TL Standard 4

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” (Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 12). How can we grow as educators if we are not open to changing our practice or trying something new?

Self-reflection is a key piece to being a successful educator. I was excited when I was able to pick an individual reflection practice to implement over a few week period as an assignment because from my past experiences, this has truly allowed to me see not only works really well with my instruction but it has also helped me see patterns and some kinks where I have room to improve. When I first began this assignment I took a look at what I thought my strengths and weakness were as a teacher in a Strength and Intentions Paper, I took the suggestion to target my reflection around a piece of the Danielson Framework criteria. However, through the process of reflection my approach seemed to transform into something I did not expect. I kind of meshed journaling and dialogue together as my individual reflection practice to implement. As stated in chapter three, “Don’t evaluate or judge thoughts as they pour out. Just let them flow (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 2006).” I have used journaling as a form of reflection before and reading back over my entries after a few weeks, I found that I was able to notice patterns that helped me identify areas that I needed growth. Initially, I was hoping to connect this assignment to 1a: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy in the Danielson Framework because this is a section that I would like to see myself improve in. I began the implementation of this practice by getting a spiral journal and keeping it accessible as much as possible throughout my day. I did my best each day to write in the journal before school sharing my vision for the day and what my plan was for the day with my students. I would also designate a few minutes to journal while students were in specialist, at recess or lunch. Once the students left for the day, I would designate 10 minutes to a free write/open dialogue in my journal recapping the day. I shared everything from successes to lessons that I feel didn’t go well at all. I also noted my thoughts and feelings on the day as a whole. I would then use the journal at night for writing that fit more of the dialogue practice. I would spend evenings rereading the questions in the text and letting my answers flow onto paper.

After just one week of writing in the journal I started reading back over a few of the entries, by combining the two reflection practices, I was able to critically analyze areas for growth, I quickly noticed patterns in my journaling, I also noticed something missing, something that I feel, is extremely critical for a successful educator, the principle of intention. For our other class, Leadership in Education, we are currently reading a book called, Spirituality in Educational Leadership. This book is framed around eight spiritual dimensions of leadership. The first principle discussed is the Principle of Intention and it states, “Before you can have a plan, you’ve got to have an intention (Houston, Sokolow, 2008).” In my journaling each day before school, during school and directly after school I often found myself mentioning visions I had for performance in my students, but nowhere in my journaling did I note or mention my intention behind those visions and plans. I discovered that while answering a lot of the dialogue questions mentioned from the text at night like, “How do you want to contribute to the lives of children? What do you want students to learn from you and with you? (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 2006).” it truly required me as an educator to think about my intentions. It forced me to answer the why behind a lot of what was missing in the journaling from during the day. By combining the two forms of reflection I was able to cue into a huge piece of what I feel was missing in helping me become more intentional in my practice.

One last piece that I noticed after looking back onto my journaling from each day in the classroom was that my journal because a great “dumping ground” if you will. It was a safe place for me to share my frustrations from the day. These frustrations varied from, lessons that went astray, to students who I felt I couldn’t reach for that day, to frustrations that were out of my control that were professional/ curriculum based. By using the journal as an outlet for dumping my those negative feelings, it allowed for a more positive interaction with my closest teammates during passing time when we would typically spend a few, but much needed, minutes to vent. After analyzing the outcome of this reflection experience, I feel it has had a very positive impact for not only myself, but my colleagues and my students as well. I am now able to spend my time with my colleagues focusing on positive improvements with the students and being a good role model professionally, but I am also starting each day looking at my overall intentions for the day.

In terms of collaborative practices, I was able to take on a leadership role during a partner reflection/coaching session. When done properly, partner reflection and cognitive coaching can be very beneficial to strengthening your craft of teaching in several ways. In Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives, Knight, Ellison and Hayes define cognitive coaching as “focusing on impact by assisting in identifying the results one is striving for and clarifying the success indicators and strategies for doing so” (Knight, Ellison and Hayes p.73). I was fortunate enough to be able to practice these skills when a grade level teammate asked me during our team meeting if I would sit down and go over how I am currently teaching my writer’s workshop non-fiction/informational unit because her students were struggling to understand some of the key components of this genre of writing. To help myself prepare for this partner reflection/cognitive coaching opportunity I gathered all of my materials for my informational writing unit. This included my unit plan, a breakdown of individual lessons, mentor texts, anchor charts, classroom charts-student created, my binder filled with different types of writing paper pertaining to informational writing, and a few different student writing folders to show student samples.

Before ever getting started, a skill that I know I need to improve on during reflecting or team meetings is my ability to listen without wanting to jump in with my own thoughts and comments. This is something I made sure to be very vigilant about while reflecting with my teammate. Listening allows you to be able to reframe your way of thinking about events and circumstances. “If we cannot listen well, the potential for learning and support will not be realized for ourselves or others” (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie p. 115). Going into this meeting, I was aware that I needed to improve in my listening abilities while my teammate was sharing her concerns regarding her writing lessons. Because of this, I feel that I was much more cautious which ultimately allowed me to hear what her true concerns and struggles were, and continue the reflective process by asking her in-depth questions on where she could use my assistance. Later in my partner Partner Reflection-Cognitive Coaching, it discusses my reflection on how I could strengthen my skills as a peer coach for future opportunities.

In addition to cognitive peer coaching, I have worked closely with my grade level team to look at and analyze student data each month. We have spent the year focusing on writing content for informative, opinion and narrative writing. As seen in my Instructional Plan, I laid out the data from baseline data with my team and found students to put into a focused group to track and analyze. We looked collaboratively as a team at their Writing Samples each month and analyzed next steps and ways to enrich those who have already grasped the concepts. Each month this is tracked in our PGE logs (Professional Growth and Evaluation logs). This has helped me broaden my understanding and abilities to reach all of my student’s needs in the classroom. The phrase, work smarter, not harder fits well with collaboration within your team!

In the future I would like to continue to keep a journal to allow me to reflect and note pieces of my day. I feel that keeping record of my days and what worked well and what failed is a great thing to track over time. I am confident that even more ah-ha’s would surface from my teaching habits. In the mornings I will continue to not just look at my plan for the day, but what are my goals and intentions. A true look at why these are my goals and what I want to see come from these goals. I also plan on continuing to engage in my collaborative practices with my team. I would like to try in the next year to broaden that collaborative team to something school wide or even district wide! I now feel confident in my collaboration skills to challenge myself in a higher role! I would love to transition into a coaching position within my district. “…coaching that focuses on helping teachers implement new practices leads to implementation of new strategies” (Knight, 22). I would love to be able to help guide and coach peers into broadening their teaching practices!

Citations:

Garmston, R., Linder, C., & Whitaker, J. (1993). Reflections on Cognitive Coaching. Educational Leadership, 51(2), 57-61. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct93/vol51/num02/Reflections-on-Cognitive-Coaching.aspx

Houston, P., & Sokolow, S. (2008). Spirituality in educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Knight, J. (2009). Coaching. National Staff Development Council, 30(1), 18-22

Knight, J., Ellison, J., & Hayes, C. (2009). Chapter 4: Cognitive Coaching. In Coaching: Approaches and perspectives (pp. 70-90). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

York-Barr, J., A. Sommers, W., S. Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Individual Reflective Practice. In Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

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EDU 6528 Accomplished Teaching: Individual Reflection

Individual Reflection

         Self-reflection is a key piece to being a successful educator. I was excited when our assignment for this paper was to pick an individual reflection practice to implement over a few week period because from my past experiences, this has truly allowed to me see not only works really well with my instruction but it has also helped me see patterns and some kinks where I have room to improve. When I first began this assignment I took the suggestion to target my reflection around a piece of the Danielson Framework criteria. However, through the process of reflection my approach seemed to transform into something I did not expect. I kind of meshed Journaling and Dialogue together as my individual reflection practice to implement. I chose to mesh these two forms of reflection because I liked the free flowing questioning of dialogue and I also feel that I am able to learn a lot about myself as an educator when I am able to have a free write form and not be worried about writing technically for another person. As stated in chapter three, “Don’t evaluate or judge thoughts as they pour out. Just let them flow (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 2006).” I have used journaling as a form of reflection before and reading back over my entries after a few weeks, I found that I was able to notice patterns that helped me identify areas that I needed growth. Initially, I was hoping to connect this assignment to 1a: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy in the Danielson Framework because this is a section that I would like to see myself improve in. I began the implementation of this practice by getting a spiral journal and keeping it accessible as much as possible throughout my day. I did my best each day to write in the journal before school sharing my vision for the day and what my plan was for the day with my students. I would also designate a few minutes to journal while students were in specialist, at recess or lunch. Once the students left for the day, I would designate 10 minutes to a free write/open dialogue in my journal recapping the day. I shared everything from successes to lessons that I feel didn’t go well at all. I also noted my thoughts and feelings on the day as a whole. I would then use the journal at night for writing that fit more of the dialogue practice. I would spend evenings rereading the questions in the text and letting my answers flow onto paper.

After just one week of writing in the journal I started reading back over a few of the entries, by combining the two reflection practices, I was able to critically analyze areas for growth, I quickly noticed patterns in my journaling, I also noticed something missing, something that I feel, is extremely critical for a successful educator, the principle of intention. For our other class, Leadership in Education, we are currently reading a book called, Spirituality in Educational Leadership. This book is framed around eight spiritual dimensions of leadership. The first principle discussed is the Principle of Intention and it states, “Before you can have a plan, you’ve got to have an intention (Houston, Sokolow, 2008).” In my journaling each day before school, during school and directly after school I often found myself mentioning visions I had for performance in my students, but nowhere in my journaling did I note or mention my intention behind those visions and plans. I discovered that while answering a lot of the dialogue questions mentioned from the text at night like, “How do you want to contribute to the lives of children? What do you want students to learn from you and with you? (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 2006).” it truly required me as an educator to think about my intentions. It forced me to answer the why behind a lot of what was missing in the journaling from during the day. By combining the two forms of reflection I was able to cue into a huge piece of what I feel was missing in helping me become more intentional in my practice.

One last piece that I noticed after looking back onto my journaling from each day in the classroom was that my journal because a great “dumping ground” if you will. It was a safe place for me to share my frustrations from the day. These frustrations varied from, lessons that went astray, to students who I felt I couldn’t reach for that day, to frustrations that were out of my control that were professional/ curriculum based. By using the journal as an outlet for dumping my those negative feelings, it allowed for a more positive interaction with my closest teammates during passing time when we would typically spend a few, but much needed, minutes to vent. After analyzing the outcome of this reflection experience, I feel it has had a very positive impact for not only myself, but my colleagues and my students as well. I am now able to spend my time with my colleagues focusing on positive improvements with the students and being a good role model professionally, but I am also starting each day looking at my overall intentions for the day.

In the future I would like to continue to keep a journal to allow me to reflect and note pieces of my day. Honestly, I am not sure I will be able to maintain the consistency of writing at least 4 times a day for 10 minutes like I have been the past three weeks. However, I feel that keeping record of my days and what worked well and what failed is a great thing to track over time. I am confident that even more ah-ha’s would surface from my teaching habits. In the mornings I will continue to not just look at my plan for the day, but what are my goals and intentions. A true look at why these are my goals and what I want to see come from these goals.

Citations:

Houston, P., & Sokolow, S. (2008). Spirituality in educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

York-Barr, J., A. Sommers, W., S. Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Individual Reflective Practice. In Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

EDU 6655 Is Theater the Answer?

While reading chapter 14 of Brain Matters, Wolfe does a wonderful job recapping the main takeaways from her book. While reading over the importance of using appropriate rehearsal strategies and providing many opportunities for students to revisit information over time on page 222, I was able to connect a phenomenal new resource I received during our staff LEAP time.

Our staff was lucky enough to have a training session from BTiC: Bringing Theater into the Classroom. It is a program that teaches you ways to integrate drama into your entire curriculum. They give activities, and ice breakers to help start your year off. With those activities, comes a set up for grouping our students that you are able to pull from for the rest of the year. Looking back into chapter 11, Wolfe states, “We learn some things by experiencing them concretely, others symbolically, and still others in abstract terms (Wolfe 166).” What I loved about BTiC is this program provides methods of learning that research has proved to be most effective. During this mini workshop, we learned a lot about tableaus and how effective they can be in all subject areas and used for many purposes. This immediately excited me and got me eager to apply my new learning into my classroom. I already had an idea of where and exactly how I wanted to test out using tableaus.

In my classroom during reading workshop, the curriculum is focusing hard on oral retelling of the highlighted story from the curriculum. We are provided with a hardcopy version of this story, the story is available online, and we are given blank picture cards for students to “fill in the blank” of the story. However, no matter how many times we listen to the story (me reading the book, played online or using the blank cards) my students are still having a difficult time with going back and recreating the story in the correct order. I went back into my classroom after the workshop and immediately introduced tableaus to my students. Rather than having my whole class attempt to retell the entire story together, I divided the story out into 4 sections and grouped my students into 4 groups. Each group was given a section of the story and they had to work together to create a tableau to show the most important piece of their section of the story. Each group then watched the others mini productions! We had a quick discussion about each tableau and why they chose the stances, and gestures they chose. After this activity, we sat back down and debriefed the whole lesson. The next day I came back and revisited this same story and asked them to retell the story. The outcome was phenomenal. Every single student was able to correctly retell the story in the correct order and they were actually able to pull even more information from the story after that activity than they were able to before.

All of the reading and research from Jossey, Wolfe and the fabulous online readings that we have been able to discover have really come to life in my classroom with how students learn best. I can’t wait to continue using tableaus and theater in my classroom!

Bringing theater into the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.seattlerep.org/Programs/Education/BTIC/Default

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.221-223). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Collaboration

Collaboration has always been a very important part of my school as well as within my school district. Over the years the district has provided teachers with several different tools to collaborate within our teams, buildings, and district. A few years ago, OneNote was the program that our school district required teachers to use. My team and I personally made great use from this program. We would use OneNote as a place to upload any documents, notes from meetings, projects, and collaboration ideas. We would often create flipcharts and post them on OneNote and share access with other surrounding schools to support the work smarter, not harder idea. OneNote was great for the first year or so, but the program quickly faded out.

Last year, LWSD introduced a program called Haiku. In my eyes, Haiku was designed 100% around communication and collaboration. This year, every teacher is required to have a Haiku page live and active for parents and students to access. Teachers have the abiltiy to make it as complicated or simple as they would like. You are able to upload assignments, projects, newsletters and much more. My team, administrator and school are using this program for much more than just parent and student communication. My team has created a kindergarten haiku page for just the teachers. On this page, we upload and collect data for our CIP goal every month. We use this information in our monthly meetings with our principal to share our progress in meeting our goals. We track our level 4 students and our students that are not meeting standard and the students that are approaching standard. We collaborate and provide strategies and methods for helping to meet the needs for our students. Haiku has become a wonderful and easy way to communicate, collaborate and access all types of information needed with my kindergarten team, administrator, students and parents. I hope my school district decides to keep Haiku around for many years to come, I feel there is wonderful potential in this newly adopted program.

 

EDU 6655 Real-Life Problem Solving

In chapter 11 of Brain Matters it states, “John Dewey contended that school should be less about preparation for life and more like life itself (1937) (Wolfe, 169).” This quote from Dewey really makes me look at how I teach my classroom in a different way. I have always felt that preparing students for life is the most important part about my job. In the past I have focused on helping my students learn about how to become a better friend, citizen and overall person using problem solving strategies. These lessons have been taught in different scenarios and I have even had my students act out and role play problems and solutions.

Wolfe states, “teachers can find actual problems in their own schools and communities for students to solve (Wolfe, 170)”. I really want to find a way to incorporate a smaller scale of this idea for my kinders. We are currently doing informative writing and later in the year my students will be learning how to use research data bases to find information to support their writing. Finding a way to get student into the action of solving a problem to allow for some real hands on experience would improve their learning and retention. Wolfe mentions, “Many of our strongest neural networks are formed by actual experience (Wolfe 169).”  We have spent a lot of time in classes discussing how quickly and how high the percentage of information that is taught, is lost after the students walk out the door. Giving students the hands on learning, where they are able to put their problem solving strategies to use over a week or two time frame, would support their ability to recall and therefore remember materials. Solving a real-life problem would fully support those skills. Dewey mentioned how most schools have students developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills but they are almost always hypothetical case studies. They are not addressed in the classroom. They are typically taught by lecture and recitation of the information given during instruction. Wolfe mentions that by having students solve a real problem within their community or school, “students learn both content and critical thinking (Wolfe 170).”

A lot of discussion was swirling this week about how important visuals are in our teaching. Less is more. Lessons and information that are jam packed with words quickly become ineffective for our students. Wolfe supports this discussion in chapter 12, when she states, “Not only are visuals powerful retention aids, but they also serve to increase understanding,” (Wolfe, 184). It is important to really tie these two topics of discussion together. While solving those real-life problems in the classroom,  it is important to be showing students how to access databases and how to use visuals to support their learning and presenting. It is just as important for students to understand the importance of visuals as teachers. When we were students growing up giving presentations about different topics from kindergarten all the way through college, no one ever told me how less is more, how important visuals were for retaining and recalling information. Medina states, “the more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized-and recalled (Medina, 233).” As students we were pushed to give as much information as possible and that typically resulted to PowerPoint slides in 8 pt font so we could fit everything on! As current educators, it is our responsibility to not only use this in our own practice, but also to teach our students about the importance of these topics too so they can apply it into their daily work.

Resources:

Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 10 Vision (1st ed., pp. 233). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.169-184). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

EDU6655 Problems with Memory or Multitasking?

This week, learning about Short-Term Memory from Brain Rules preloaded me with great information and terminology used in chapter 10 of Brain Matters. I was able to make many connections with the examples that Wolfe mentions in the chapter of declarative memory and procedural memory. He spoke about the difference between the two and how they are stored and retrieved, but what I was really hoping Wolfe would cover in this chapter was those who claim they have a bad memory.

Wolfe states, “Our ability to remember is essentially a process of reconstruction or reactivation (Wolfe 152)”. I currently have a student in my class that claims he is unable to remember activities, events, information, or any type of instruction because he has a “bad memory”. I know there are several adults that can relate to this student in my class. Feeling as though they don’t have a great memory. I also understand that memories are strengthened by experiences as well as revisiting, replaying and rehearsing those experiences, events, and information. But what is happening inside the brain when even though those pieces are being revisited but the connections are still not becoming stronger? Has damage been done to the hippocampal structure that helps move these experiences into short or long-term memory? Can damage be restored, or those abilities be strengthened somehow?

After looking deeper into my question and doing additional research, my question has turned to an unexpected direction. In chapter 8 of Brain Matters it states, “If little Jack seems extremely forgetful, it may not be that he cannot remember facts or events. It may be that he finds it hard to keep in mind simultaneously the instructions to do several tasks at once (Bass 115).”  What if the problem isn’t damage to his hippocampus or any other part of the brain responsible for storing memories. What if the issue he feels is a “bad memory” really is his inability to do or focus on more than on task at a time (which many adults aren’t able to do either). This week we spent a great deal of discussion on the fact that the brain is never truly “multitasking” it is simply just the brain transitioning its focus from one task to another. So maybe the issue isn’t a bad or weak memory, rather it is the fact that his brain takes longer to switch from one task to another. Making him frustrated and feeling incapable of remembering. I feel like the first few months of school I am so focused on getting my students into the routine of fast transitions. We practice practice practice. Now I know that no matter how much we practice it will still take some of my students a longer amount of time to be ready for the next instruction or activity. Now that there are more possible answers to my question I will  be much more aware of this issue, allowing plenty of time to switch tasks for those students that really need it.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.152). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., & Gallese, V. (2008). The jossey-bass reader on the brain and learning. (1st ed., pp. 115). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.