Saturday, February 21, 2009

Online Assignment # 1 Darren Hunter

“Reflection must be purposeful, wherein teachers construct meaning and knowledge for themselves” (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz, 2000, p. 11). This quote stands out to me as I begin the process of reviewing my past years as a teacher. While in my Novice Phase I remember the anxiety and frustration as I attempted to implement “instructional strategies that make the learning meaningful and show positive impact on student learning.” This was easier said than done and I relied heavily on my Mentor Teacher for advice and strategies, especially on how and when to use “appropriate classroom management principles, processes, and practices to foster a safe, positive, student focused learning environment.” While building on these two practices, I continued into my Apprentice Stage. Here, I found myself overwhelmed by the workload of my classroom and fitting into a new school environment. I worked and relied upon my Special Education Team in “designing and/or adapting challenging curriculum that is based upon the diverse needs of each student.” As I take the next step in my developing my career, I will continue to work towards a mastery of these skills as well as discover new areas of professional growth.

Currently, I am beginning the Professional Teacher Phase. I now have a greater awareness of the diverse and specialized needs of my students. My three Professional Growth Goals include: 1) focusing upon student-centered classroom management, 2) integrating technology into my instruction, and 3) collaborating with family and community members. I plan to incorporate a “student-focused learning environment” in my classroom. My students will be able to manage and self regulate their own behaviors appropriately. After successfully “integrating technology into instruction and assessment” my students will be able to enhance their own learning and self-expression. Finally, when I am “informing, and collaborating with families and community members” my students will have basic communication skills and outside support to successfully meet their IEP Goals and Objectives. By developing a strong rapport with family and community resources, I will foster a collaborative school-to-home system. I have chosen these Professional Growth Goals because of the positive impact they will have upon my students and their specialized needs.

Incorporating these goals into my classroom will have a great impact upon me but more importantly on my students’ learning. I want my students to positively respond to peers, become more actively engaged in productive learning, as well as contribute to a supportive and caring classroom environment. Working with children with Autism poses many challenges and issues unique to this population. However, I would like to see these students take a more active role in their school and home lives. I would like my students to use the many different forms of technology available to them and pursue age appropriate interests, communicate with peers and family members, as well as increase self-expression. Working in conjunction with parents, guardians, and community members my students will be able to set goals for both home and school which are personalized and important to them. This will make their learning valid and important. Lastly, I want my students to become aware of their strengths and weaknesses in both their academic and personal lives. As a result, I will see my students taking a bigger interest in their own lives while learning to become their own advocate.

This shift from teacher-focused to student-focused teaching will deeply impact my approaches to daily instruction and delivery. “Professional teachers devote great time and energy to modifying these approaches to fit their students’ individual learning goals” (Steffy, p. 63). I will need to modify my classroom rules and behavior plans in order to foster a student-governed classroom. I will need to integrate technology in order to vary my instruction and allow students to research personal interests and express themselves to friends and family. Traditionally I have sent home emails, IEP progress reports, and made phone calls to families in order to report progress, problems, or issues at school. I will need to invite parents into the classroom, call or email when positive things occur, and use daily journals to report daily events. Because, I have a small student- teacher ratio I am able to update the parents on a daily basis. However, I need to respond in a more personalized manner and share the success of the day not just the difficulties. I will need to promote parents to become “home teachers” and rely on their invaluable information when setting up new goals, following up on concerns, or introducing a new topic to their child. I will also use The Source, a school-based website, which allows students and parents to see grades, homework assignments, late arrivals, as well as school and classroom announcements. I am looking forward to this Professional Growth Process and the challenges it will bring to me personally and professionally.

As a result, I will be using a new assortment of classroom management techniques centered on my students’ voices in setting up appropriate classroom rules, standards, and self-governing capabilities. I will be using more technology in order to deliver teaching and lesson plans. I want my students to see and use a wide variety of tools to speak, write, and express themselves. I want my students to develop the ability to become more comfortable in new situations and settings with the help of family and community members.

Steffy, B. E., Wolfe, M. P., Pasch, S. H., & Enz, B., J. (2000). Life Cycle of the Career Teacher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.


Megan Ackerman said...

Hi Darren,

I wish the principal at my school would allow more time for reflection, to regroup with other teachers to "construct meaning and knowledge" for ourselves. I am just starting to realize how important it is to reflect on my teaching strategies, however, there are still many times I lack reflecting on my teaching, because I have not quite learned how to effectively manage my time, or I narrow my focus to strictly schoolwork. There are many days that I despise time. More often, as I move out of the novice phase, I remind myself to cherish my time with my students and celebrate their academic successes!

When you mentioned inviting parents into the classroom, it reminded me of a dilemma I faced earlier this school year. I am all for inviting families into the classroom until they overstep their boundaries. I had two mothers who walked their child into the classroom and helped them get started on their morning journals. Then, instead of leaving, they would hang around making conversation with me. What was even more distracting was one of the moms would answer her cell-phone while the students were working on their journals, and talk, and talk, and talk. What a distraction! The other mother was absolutely clueless that I had a job to do and my students needed to start learning. In the past, these moms have stayed ten minutes after school has started! I push for classroom community that involves families, but I finally had to put my foot down, because they were distracting my students and setting the tone for them for the day. I will definitely communicate more efficiently to families regarding my expectations in dropping their child off in the classroom.

I like how you state you will send home more positive feedback about your students. It is so important to catch children acting in good character and putting them on the spotlight! Lately, I have noticed, that when I get stressed or busy with my teaching and schoolwork, I tend to overlook my students acting in good character, because I am so caught up in my teaching, and that is something I intend to add in my Teaching and Learning Plan, to really see my students. I believe it has to do with managing my time more efficiently. By working on my Professional Growth Goals, I strive to learn to find time to reflect and really see my students acting in good character.

Rebecca Bland said...

Hi Darren,

I really enjoyed reading your response, thank you for sharing your goals! Your idea to have a "student-focused classroom" is fantastic! In terms of management, the student-focued theme sounds very similar to Positive Discipline (Jane Nelsen, Ed.D.) which I use within my classroom. The classroom management focus changes from teacher centered to student centered. Where students think of behavior guidelines, positive time out areas and problem solving techniques. This management system puts the behavior responsibility directly on the student putting them in charge on making positive choices and solving their own problems. As a result, my students conduct classroom meeting, with my assistance, to solve problems and verbalize complients and concerns more frequently. If you are interested in reading the book I can bring you my spare copy.