Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Online Assignment #1 - Natalie Bowers

As I read Life Cycle of the Career Teacher, I was particularly struck by the line, "Apprentice teachers work to develop a broader repertoire of instructional approaches; professional teachers focus on whether these strategies work with their own students." (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz, 2000, p. 63) I can clearly remember when I began the transition to professional teacher; in my third year, an instructional coach video taped a lesson I taught. During the debrief, she asked me what I noticed while watching the tape; she wanted to know what I was pleased with and what I wasn't pleased with. I was ready for her question, and I launched into a discussion of the various methods and strategies I used. At last, after I finished pontificating on the merits of a particular method, she nodded slowly and said, "Not once, did you mention your students. You clearly know and understand good teaching "moves", but good teaching isn't just about what you do, it is about the learning of your students." I came away from that meeting changed. I began to watch my students closely; I began to use student work to drive my instruction; I became an assessor of students instead of a grader; I moved from an "instructional paradigm to a learning paradigm". (Steffy, p. 65) Over the proceeded two years, I continued on the professional track. I sought "assistance from colleagues" and I became a resource to others. (Steffy, p.64) "With increased mastery of the theories and content within [my] disciplines, [I] learned what is most important to teach," and I developed an "effective classroom-management system" that allowed me time and energy to study student work and deepen my content knowledge. (Steffy, p.65)

Two years ago, two years after I started toward the professional stage, I left the classroom and became an instructional coach. Now I find that the professional phase does not adequately define my development; I seem to have branched toward the expert phase as well. I'm not sure that I can say I have left the professional phase completely; the descriptors for that phase still very much describe me, but I can say I have an "experiential base that enables [me] to serve as effective leader." (Steffy, p. 79) I also continually seek better methods of instruction; I take risks in my teaching and I employ "current educational trends;" I also enjoy learning about education, and I actively spend my own time and money to do so. (Steffy, p. 79) I am excited to continue learning and reflecting on my growth as a professional; as this professional certification process continues, I expect my understanding of teaching and learning and my role therein deepen and grow.

My three professional grown goals are “using a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and improve instruction,” “integrating technology into instruction and assessment,” and “informing, involving, and collaborating with families and community members as partners in each student’s educational process…”

I chose the assessment goal because as a teacher I became very good at assessing students and using those assessments to inform my instruction; however, I never took it to the next level. I never taught my students how to assess themselves, how to become metacognitive about what they know, how they know it, and how well they apply it. I think in order for me to truly move to the expert phase I have to engage students in this deeper understanding of their own knowledge. I want my students to be independent of me, to be able to examine their work and set goals for their own learning.

I chose the technology goal, because to be quite honest, I have never really valued technology in my classroom. I’ve always taught reading and writing, and with the exception of word processing, I haven’t really seen the need for technology in my room. I suppose, in this area I haven’t really progressed far into the novice stage. In working with some excellent teachers, I have recently become aware of my folly. Students can now use technology to creatively publish writing, to blog about and keep track of books they are reading, to research content and enhance their learning. I want to first learn these technologies and then I want my students to become discriminating in how they choose resources from the web, I want them to choose unique ways to make their thinking visible through writing, and I want them to find communities with which to share their learning and passions.

Lastly, I chose the family and community goal because each day I become increasingly aware of the great influence these two things have over a student’s success at school. As a professional/expert phase teacher, I have the time and confidence to invite and engage families in the learning process. I want to grow my communication from that of a bandage (what can we do to help a kid who is already flailing) to that of a revolving door. From the outset, I want to be and I want my students to be in constant communication about their successes and struggles at school.

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.


Silvia Gomes said...

Hello Natalie,

I was so pleased to read how you consciously saw differences between "the right moves of a teacher" and the steps you took towards actually meeting the needs of your students. So often we get caught up in what looks right and what sounds right (the jargon and the role-playing) that teachers skip the step of how students play into our theater piece. I am glad that since that time you have actively met the needs of your students and that this has driven your instruction and further assessment.

With all of the new technology that comes out, it is difficult to stay aware of all of the possibilities that are available to teachers and students to enhance learning. I find that much of the technology pieces that I have been able to incorporate in my classroom captures the attention of my students a lot better. It also has allowed some of my students to better communicate their ideas where "old" technology failed. What one always has to be aware of is incorporating too much technology with little support or opportunities for the students to use it in a meaningful way. Technology can straddle a line between necessary and needless. It is our job to determine which it is before we try to teach with it in our classrooms.

I can't wait to hear more about your experiences with meeting your goals!

Silvia Gomes

Vanessa Marfin said...


You give great specific examples of how you have moved through the stages of development. It sounds like you had a very insightful principal and that you were in exactly the right place to take her insight to heart. From what you have written, I would say you are further along than I am in your professional development -- you seem to really know what you know and be confident in your ability to implement it.

A brand new teacher at my school shared a phrase she had learned in her pre-service program: technology immigrant. She said her class had been told that they are the last generation of teachers who are technology immigrants, and we all teach technology natives. This is something I had never heard articulated, but it is definitely a generation gap between teachers and students. Technology is central to students lives. Working in a high school, I often feel that students would learn better if we texted all our lectures to them. I didn't choose technology as a goal, but I easily could have. Like you, I have never been creative or deliberate about using technology as a tool to enhance learning. I hope I can learn from your new learning as well as your established experience!

Thank you,

Katy Lungren said...

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Hi Natalie,

Thanks for sharing the story of the video taping situation and your instructional coach's response. What a powerful moment for you and your teaching! Although it must have been quite humbling and possibly uncomfortable at the time, I am envious of you. I am jealous that you had someone honest and supportive enough to speak truth to you about your teaching!

We share all three professional development growth goals ~ assessment, family involvement, and technology. I would love to hear in greater detail your plan for students becoming metacognitive about their learning processes. I so strongly desire for my students to be engaged in a true understanding of their own knowledge, but I am wondering what steps you are going to take to get them to that deeper level. As I mentioned in a response to one of our other classmates, I share with her a concern for how to take our abstract ideas for student self-assessment and reflection and put them into concrete plans of action. Hopefully, we will get a chance to talk about this in class! I am also interested in chatting with you about some of your technology plans. I love your idea of blogging about and keeping track of books students read with technology, and I also was intrigued by the notion of students finding online communities where their passions are shared. What great ideas!

I look forward to talking with you during our next class session!

~Katy Lungren