The following is a list of all entries from the Uncategorized category.
Standard 9 Cultural Sensitivity: Establishes a culturally inclusive learning climate that facilitates academic engagement and success for all students.
I take pride in the teacher credentialing program that I participated and graduated from, I owe so much of my teaching style and ability to it, however I know that a great deal also comes from my intuition of understanding children. Being able to graduate from the BMED program (Bilingual Multicultural Education Department) gave me a “leg up” on other future professionals in the areas of scaffolding instruction for my ELL (English Language Learners) students as well as approaching curriculum from a social justice perspective. Learning from my mentor teachers how to access materials and lessons for my diverse group of students was a powerful and positive experience. However the true learning came from being in my own classroom with my group of diverse learners and how to provide a similar learning experience.
New Learning and Application of Practice
Dr. Cornel West, a prominent and intellectual democratic stated, “A fully functional, multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and an open, honest dialogue.” Reading this quote causes one to reflect on the age old saying, “you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from,” once again acknowledging the idea of knowing one’s history. Knowing one’s history understands one’s culture and ancestry, which I’ve found to be a very difficult concept for many people, young and old and of many different ethnic backgrounds, especially white Caucasians. Dr. West also defined a functional multiracial society as having open dialogue, which I fully believe to be very problematic for many; again, especially for white Caucasians and in the field of education many teachers aren’t comfortable with this idea of open dialogue. Communication is one of the most important aspects in teaching and learning, when a mix of cultures is included with that, it can then become difficult for teachers and students. Cross culture communication, authentic student engagement and classroom environment are three key components that educators can begin to develop in order to start their journey on becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher.
During the course of my time at Seattle Pacific University, EDU 6525 was a class that I took and I will be using my Integration and Action Exercise paper to help share my knowledge of Standard 9. I indicated my background in my teacher credential program and how it emphasized Multicultural education and social justice. Being a teacher for the last seven almost eight years and reflecting on how I’ve utilized what I learned in my program; it helped me to identify my own culture and ideas about race. When reading through the stages Helm’s White Racial Identity stages Development Model I noticed how I’ve gone through each stage and have reached the stage of Immersion/Emergence. The negative feelings I felt towards my own race and for what different racial and ethnic groups went through in history and are still working through today have been acknowledged and examined. I no longer have those negative feelings about my own race and this has helped me to be more comfortable with dialogue about race and social injustices. In James A Banks’ book, Gary Howard writes a paper titled, “Whites in Multicultural Education: Rethinking Our Role”, this paper discusses how white educators face challenges in accepting the racial problems that are abundant and still dominant today. He writes that the race issue for White Americans is a question about action, that racism isn’t a Black, Indian, Asian, Hispanic or White problem. He states nicely that racism and cultural diversity is a human problem (Banks, 1996, p. 330). By understanding this ideal and accepting it, this has helped aid me in using effective cross culture communication with all my students.
Thanks to the multiple professional development opportunities as well as trainings I’ve been able to learn multiple strategies for helping students to communicate with myself as well as each other, especially during a lesson where important skills and concepts are being introduced. Such strategies as: think-pair-share, whole group choral response, total physical response, etc. have helped to ensure that students are not only listening to me but also to one another. Identifying that multiple cultures have “tendencies” in the way they communicate I’ve attempted to ensure that students voices are heard, this is especially important in the developmental stages of a primary-aged student. Knowing that students want to make comments or statements about their thinking, connections or just be heard, I’ve made multiple opportunities in the day for students to be able to do this while still being academic. A few challenges I’ve noticed about this is the issue of time management, curriculum and content as well as my own trouble with my racial “tendency”. With the amount of curriculum and content to be compressed in the short time that we have with our students many teachers do most of the talking during a school day. This limits the amount of student reflection and communication time with each other as well as the teacher. I’ve also found myself slipping into a “tendency” of wanting all students to be active listeners where their bodies and voices are quiet, when I see this happening I feel myself stop and have students share with each other or in small groups. My favorite time to utilize these strategies is during our math time when my students and I watch our video for the math lesson that day. To ensure all students are paying attention to the video and material being presented I use multiple strategies to have students share their thoughts, answers and ideas. One way to include all students is whispering the answer to a question to a neighbor, when everyone has heard a whisper I tell them to blow their answer in their hand (this also prevents students from blurting out), I repeat the question again and I tell them to let their answer go, and typically my whole group shares the correct answer. Another way to increase student communication is by having students work in partners; this is very powerful especially for students with minimal communication skills due to limited English or vocabulary. I’ve noted the success rate with a concept or skill when the bulk of discussion is student-directed as opposed to teacher-directed, doing this allows my students of multiple cultures have their needs in communication met. Another classic communication strategy is the teacher strategy of “wait time”, so often are teachers in a hurry to get through lessons that when they pose questions the first student to raise their hand gets to answer the question. However in a classroom full of diverse cultures and learners, wait time may be more necessary to fulfill the needs of students who need time to access the appropriate information. “In the area of sociolinguistics, short wait times may disadvantage students, who take longer to respond to teachers’ questions because their culture emphasizes deliberate thought. The cultural expectation here is that one can make informed and appropriate choices only when considering all possible ramifications and implications of a decision,” (Nieto, 2004, p. 152). Using some of these strategies can help students find their voice and help them learn to communicate in an environment where communication is necessary, when their communication needs are met student engagement increases.
Active and Authentic student engagement are two very important aspects when trying to create a healthy working classroom of multiple cultures. Developmentally primary-aged students want to share and have their experiences and opinions heard, however this doesn’t always apply to all children of all cultures. A culturally responsive teacher understands this and therefore creates multiple outlets for students to be actively engaged during a lesson. This requires educators to have many “tricks” up their sleeves or “tools” in their toolboxes, choosing the right ones is dependent on the individual. Authentic student engagement is when students are genuinely engaged in their learning and the teaching going on around them. One way that I try to incorporate active student engagement is through the use of white boards, students love being able to use their mini whiteboards to share their answers and be part of the lesson. Not only does it allow students the opportunity to participate, it also allows me to do a quick, informal assessment of which students understand and which do not. whiteboards lesson To even further extend the idea of whiteboards as an assessment and engagement piece, I’ve also observed my ELL students using these as a way to check their own thinking. Sometimes I’ll see them checking other students’ whiteboards as a way to assess their answer and if they have a different answer they know their thinking wasn’t correct, or if their answer is the same they feel confident in raising their whiteboard to show the teacher. In Banks’ article “Transformative Knowledge, Curriculum Reform and Action” he describes the five dimensions of multicultural education and within those five he discusses equity pedagogy. “An equity pedagogy exists when teachers modify their teaching in ways that facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, cultural, and social-class groups” (Banks, 1996, p.338). He gives an example about using cooperative groups on projects or assignments as opposed to independent to help facilitate the academic success for some cultural groups. There are expectations that students should individually acquire knowledge to help facilitate their understanding and to be able to transform that into new knowledge. Teachers assess this typically with individual tests because we want to hold students accountable for their learning. However, who’s to say that knowledge can’t be formed when working with peers and in small cooperative groups, this is an authentic environment in which some cultures best learn. A culturally responsive teacher understands this and utilizes this in multiple opportunities. Using cross culture communication, active and authentic student engagement as well as creating a safe environment allows students optimal success within a classroom.
Creating a classroom environment that is multicultural goes beyond having posters of Martin Luther King Jr. or César Chavez hanging up. It’s also more than having a classroom constitution of an agreed upon set of rules for all students to follow. Creating an environment that is multicultural is having both the students and teacher acknowledge the vast cultural diversity within the classroom. “Communities are built over time, through shared experience, and by providing multiple opportunities for students to know themselves, know one another, and interact in positive and supportive ways,” (Oakes & Lipton, 2003, p. 285). It is still very important to establish rules and protocols for a working classroom, however for students to gain a sense of multiculturalism within their learning environment, there needs to be more effort and time involved. This school year I chose to take that task on at the beginning of September to start exploring culture with my group of students, I find that identifying what culture is can be difficult for most. Culture is typically confused with ethnicity and race, for someone to have a culture it means they need to be of a different race than white. Trying to break this understanding can be difficult but not unachievable. By having students start exploring the origin of their name by interviewing their parents helped to start the process of students becoming aware of their family and personal culture. It also helped to involve parents in their child’s journey of this self-awareness. Soon after students were then required to work on a culture collage that had them looking through magazines and other media formats to identify who they are currently and who they want to be in the future. This allowed students to be creative in expressing themselves and their culture while at the same time making future goals for themselves. This was shared by inviting other classrooms to do a gallery walk observing these culture collages made by my students. Another challenge about creating a multicultural classroom is the problem of student racism with one another. This is an inevitable problem that can start at a very young age and how a teacher approaches coming up with a solution will help create what Banks’ describes in the five dimensions of multicultural education as prejudice reduction. When prejudice reduction takes place, teachers are using lessons and activities to help students develop positive attitudes towards racial, ethnic and cultural groups (Banks, 1996, p. 338). A culturally responsive teacher will start and end a school year utilizing and discussing activities and lessons, unfortunately, some teachers don’t feel comfortable with approaching this subject in fear of this subject matter. When this happens teachers are actually fueling the fire of racism as opposed to extinguishing it, these teachers are still in the early stages of racial identity.
I do believe that I was born to be a teacher and understand that I have a natural way of dealing with children of all cultures, race, economic-status and ethnicity. I also understand that I have yet to employ all the dimensions that Banks describes are needed for multicultural education. I do hope to work on achieving such a status so that I can better assist my school with adopting ways to meet the needs of all students. By being an on-going advocate for Multicultural Education I can hopefully make a difference for not only my students but also my fellow professionals. So long as the U.S. remains a multiracial society then Multicultural Education will always be in high demand to achieve.
Banks, J.,ed (1996) Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Teachers College Press.
Nieto, S. (2004) Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Lipton, M., Oakes, J. (2003). Teaching to change the world. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Literature Review: Paraeducators in Classrooms
An important topic for the field of Special Education and Education in general is Paraeducators. Paraeducators is a term that can be defined as a school employee that works under the management of teachers or other school staff and their jobs are typically to provide instruction or services to students and their families. There are many synonyms that accompany this definition: teacher aids, teacher assistants, paraprofessionals and the list goes on. These adults play vital roles in a school environment and in the education of many children. As I stated in my Peer Review assignment Paraeducators are becoming a big part of Inclusive classrooms and are spending more time in general education than special education. Not only is it important that teachers receive and continue on-going professional development, but it’s essential that paraeducators are supported, encouraged and are provided with the same opportunity. Equally as important is the issue of collaboration between classroom teachers and their paraeducators.
Causton-Theoharis discusses the inclusive classroom and its positive effects on all students:
One purpose of including students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms, as opposed to segregating them in special education classrooms, is to help all learn to live, work, and play together so that eventually they can successfully live, work, and be together in the community as adults. (Causton-Theoharis, 2009, p. 37)
While the ideology behind inclusive classrooms has many pros, the most important piece is the paraeducator’s role with the students and how to conduct them so that the child will be successful in the short and long run. The article progresses to state that paraeducators should utilize a fading support system with students in an inclusive classroom; this involves easing up on the type and level of support given. “Fading support can reduce the negative impact of adult support and allow for more natural supports to occur” (Causton-Theoharis, 2009, p. 38). The goal of inclusive classrooms is to involve students with disabilities into a general education setting while still maintaining the necessary support that will meet the student’s individual needs. The importance of providing non-invasive support and slowly fading the assistance will allow the student optimal success in a supportive yet independent environment. For this to occur the communication between the paraeducator and classroom teacher is extremely imperative. The educator, special education teacher and paraeducator should sit down and discuss what this will look like and the role the paraeducator will be playing. Even more helpful than sitting down and planning out the support is professional development and training for the paraeducator. “Because paraprofessionals often do not receive training in teaching methods, they at times do the work for students instead of carefully scaffolding each step of the learning process” (Causton-Theoharis, 2009, p. 39). Another problem of paraeducators not having professional development is the strains that it can place on the teacher. “An effective aide can be an asset to the classroom and an ineffective paraprofessional can demand the teacher’s time and deter the student’s progress with academic and social goals” (Lewis & Doorlag, 2011, p. 270). There’s been some research in the effectiveness of providing professional development to paraeducators.
A journal article written by William Breton explored paraeducators and their pre-service training, supervision and on-going development within schools. He sent surveys out to over 700 paraeducators and 258 responded to the questions about their profession and job. About 50% stated that their view of their preliminary training to instruct students with disabilities was about the fair to very poor range (Breton, 2010). While many of these and all other paraeducators may hold an Associate degree or higher, their training that involves working with students didn’t prepare them for their assignment. This may mean that the special education teacher or classroom teacher may have to provide some additional training about how to work with these students, which in turn means that these teachers’ time is being taken up with what pre-service training should be doing. As a classroom teacher my time, both in and outside the classroom is very precious and I personally wouldn’t want to spend it training a teacher assistant. I don’t mind organizing and planning the lessons and activities that my paraprofessionals will be doing with my students, however I can’t afford the time and energy reviewing all materials and training them. I would rather spend my extra time collaborating and discussing student progress.
Findings of this study indicate that 39.5 % of the respondents had a direct interaction with the special education teacher on a less than weekly basis and further that 15.9% reported that they never had received consultation on the direct instruction of students from their special education teacher. This finding leads one to conclude that many Education Technicians are essentially left on their own to perform their instructional duties with students. (Breton, 2010, p. 42).
While I’ve never had a one-on-one staff assistant with any of my special education students that join my class for arts block or content area, I do have experience with paraeducators working with my small reading group students. Many of these teachers have familiarity and long history with the supplemental materials that we use because they’ve used them with other classroom teachers, however for those that are new to our building, they may not have any practice with the multiple resources we use to teach. Teachers are supplied with professional development and training with these materials and fortunately for my building our Reading Coach supplied training to our staff assistants for the new supplemental materials we received. However, that’s not always the case for other schools and districts.
For those who have experience working with paraeducators they know that these individuals do just as much as some classroom teachers. Their job may entail them to do the following duties: recess and/or cafeteria duty, teaching math, reading and/or writing, working with small groups, managing behavior, morning and afternoon patrol duties, etc. With having that many job descriptors it’s no wonder that so many request additional professional development. “64% of the paraeducators emphasized the need for continued professional development. In the words of one, ‘It would be helpful to have more opportunities to attend training to increase my knowledge about this population and their changing needs” (Liston, Nevin & Malian, 2009, p. 42). Unfortunately budget cuts and monies necessary to pay for training and professional development withhold many from gaining the information needed to be successful with students and in the classrooms.
Many researchers see the need for additional professional development for paraeducators as well as time to collaborate and meet with classroom teachers. Some have even suggested doing joint professional development for both groups. “It is important that teachers and paraeducators have planned joint training sessions that focus on the skills needed to work effectively as members of an instructional team” (Jones, Ratcliff, Sheehan & Hunt, 2011, p. 23). Described in this article are a few key components that are vital for joint training: come to an understanding that they work as partners to achieve shared goals, recognize and appreciate the strengths and characteristics that each member, develop communication skills that are essential for the sharing ideas and worries, and share expectations for team members. I believe that by having joint training paraeducators and teachers may feel more like a team rather than having a boss-employee relationship. I’ve observed some teachers treating paraprofessionals more as employees rather than co-workers and this will not foster a healthy work relationship or attitude. Paraeducators should be seen and treated as equals to teachers since they’re given so many duties and expectations. “Since teachers are the instructional leaders in the classroom, it’s imperative that they develop interpersonal skills necessary for building respectful, reciprocal relationships. The trust that develops creates the atmosphere in which good communication between teachers and paraeducators easily ﬂows” (Jones, Ratcliff, Sheehan & Hunt, 2011, p. 23). Another approach to professional development is something known as a Learning Community. “While traditional professional development approaches to learning have focused on helping educators hone individual skills, the construct of the ‘professional learning community’ as a school-wide professional development effort involves the collective capacity of all people in the organization” (Zepeda, 2008, p. 80). The goal of a learning community is to work together and challenge the disjointed departments that typically make up a building and to work alongside one another to create a cooperative support system. This in turn will help create a solid foundation that can then support and foster student success.
The topic of paraeducators in general education classrooms is relevant to special education because the Inclusive classroom is where we’re headed. Students with disabilities will be filtered into general education classrooms and some may require a one-on-one assistant. For many teachers having more than one adult in the room will be something new and may be met with resistance. Some teachers may think that the paraeducator will “criticize” their teaching style and this attitude needs to be prevented rather than reacted to. Prevention of this occurs by having joint training or an all staff training that lays out the expectations of both the classroom teacher and the paraeducators. Renaming the staff as a learning community may assist everyone in feeling that they’re all in this soon-to-be change together.
I believe there should be further research done about paraeducators in general education and special education classrooms. There should be research about what necessary skills, training and on-going professional development should occur so that these paraeducators are fully prepared and equipped to support the students and teachers they’ll be providing service to. I also believe that there should be research about the effects that paraeducators have versus classroom teachers on the students they serve, in my observation I‘ve seen some paraprofessionals outshine and outperform some classroom teachers.
I’ve been privileged to work alongside some amazing paraeducators at my building. Many have been teaching longer than I have and could supply me with some helpful tips and tricks for working with small groups of students. I have an immense amount of respect for what they do and how they conduct themselves at work. Far too often I’ve observed students and even some teachers challenge and disrespect these dedicated employees. Paraeducators are expected and asked to perform many duties, therefore it’s very important that we as educators communicate and provide them with the necessary training and skills for them to keep doing their jobs successfully. If they do their jobs right then students’ learning and success will progress.
Breton, W. (2010). Special education paraprofessionals: Perceptions of preservice preparation, supervision, and ongoing developmental training. International Journal of Special Education. 25(1): 34-45
Causton-Theoharis, J. N. (2009). The golden rule of providing support in inclusive classrooms: Support others as you would wish to be supported. Teaching Exceptional Children. 42(2): 36-43
Jones, C., Ratcliff, N., Sheehan, H., Hunt, G. (2011). An analysis of teachers’ and paraeducators’ roles and responsibilities with implications for professional development. Early Childhood Education Journal. 40: 19-24
Lewis, R. B. & Doorlag, D. H. (2011). Teaching Students with Special Needs in General Education Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson.
Liston, A., Nevin, A., Malian, I. (2009). What do paraeducators in inclusive classrooms say about their work? Analysis of national survey data and follow-up. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus.5(5): 2-17
Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional development, what works. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education
The Inclusive Classroom: Paraeducators in Classrooms
Inclusive classrooms are on the fore front of special education. It seems that many students with disabilities are spending more time in general education classrooms as opposed to being separated in special education classrooms. For some of these students it may be necessary or written into their individualized education program (IEP) that they have the assistance of a one-on-one paraeducator. Depending on the student, some may not need as much “one-on-one” assistance as stated in the IEP, therefore bringing another adult into a classroom where it may not be necessary. Causton-Theoharis writes an article that examines support being given in inclusive classrooms and best practices and the “golden rule” that should be followed by all adult supporters.
The Golden Rule as stated by the author is, “to support others as you would wish to be supported,” (Causton-Theoharis, 2009, p. 37). Throughout the rest of the article this golden rule is underlying in the multiple suggestions and best practices about how teachers and paraeducators should go about supporting students with disabilities within an inclusive classroom. For example, the authors list and then elaborate four steps about how to support students. These steps consist of: Plan to include, Ask and listen, Step back and Plan to fade your support. It would be surprising to some, especially paraeducators, on the last step of plan to fade your support, since it’s their job to support the student within the classroom. However, research and studies have shown how some adult support can be detrimental and unhelpful to the students receiving it especially while in an inclusive classroom. In some cases students become too reliant on adult support and can have a hard time later in life performing skills. (Causton-Theoharis, 2009). As many special education classrooms begin to change and re-format the way they deliver their services to students, I think that this article should find its way into both paraeducator and teacher training in order to create a unified understanding for inclusive classrooms.
I felt that this article is relevant to Special Education because many programs are being modified so that students with disabilities are spending more time in general education classrooms and less time being separated. By introducing students with disabilities into general education classrooms, I think this topic should be explored by schools to ensure that students with one-on-one paraeducators have their individual needs met throughout the year and process of inclusion.
I selected this topic because the district I work for now is looking to make the Inclusive classroom change for the upcoming school year; however my building has been running its Special Education program in that design for a few years now. For many of our students with disabilities in our building, most don’t require a one-on-one paraeducator and during our Literacy block many teachers have paraeducators coming into classrooms to provide small group instruction to help support student needs. I predict some teachers at my building being a little “nervous” about having special ed. students in their classrooms for more than just fine arts block time. I also foresee our wonderful special ed. teachers sending some of their paraeducators into those teachers’ classrooms to provide aid and assistance for them initially until they’re confident. I think sharing this article will allow our whole staff to see the positivity of having students with disabilities be included in general education classrooms and the necessity of support within inclusive classrooms. In my experience at my building the paraeducators we have in both general education classrooms and special education classrooms are very professional and carry out their duties with all students’ well-being visible. Something that still needs work in our building is the teacher and paraeducator relationship and ability to communicate. “In order to ensure optimal learning for all children, it is critical that the school environment supports teachers and paraeducators in their efforts to create a collaborative team and teachers and paraeducators are provided with the skills necessary to successfully fulﬁll their responsibilities,” (Jones, Ratcliff, Sheehan & Hunt, 2011, p. 22). The article suggests that schools and districts need to help create an environment that supports classroom collaboration as well as professional development. Administrators should have time set aside for teachers and paraeducators to meet regularly to have collaborative discussions, as well as having trainings to support a joint classroom.
Between these two articles I’ve learned that Inclusive classrooms are in need of many things in order to be successful. An understanding that support for special ed. students should look like what you would want it to be, utilizing students’ peers, creating an effective environment using differentiated instruction for all students, working collaboratively between paraeducators and classroom teachers and using professional development to train all school staff appropriately. All of these elements can help ensure that students with disabilities, general education students, paraeducators and as well as teachers will be successful in an inclusive classroom.
Causton-Theoharis, J. N. (2009). The golden rule of providing support in inclusive classrooms: Support others as you would wish to be supported. Teaching Exceptional Children. 42(2): 36-43
Jones, C., Ratcliff, N., Sheehan, H., Hunt, G. (2011). An analysis of teachers’ and paraeducators’ roles and responsibilities with implications for professional development. Early Childhood Education Journal. 40: 19-24
Module 5 was all about the model “Advance Organizer” developed by David Ausubel and is useful for aiding students in organizing information (because they get so much!) and connecting it to a larger framework. At first I felt a little confused by the idea and really engrossed myself in the chapter to fully understand the method of instruction, it finally sunk in for me when I read that they, “are designed to bridge the gap between what the learner already knows and what he needs to know before he can successfully learn the task at hand” (pg. 393). I appreciated how it discussed what the model wasn’t, a summary or overview of the topic, which helped cement the idea for me. When looking at the two different categories of advance organizers, one must decide which would work better for the lesson material and then also deciding which type to use with the students, text-based or visual advance. Text-based would be literally what the name suggests, a text-based piece that students would read, whereas the visual would be video or pictures to share with students. The two categories include, “Expository organizers function to provide the learner with a conceptual framework for unfamiliar material, and comparative organizers are used when the knowledge to be acquired is relatively familiar to the learner” (pg. 394).
While I find that this method would most certainly benefit students at the beginning of a theme or unit in a subject area or discipline, deciding on the “what to use” would provide some difficulty for myself. I can deduce that using this strategy in my social studies unit for Pacific North Coast Indians would be highly beneficial for my students. With the amount of information that students are given during this unit, using an advance organizer in the beginning would help, “provide the ‘hierarchical framework’ for students so that they can move information into long-term memory efficiently and effectively and in a connected manner” (pg. 402). This will then allow students to make connections to more information as they continue learning. Thinking about how to utilize this strategy in my classroom, I found myself feeling overwhelmed about how to approach a lesson without doing an “overview” or giving too much information away about Pacific North Coast Indians. After posting to our discussion my concern about how to use this method with my social studies unit I was given some “food for thought” by a colleague who offered this, “I wonder if the concept of conservation could help. Or perhaps posing the students with the question, how would you survive if you found suddenly found yourself stranded in the middle of the Olympic National Forest?” I truly appreciate having the wealth of knowledge and ideas of my peers so handy when thinking about all these strategies that we’ve been reviewing and learning about together.
Dell’Olio, J. M., & Donk, T. (2007). Models of teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
My original definition of teacher leadership was a type of role that teachers were given as an “opportunity” to assist with professional improvement within the building, a role that was given by the principal to the teacher. A little over two months later and my definition has changed about what a teacher leader is and looks like, thanks to the many brilliant discussions and readings provided by this course. According to Katzenmeyer and Moller their definition as described in Eleanor Hilty’s Teacher Leadership: The “New” Foundations of Teacher Education, “Our definition is teacher leaders lead within and beyond the classroom; identify with and contribute to a community of teacher learners and leaders; influence others toward improved educational practice; and accept responsibility for achieving the outcomes of their leadership” (Hilty, pg. 6). Their definition has influenced my definition of a teacher leader as an educator within a school that works towards leading in and outside the classroom; they make intentional influences to the building as a whole. A teacher leader engages in conversations, teams and committees that help to improve student and school achievement. A teacher leader is above all an advocate for students, teachers and learning.
In the past few months my interaction and commitment to my grade level team has improved and bettered since learning more about teacher leaders. Before the year had begun I was approached by one of my team members who mentioned that as part of her professional development for the year, she wanted to observe and collaborate more with me. She based this on her decision that she felt I was a strong teacher and had much to share in and outside the classroom. I was much honored and appreciated the compliment that a co-worker of mine would hold me in regard like that. Since the start of this class I would say that taking part as a teacher leader has begun to emerge but just a little at a time.
Communication and Collaboration in schools has taken a new usage as Professional Learning Communities and is a common term between professionals. PLCs have taken many different forms and definitions within districts and individual schools, how each individual school chooses to utilize this idea is solely up to the admin and faculty. I believe a goal of PLCs is to be utilized as professional development within a building, teacher professional development can help improve student learning. Also making sure the school culture is an agreed upon “norm” and all teachers are activists for this philosophy as well as for the students. Oakes and Lipton suggest, that “Teachers must be able to engage with one another in an ongoing process of inquiry where they examine the assumptions and values that underlie their own practice as well as the school’s” (pg. 379). Professional educators have the capacity to do this and PLCs are the perfect avenue for them to accomplish this ideal. When teachers are learning, communicating and collaborating, students’ learning can be positively affected. I find that with every conversation I have, whether in person, online or over the phone with other educators, I gain more insight and inspiration to help me in my classroom. This in turn will help effectiveness of my teaching and hopefully help my students’ learning.
After reviewing a screen cast provided by Robin Henrikson it was brought to my attention that there’s a very big difference between the definition of collaboration and cooperation. Her screen cast connected the ideas of Collaborative Work and teacher leadership, I found most helpful slide two that defined the key difference between collaboration and cooperation in terms of having meetings as a group of educators, it states, “Only when these types of meetings produce results, such as an improvement in teacher learning is it considered collaboration” (Henrikson, 2011, Module 4 Lecture). Zepdea shares, “Collaboration includes such activities as co-planning and teaching lessons, brainstorming ideas, conducting action research, and inter-classroom observations, and the reflection and dialogue that follows in post-observation conferences” (Zepeda, pg. 85). With this new found knowledge I have begun to go back and reflect on the outcome of my grade level meetings and I asked myself questions such as: Are our meetings inquiry-based and action-oriented? Do we leave with a new understanding of the curriculum, students or standards? Are we utilizing our time well enough to make and meet achievable goals?
Through this course we’ve learned about multiple ways to communicate in a collaborative setting. These outlets for communicating are known as: Critical Friend Groups (CFGs), Teacher Study Groups, Whole-Faculty Study Groups, and Book Studies. Many of the groups described in Zepeda seemed to support the idea of job-embedded learning, which I highly support. The idea behind CFGs would be the most intriguing type group that I could see myself being involved with, Zepeda credits Costa and Kallick (1993) who state that, “a critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend.” Other examples also include teachers participating in a Lesson Study or Learning Circles. A lesson study is essentially job-embedded learning based on collaboration, reflection and a way for teachers to construct new meaning for subject matter content (Zepeda, 2008). Another approach to collaborating communicatively to help impact student learning is Action Research. Zepeda states, “Action research is about change. The process of conducting action research propels change, and the results of action research can support teachers in making informed decisions about changes in practices” (pg. 264). This is the ultimate difference of action research compared to the multiple other formats of professional development as mentioned and described above. A few of my peers in this course, stated nicely that action research differed in that an educator would ask questions about their practice (typically an instructional strategy or possibly student learning), develop a research question and do research on the topic, discuss with a colleague or colleagues about best practice and theory, collect data (through student learning, observations, etc.), analyze data and discuss findings then reflect and make changes to practice. The big piece that Zepeda also touched on in was the importance of reflection. She states, “When teachers write and read their own narrative about an experience in the practice of teaching, the level of understanding and comprehension about what took place increases”(pg. 274). All of these methods are highly supportive of positive communication and collaboration that will surely impact student learning in big ways. In regards to communication Sonia Nieto states that teachers, “must learn to talk with, learn from, and challenge their colleagues in a consistent and constructive manner that reinforces their dual roles as teachers and learners” (pg. 397). While teachers, staff assistants and office staff make up the larger school culture that are involved in a child’s education, there’s room for all to be involved, such as the local community.
I included in my Teacher Leadership Portfolio as an exhibit and as a form of Community Involvement, our Parent Math Night. My team and I organized this event at our school and invited parents to come in and explore the online interactive program. However, as projected our numbers were small in comparison to the number of students in the whole third grade. We made announcements at parent-teacher conferences, sent flyers home with plenty of advanced notice, asked our Principal to include it in the monthly newsletter that goes home and we all discussed it in our classrooms with our students. There’s a great deal to be learned about this attempt made and that’s to take small steps with parents and keep providing opportunities for them to come and participate. A colleague of mine made the suggestion to possibly try and hone in on a large population of the students in our grade level and deliver the math night in a facility that’s available to that population. For example, we might consider contacting the apartment buildings around our school that houses the general population of our student body and then see about reserving a space and then have our parent math night.
This course has helped shaped my outlook on what professional communication and collaboration should be and should look like in the setting of education. My goal for after this course is to take what I’ve learned and attempt to apply it in some ways, large or small, that will help benefit my co-workers, the community and most importantly my students. Influencing positive impact on student achievement goes beyond what happens in the classroom, it’s also about what happens outside the classroom. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed participating in this course and all of the professional discussions had with my peers and colleagues.
Henrikson, R. (2011). Collaborative Work, Module 4 Lecture @ SPU Blackboard.
Hilty, E. (2011). Teacher leadership, the “new” foundations of teacher education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Lipton, M., Oakes, J. (2003). Teaching to change the world. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies
Nieto, S. (2004). Affirming diversity, the sociopolitical context of multicultural education. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional development, what works. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education
This is a very, very, very rough draft of my assessment portfolio. My workload this year at school has been creeping into my time outside school, therefore my schedule hasn’t allowed for much sleep or work on our final projects. However these are my Assessment in Practice entries that I’ve put together and am planning on using.
Entry one: Selected Response-Using Place Vaule to add and subtract
I chose to use this assessment with my 3rd graders to test their ability to add and subtract 3 digit numbers using the regrouping algorithm.
Entry two: Extended Response-Using Place Value to add and subtract
Keeping to the same learning target and lesson in math the document has 2 pages, on the second page you’ll find the rubric. I haven’t quite decided if this is more Knowledge mastery or Reasoning Proficiency, because Stiggins states in Chapter 6, “extended written response works well for assessing chunks fo knowledge that interrelate, rather than individual pieces of knowledge assessed separately” (pg. 170). However, my quick check response is for a singluar learning target that was taught in one lesson, lesson 7. So I’m not quite sure which category it would fall under.
Entry three: Performance Task
This math task requires third graders to use their reasoning and communicating skills with the concept of multiplication.
Entry four: Personal Communication as Assessment
I used my Math focus wall as this entry of assessment, I do it daily with my students. I’ve included a picture so there’s a visual to go along with the narrative I’ve included.
After some careful consideration and time to reflect, here’s the draft of my Grading policy. Grading Policy draft
This module’s topic was “Improving Student Learning” and involved some great discussions from my peers. We were asked to reflect about teacher leadership and its emergence around student learning, resistance involved around that subject as well as research that supports our movement forward. In my discussion group strand I had a lot of peers that openly discussed their thoughts and ideas on the positiveness of teacher leadership and it’s effectiveness around student learning. I took the approach of discussing PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and it’s emergence around student learning. PLCs have taken many different forms and definitions within districts and individual schools the past few years, some of my peers in this course have openly discussed their thoughts about the effectiveness of PLCs at their own buildings. Some other ideas about teacher leadership involves professional development within buildings to cut down on cost, with major budget cuts on the forefront some buildings are looking to teachers becoming “professional” in a single subject area or skill. Teachers are then able to “teach” their peers at a time that the administration deems fit, this seems to be a positive for teachers who have a specialty within a subject or skill and can spread that knowledge to their co-workers.
“Teachers want opportunities to learn alongside each other”(Zepeda, pg. 5). In our reading for this module there was some great support for sharing teachers’ need to collaborate and to always be engaged in conversation and professional development. It has been directly linked that teacher professional development can help improve student learning. When teachers are learning, students’ learning can be positively affected. I find that with every conversation I have, whether in person, online or over the phone with other educators, I gain more insight and inspiration to help me in my classroom. This in turn will help effectiveness of my teaching and hopefully help my students’ learning.
We’re now on the home stretch of Spring quarter and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking this course and engaging in discussions with my fellow classmates. Module 5 focused on the three different levels in education: early/elementary, middle and high school. I decided to participate in the discussion for early/elementary since I believe that is my area of expertise and where I’ve had all my experiences as an educator. Our discussion was focused around the question: What is the impact of curriculum on early learning and elementary age learners? How do you interpret the values that you see in our current settings? What are you hopes for the future? In summary the impact of curriculum on early learning is very important and vital for a student’s education, the U.S. Census Bureau has seen a rise and increase in younger-aged children enrolled in pre-primary and kindergarten classes. With that in mind creating a consistent curriculum to help prepare children would be a great investment. Programs such as Head Start and Follow Through have shown effective results for preschool age students. The current values that I’ve observed in current settings for early and elementary is a push for academics and less emphasis on behavior and social education. My hopes for the future is that there will be an addition to budgets for creating more institutions for programs like Head Start so that children who are at a disadvantage socio-economonically would have the opportunity to be successful and close the achievement gap.
Being that we’re coming to the end of this course our Understanding by Design Curriculum Project will be due and I’ve finally added all the finishing touches to my project. As stated before in my blogs I decided to design as well as carry out a Social Studies Unit on the First Nations of North America that focused on the major Native American territories of the Eastern Woodland, Southwest and Plains Indians. I had students design and make in cooperative groups a diagram of their territory based on their group’s criteria list, using natural resources as well as other supplies they successfully built their diagrams. Currently they’re on display in our school’s media center along with a bulletin board that I put up to help tie everything together and to show my students’ journey on their unit. They’re very proud of the results, but not nearly as proud as their teacher. This project utilized many of the Curriculum and Instruction Program’s standards, I’ve identified that this project encouraged us to use the standards of: 01: Instructional Planning, 03: Curriculum, 04: Pedagogy, 05: Assessment, 09: Cultural Sensitivity and 10: Technology. I’ve enjoyed participating and actually teaching this unit and hope to use it again next year with the appropriate modification and reflections made throughout.
The question we were asked for this module in one of our discussions was, why should teachers understand the various design elements for curriculum at an implementation standpoint? I believe that teaching is much more than just instructing students using appropriate strategies and using a Teacher’s guide, as a professional in the field of education my degree focused on understanding many different fields and areas of study. With my degree I am expected to know the development of all Elementary aged children and what they’re capable of cognitively and physically as a healthy child. I am also expected to be able to observe and know my students, to watch out for any delay or possible learning disabilities and then share that information with the right people on my staff. I am expected to know about all different assessments and when it’s appropriate to give them and know what state standards they align with and emphasize. I am expected to challenge, reteach, care for, laugh with, punish, validate, congratulate and teach my students how to be ready for the world. Teaching isn’t just about instruction, it’s so much more than reading a teacher’s guide and knowing how to use it and the instructional strategies would help. As Parkay states, “teaching requires expertise at developing the curriculum and expertise at using instructional methods to reach curriculum goals” (pg. 310). Teachers should absolutely be knowledgeable and aware of how the design process is carried out for developing a curriculum, since the curriculum takes into heavy consideration the work place that a teacher “lives” in almost 8 hours a day, 180 days in a year. Teachers need to have a balance of understanding “what” is being taught and then “how” to go about teaching the “what”. Curriculum is the “what” and has many variables to consider when building.
This week we had an assignment to participate with a partner and complete a peer review of our Curriculum Project for this course. My partner and I both gave one another great feedback, suggestions and probing questions to consider. My Curriculum Project for this course is a unit in Social Studies that I’m currently doing with my class of third graders. They’ve done a wonderful job of designing their diagrams on specific Native American territories based on their cooperative group’s rubric and criteria that they created together. They’ve also done peer assessments of each group’s diagram and a self-assessment on this project. I’ve enjoyed going through this process with them and am very happy with the results, however like all professional educators should do, I’ve already started my reflections and revision on this unit. I’m hoping to finish the revisions in time and add them into my project for a nice final product.