Saturday, February 21, 2009

Online Assignment # 1 Rachel Bergere

“The benchmark of the professional teacher is a shift from personal needs to the needs of the students”(Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz, 2000, p. 63). From reading Life Cycle of the Career Teacher, I have discovered in my fourth year of teaching 6th grade that I am moving from being an apprentice teacher to professional teacher. This particular quote from the book defines that change within my development as an educator. As I try new strategies, or further improve upon strategies and methods that I have used in the past, I constantly ask myself the following question: how will this approach impact my students’ learning? This movement from apprentice teacher to professional educator can be directly perceived in my choice for the three professional growth goals.

The first professional growth goal that I will be pursuing is “using a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and improve instruction”. This goal is relevant to my development as a professional educator because it shows my concern for what my students are learning in the classroom, and it also shows how I can use what my students are learning to better improve my own instruction. In my classroom, there are a variety of assessment tools and scoring criteria. Students are given the scoring guides, rubrics, and checklists as a way to understand how they are assessed and what is required for each assignment, activity, and project. However, students rely on me to track and record their progress in my classroom. By the end of my professional growth experience my students will use a wide range of assessment tools, have a clear understanding of, and will be able to communicate with their parents and teachers how these assessments are used to measure their own learning targets. My students will regularly examine their work and their progress towards learning goals. For example, in science class I will use more performance-based assessments. This will give me a chance to work one-on-one with a student and to clearly see their level of understanding. The students will also have the opportunity to keep track of their progression through the learning targets and show me through their performance on a task their mastery of the concept. Another example would be in my language arts class. I will have the students use a 6+1 writing traits checklist for every daily writing assignment, rather than just for major essay assignments. This way, students can review their work before my assessment. It will also give them a clearer understanding of how they are assessed. As I stated earlier, I have been using rubrics and checklists throughout my teaching career. However, I think that by using them daily, students can take a greater ownership of their own learning, and they will be able to understand their own progression towards their learning goals. By using multiple assessments, I will have a larger assortment of data on each student. Therefore as a professional educator, I can enhance my instructional strategies to focus on how it is aiding each of my students.

My second professional growth goal is “designing and/or adapting challenging curriculum that is based on the diverse needs of each student”. As a budding professional teacher, I am regularly concerned with designing curriculum that meets the needs of each learner in my classroom. Whether they are a student who is struggling or one who needs an extra challenge, my curriculum should be adaptable for their particular learning style. The staff at my school is currently working on the Schools Attuned program founded on Dr. Mel Levine’s research on neurodevelopmental-based learning. At this time I am “attuning” a student in my classroom who has an expressive language weakness. As I am learning about her as an individual learner, I am adapting parts of my curriculum to support her. This in turn should help other students in my classroom who may also struggle with expressive language. As the teachers are learning more about neurodevelopmental diversity, we are also teaching the vocabulary to students so that they can gain an insight into their own metacognition. My students will reflect on the effectiveness of their thinking strategies and make adjustments when necessary. They will have a well developed awareness of the differences in learning styles and approaches. They will be able to verbalize their own approach and use those strategies to help them reach their learning targets. In the meantime, I plan to continue using my knowledge from the Schools Attuned program to assist me in meeting my professional growth goals on designing curriculum.

My third professional growth goal is “using appropriate classroom management principles, processes, and practices to foster a safe, positive, student-focused learning environment”. As I progress towards becoming a professional educator, my confidence in classroom management has increased. According to the book Life Cycle of the Career Teacher, “once they develop an effective classroom-management system, teachers have more freedom to concentrate on students’ needs, spending less time on managing inappropriate behavior” (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz, 2000, p. 65). I continually want to work towards having an efficient classroom management system so that I can best meet the needs of my students as learners. In my classroom the students will continue to design classroom beliefs, while I also have a set of classroom expectations that they are expected to follow. The students in my class will take a leadership position and feel a sense of ownership as they design expectations for the classroom and run class meetings. I will consistently follow-through on consequences in the classroom, and I will be sure to communicate with parents at home. My classroom will be a place where students feel comfortable taking risks and contributing to discussions. They will know that my classroom is a positive, safe, and supportive learning environment where everyone can feel respected. I will conduct lessons and activities to train the students in how to interact positively with one-another and cooperatively in a group. My classroom will be a place where students learn how to socially interact in a positive manner, as well as use conflict resolution skills to resolve disputes. Through these methods, I will accomplish my professional goal of sustaining a student-centered learning environment through successful classroom management.

As I work on becoming a professional educator, I look forward to reading and hearing the ideas of my colleagues in the professional certification program. As stated in Life Cycle of the Career Teacher, “building support networks is vital to continued growth” of the professional educator (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz, 2000, p. 64). I know that as I read and listen to the ideas of other professional teachers, I will continue to revise my own professional growth and teaching and learning plans. These interactions will surely support my transition from apprentice to professional educator, as well as the accomplishment of my professional goals.

Steffy, B. E., Wolfe, M. P., Pasch, S. H., & Enz, B. J., (Eds.). (2000). Life Cycle of the Career

Teacher. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, Inc.


Natalie Bowers said...

Hi Rachel,
Thanks for sharing your goals with such clarity and precision; in reading your entry I could really see the thought you've already put into realizing your goals within the classroom.

You and I share the assessment goal. I enjoyed reading your specific ideas for using daily rubrics and engaging students in assessing themselves. I firmly believe that students learn and grow best when they know what is expected and why. In thinking about this goal for myself, I've also been struck by how important it is for students to have a strong stake in the learning and assessment process. I am currently working in several writing classrooms where we are teaching kids how to assess the qualities of "good writing" (in every thing from their own work to published work), and the students use this knowledge to set writing goals. At the end of a particular unit, students have the opportunity to reflect on the success and challenges they encounter, and they are given the opportunity to show evidence of their work toward that goal. We then assess the students on this work. The process needs some refining, but we are finding that by engaging the students in deciding how they'll be assessed, they are learning far more than when we (the teachers) always set the assessment standard.

I look forward to discussing this more the next time we meet!

Mary Loftus said...

Hi Rachel,

I enjoyed reading your assignment. I noticed as well that moving from the apprentice teacher to the professional teacher did not occur until I was in my 4th to 5th year of teaching. I felt by then I was comfortable with the content of the subjects I was teaching and was able to fulfill the meaning of student learning.

Your first goal "using a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and imporve instruction".
I love how you are using the rubrics in all subject areas and allowing the students to better understand where their learning should be. I have also used rubrics with my students and I agree they are very helpful when you need to have them examine what they are to learn. Same as you I did not use them with all of my assignments, but only the major assignments. I think that anything that you can do to put the learning and responsibility on the student is the best that all of us as teachers to strive for. When the student is owning their learning I believe the student will appreciate their learning and gain more from it. I agree that by having various assessments you will have a larger assortment of data of each student and therefore have a better perspective on each student and their abilities.

Your second goal "designing and /or adapting challenging curriculum that is based on the diverse needs of each student". This is a great goal. I think this is one of the most challenging. I feel when you have a class of thirty students and the level of their learning is a wide range, it is the most challenging you can have to deal with. When I taught 4th grade, I had some classes that were very close in their learning and some that were very broad in their learning. It was by far much harder to teach the class that had a few students at the high learning level, few in the middle and few at the low end. It made it tough to keep the high kids challenged and keep the middle kids understanding and bring the low kids up to the level they needed to be at. I want to hear more of how successful you will be, as I am very interested in learning more for myself in this area. I am also going to look up the Schools Attuned program, it sounds interesting.

Your third goal" using appropriate classroom management principles, processes, and practices to foster a safe, positive, student-focused learning environment". This is also one of my goals. I have progressed greatly from when I began teaching to now. However I still think I have room for improvement on my classroom management. What I pick out of your comments on this goal and how you will achieve it, is being consistent. I believe if you maintain being consistent you will accomplish this goal. Although the students don't always agree with the management you may pick, they do want to have a room full of learning and respect in the long run. I hope we can discuss further how things work for you regarding this goal, as I will be interested in what works for you.

Megan Ackerman said...

Hi Rachel,

It truly is important to have a successful management plan in order to have and sustain a student-centerd learning environment. At the beginning of every school year, my fourth graders come up with a mission statement as a class. Participating in creating rules and expectations allow students to have some ownership in the classroom community. After we have established our mission statement for the year, I post their rules on the wall for them to see everyday. After reading your response, I am thinking about turning the mission statement into a contract for the students and their families to sign stating that they will follow the mission statement along with my set of classroom expectations. I have noticed that on the first day of school, my students have been shy, quiet, and unsure of their new teacher. However, when it is time to create a fourth grade mission statement, a lot of hands go up in the air. They really do like feeling a sense of leadership and ownership in contributing to the classroom community.

I am big on classsroom meetings! I have a challenging class this year. A majority of my students come from divorced homes and have some behavioral issues. I have found it helpful to have a problem box for students to express their frustrations on a small piece of paper. I usually call for a classroom meeting once a week and read out the problems. Then, as a class, my students come up with solutions to the problems. From time to time, I have had a classroom meeting when a student has asked for one. Classroom meetings have worked well with my group of students, because if problems are ignored or not solved, I found it more challenging to teach, because they would be so distracted by the problem. I have observed that after problems have been solved, my students would be more relaxed and at ease in learning new concepts.

I agree with you that giving students some leadership and ownership in conducting rules and classroom meetings creates a positive, safe, and supportive learning environment where everyone can feel respected. It took me three months to ground my fourth graders with rules and expectations. By being consistent and following through with consequences, my fourth graders have made tremendous progress in being a classroom community. I am amazed that they are not the group I first met in September.

I hope all is going well in your Professional growth and goals!