “stick-to-it-ness,” acknowledging that growth and change is a process, an accomplishment that requires seeking. I recognize that especially as a teacher, I must always be seeking, pursuing ways in which to improve my thinking, my organization, my communication, my strategies, my classroom management, my instruction. Moving forward, I will continue to set both personal and professional goals, both independently and in conjunction with my peers and administration in order to be a relevant, dynamic and effective educator.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35–year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.
H1: Honoring student diversity and development. Honoring student diversity and development means respecting that students are at different stages in the learning process and need varying levels of support in order to develop and be successful. During my internship, two instructional strategies I incorporated to honor the diverse ways in which students develop were scaffolding and constructivist learning activities. For example, while teaching Othello to sophomores, I and another student teacher taught students how to analyze a soliloquy and write a rhetorical analysis. Only two students had written rhetorical analyses before, so we started from the beginning. We dusted off our understanding of the persuasive appeals in order to evaluate their effectiveness within each soliloquy. In order to scaffold this writing assessment, we designed questions to guide student thinking, as well as an essay outline, so students could practice writing according to the essay structure that would be expected of them for their final writing assessment.
As a class, we annotated a soliloquy for the appeals and then drafted the outline of an argument together. As their second writing assessment, students were given a new soliloquy, and asked to annotate and construct their rhetorical analysis with a partner. Finally, after two scaffolded, constructivist practice attempts, students were responsible for annotating a third soliloquy on their own and then writing a complete rhetorical analysis essay. For this third attempt, students were given the outline graphic organizer, just as they used in their previous two practice rhetorical analyses. An emphasis on constructivist, cooperative learning is founded on the philosophy that learning in isolation limits understanding, but working with a partner or group allows student the opportunity to navigate different social dynamics, while constructing new knowledge by learning from one another. According to John Dewey, while the school is “primarily a social institution,” a concentrated form of community life, constructivist ideology centers on unity and cooperative learning while still maintaining an emphasis on individual accountability (Dewey, 1897, p.2). With each scaffolded, practice attempt, students became more responsible and accountable for the process of annotating and writing their rhetorical analyses, until they were held completely responsible for completing the writing assessment on their own. When asked, majority of students felt this process prepared them for success—the result of effective scaffolding and collaboration. Moving forward, I will continue to use scaffolding and collaborative learning strategies, as well as seek additional and varied ways in order to support the unique and diverse ways in which students learn and develop.
H3-Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning. This standard suggests that it is my responsibility to honor and participate in the many different types of learning events and activities offered in my school community. Believing this, I participated in many different after-school events to support and participate the interests and passions of my students. One particularly memorable event I attended toward the end of my internship was BHS’s 9th Annual “Spoken Word Night.”
This evening is celebrated each year as an opportunity for students to express, explore and share what cannot be seen on paper— a performance of word-based poetry. More than twenty students showcased their own work and the meaningful works of other poets. The evening was organized and orchestrated by a student who explained that this event was so close to her heart because it was an occasion for her to experience her peers in new way, an opportunity for her and her schoolmates to peel off some of the layers that otherwise insulate them from one another. She remarked that there is something remarkably beautiful and intimate about seeing students share pieces of their soul, pieces that would otherwise be imperceptible or concealed in daily hurried hallway greetings or lunch-time chats. And this is what it means to honor the classroom and school community as an occasion to learn not only academically, but also in every other way—to learn more about who we are as human beings and how we fit into the greater human story. As I began my Master’s program to become a teacher, a professor shared a quote from the longtime Harvard University professor and distinguished twentieth-century educational psychologist, Jerome Bruner: “We need a surer sense of what to teach to whom and how to go about teaching it in such a way that it will make those taught more effective, less alienated, and better human beings” (Bruner, 1996, p. 118). This quote has become the foundation for my personal philosophy and as I begin my teaching career, I will be actively involved and supportive of student events such as “Spoken Word Night” in order to encourage all aspects of student interest, growth, and development.