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Final Project

What Makes Great Teaching?

While looking at the themes presented in my Educational Foundations class and pondering about the High-Leverage Practices of educators, I learned that there is so much more to teaching than I had previously thought. Even though all of the themes and HLP’s are important, the three that I chose to focus on are the following:

  • How can teachers grow in their craft?
  • What rights should be protected for students and teachers?
  • How can instruction be differentiated for diverse learners?

How can teachers grow in their craft?

Teachers grow in their craft by their experiences, continuous self-reflection, and having a professional development plan. Experience makes the best teacher. We learn what works and what does not. We then make adjustments to improve. Self-reflection allows for teachers to reflect on their own teaching methods and to learn from others through observations and feedback. Having a professional development plan allows for us to learn new things and to grow as teachers.

What rights should be protected for students and teachers?

The Constitution is there to protect us, but we must remember that even though the Constitution protects us, it does have some limitations. For example, students have a freedom of speech, but only to a certain extent. Teachers have rights as well. They have the right to join an union, tenure, discrimination, and liability, to name a few. Teachers and students should have rights because they are human beings, but we must follow rules and laws.

How can instruction be differentiated for diverse learners?

In education, it is imperative that our students learn in the way they learn best in order for them to thrive. Some are visual learners, such as with deaf students. Some are kinetic learners and prefer hands-on or physical/movement in their activities. And some are auditory learners and do well with listening to teachers talk. Despite each students’ differences in styles of learning, they all should be exposed to various methods of teaching because a multi-modal approach is the best way to effectively teach students.

In the field of education, the purpose of our jobs is to teach our students and to also teach them to be good citizens as they grow up. They spend up to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with their teachers, so we have a huge responsibility in helping the next generation of students grow to be successful adults. We also must provide students with a positive and safe learning environment that allows for the students to learn their full potential. Good teachers empower their students and inspire them to change the world. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world.”

 

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Picture of me with my laminated Piktochart that is presented below.

 

what-makes-great-teaching-copy

How Do Teachers Grow In Their Craft?

I could sum up in three ways how teachers can grow in their craft: experience, self-reflection, and having a professional development plan. I will discuss each of the three.

As teachers, we learn a lot in college related to education and how to be teachers, but I think we learn best and the most by experiencing teaching ourselves. We learn a lot during student teaching while we are working on our degrees, or via unconventional methods (like I am) with working as a long term substitute teacher who does not yet have a teaching degree or certification. Teachers who graduate with degrees in teaching go on to learn more things that make them better teachers after college. Everyone always says that experience is the best teacher. In the case of becoming a teacher, it really does ring true. You learn as you go, and while you are doing so, you are growing in your craft. You are learning what is working and what is not. You learn your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator. You learn from other teachers. You even learn from your students themselves.

While experience makes the best teacher, self-reflection is what makes us grow and improve as we refine our craft. In the 2000 article “Getting into the Habit of Reflection,” Costa & Kallick state that “the act of reflection, particularly with a group of teaching colleagues, provides an opportunity for:

  • amplifying the meaning of one’s work through the insight of others;
  • applying meaning beyond the situation in which it was learned;
  • making a commitment to modifications, plans, experimentation; and
  • documenting learning and providing a rich base of shared knowledge.”

When we self-reflect, we think about our experiences. We think about our teaching styles and determine what areas we need to improve on, because we can always improve ourselves as teachers.  Also, it is important for teachers to be able to self-reflect in addition to receiving external reflection from others through peer reviews and observations. Even though we teach the students in our own classrooms, teaching should be a collaborative team effort. If one teacher notices something that day in his/her class and reflects on it with others, other teachers can learn from this too. It is great for teachers who teach the same grade, or same subject to get together regularly and share their ideas or reflections on lessons they did. “To be reflective means to mentally wander through where you have been and to try to make some sense of it,” (Costa & Kallick, 2000). The idea is that we should be able to look back and self-reflect all while looking forward so that we can apply what we know to what we need to do in future situations. In the article titled, “Fostering Reflection”, Danielson (2009) writes that our co-workers can be good mentors because “they usually have the ability to listen analytically—focusing on key information that helps clarify what needs to be explored—and they have expanded repertoires of options.” High Leverage Practice #19 states that we should be analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it. This all comes down to our self-reflection and continuous growth in refining our craft as educators.

Professional development is important to educators because it allows for them to expand their knowledge and skills throughout the years. They do this by continually learning new things through workshops, conferences, activities, seminars, etc. Sometimes workshops can be a waste of time and money, but often these workshops “focused on the implementation of research-based instructional practices, involved active-learning experiences for participants, and provided teachers with opportunities to adapt the practices to their unique classroom situations,” (Guskey & Yoon, 2009). In order for teachers to continue to refine their craft each year, Desimone (2009) states that professional development that is effective includes the following:

  • content focus- focusing on subject matter content and how students learn that content.
  • active learning- being actively involved such as observing and receiving feedback, etc.
  • coherence- professional development activities should be consistent with other important knowledge and beliefs
  • duration- 20+ hours per semester of professional development activities.
  • collective participation- Teachers of same grades or subjects should do professional development together so that they can collaborate within their community.

When teachers want to be the best teachers that they can be so that they make a difference in their students lives, they have to continually evolve and refine their craft. It has to be a personal thing (self-reflect and growth) as well as a community thing (peer review and collaboration). We have to help each other be better teachers, because after all, it does take a village to raise a child.

 

References:

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2000). Getting into the Habit of Reflection. Educational Leadership57(7), 60-62.

Danielson, L. M. (2009). Fostering reflection. Educational leadership66(5), 1-5. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Fostering-Reflection.aspx

Desimone, L. M. (2011). A primer on effective professional development. Phi delta kappan92(6), 68-71. Retrieved from http://www.gcisd-k12.org/cms/lib/TX01000829/Centricity/Domain/78/A_Primer_on_Effective_Professional_Development.pdf

Guskey, T. R., & Yoon, K. S. (2009). What works in professional development. Phi Delta Kappan90(7), 495-500. Retrieved from http://outlier.uchicago.edu/computerscience/OS4CS/landscapestudy/resources/Guskey-and-Yoon-2009.pdf

 

How Can Assessment Help Learning?

I am unsure of how to add my piktochart, so here is the link if it does not display below.

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/12792563-how-can-assessment-support-learning


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Standardized testing did not bother me too much when I was growing up. It was just something that everyone had to do, and we did it once a year. I actually enjoyed getting my results at the end, because I cared about how I performed on the test even though the tests were hard and stressful. Nowadays, I see so much more testing. Elementary students at my school have benchmarks and district progress monitoring tests frequently. They are long and tough. Especially for my deaf education students. They are in no way modified and the only accommodation that they get is a sign language interpreter signing only the questions and answers, not the text, and extended time. This frustrates me to no end, because many of these students also have learning dis/abilities and can not read on grade level. How are students who read on a Kindergarten/1st grade level supposed to understand and read a 3rd grade level test?

Another situation- I have a new student who just arrived to America in late December and has only been in school since February. He is twelve years old, profoundly deaf, and had no language prior to his arrival at our school other than knowing the alphabet and how to spell his name. He was enrolled as a 5th grader to give him some time to adjust to being in school and to learn some language before being placed in 6th grade, despite his age. Guess what? He was/is required to take three STAAR tests this month and next month. THREE! He had to test for 5th grade Math, Science, and Reading. He knows maybe 200 words currently. Can you imagine him sitting there for four hours, attempting to read a long and difficult test when he has absolutely no idea why he has to take it and what is on it. Needless to say, my heart broke for him.

With that said,  I believe that assessments can help with learning. I think that students need it in order to gauge their understanding of content, and to hold teachers accountable for teaching.  However, assessments should not be the only form of determining whether a student is learning or not. All students are different and many struggle with taking high stakes tests as they are under pressure and are not good test takers. Children with dis/abilities should have modified tests and it is not fair to assess those students in the same way that general education students with no dis/abilities are. Standardized assessment should be combined with practice based learning.

“Alfie Kohn is a fierce critic of not only standardized testing, but also grades and homework. Kohn believes that learning comes from instrinsic motivation — or the internal desire to learn. He also believes that extrinsic motivation from external rewards actually distorts learning”, (Krutka, 2015).  Extrinsic motivation could be prizes or rewards from teachers. As a teacher for Life Skills/Resources Deaf Education at the elementary level, I will say that extrinsic motivation goes a long way. Deaf children are highly visual and when they see the rewards they are so much more motivated. Especially because many of them are often frustrated and struggle with classwork and don’t have that confidence that they are doing good enough. These prizes mean so much to them and they enjoy reaping the benefits of such rewards. I have one student who will only work for goldfish. Daily. I have another student who has trouble completing homework at home, but if given a sticker for each assignment completed, she is excited because that means she is that much closer to earning her weekly prize.

High Leverage Practice #15 – Checking student understanding during and at the conclusion of lessons is super important. When students’ understanding is checked regularly, they are less likely to fall behind and get frustrated. It is good to check their understanding as they go through each lesson because if they do not understand the current lesson, they may not understand the next one.

References:

Krutka, D. (2015). Week 11: Assessment. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://educationalfoundations.wordpress.com/schedule/week-11/

 

 

 

Ethical Dilemma

For my Educational Foundations class at TWU, my team and I (Felicia Chavez, Tiffany Albert, and Amanda Vega) did a project discussing Ethical Dilemmas. We were assigned Case Study #7:

Case Study 7:

The district superintendent is visiting the school and passes you in the hall.  When he passes you he says, “Man, I wish I would have had a teacher like you when I was in school!  Maybe I would have paid more attention!” and winked.  This is not the first time this has happened to you, and before you’ve either laughed it off or ignored him.  You are very uncomfortable with his comments but not sure if you can do anything about it since you haven’t mentioned it to anyone before.  Also, you are afraid to report for fear of losing your job.  Should this teacher report this behavior?  Why or why not?  If she does report the behavior, will her job be protected?  Why or why not?

We decided to do our project through Prezi. Here, we discuss 13 questions relating to our case such as the ethically relevant issues at hand, who should be involved and the steps to reporting it, what are the possible consequences (short term, long term, financial, and emotional consequences), and several others.  The link is below:

http://prezi.com/chwublzt-ugk/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

As a teacher, I hope to never be put in this situation, nor would I wish this on anybody. Unfortunately, things like this does happen in the workplace. We should all strive to create a safe and fun workplace for everyone.

 

 

What rights should be protected for students and teachers?

The United States Constitution was written to guarantee the people of America’s basic rights are protected. The most important aspects of the Constitution are the Bill of Rights. This is the first Ten Amendments. Of these Ten Amendments, the first is this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” –First Amendment to the Constitution (First Amendment Rights, 2014).

Many people blindly assume that the First Amendment means that they can say whatever they want without any consequence, there have been incidents in history where a student sued the school district for “violating their right to speech”, but as evident from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), students only have a freedom to speech, up to a point (Jacobs, 2008). The students who were suing the school district, John and Mary beth Tinker and Chris Eckhardt decided to show their thoughts on the Vietnam war by waring black armbands in school. They got suspended when they refused to take them off. The Supreme Court agreed with the students, because they were not disrupting the classroom. Future cases have discussed issues such as school attire, like allowing piercings or dying hair color, but one cannot wear a shirt that promotes drug use, or a Confederate flag, (Jacobs, 2008).

Upon reading the article, “10 Supreme Court Cases Every Teen Should Know” (Jacobs, 2008), I realized how limited my knowledge was about certain rights that students have. I was always aware of the freedom of speech and religion in school, but was surprised to hear about the other cases that included corporal punishment as well as privacy rights of students. For example, in the case of Stafford Unified School District v. Redding, in where Savana Redding’s mother sued the school district for allowing her 14-year old honor roll student daughter  who had never been in trouble before to be subjected to a strip-search because another student had blamed her for having pills, (Safford Unified School District v. Redding, n.d.) As a parent of a young child, this scares me, and I am now more aware of my child’s rights in school, as well as those of my students.

As a Deaf Education teacher, one of my jobs is to protect my students as well as teaching them to advocate for themselves, especially because they are deaf. Because of their deafness, they are to receive a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) of 1973, (Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504, 2010). These students are not aware of their rights as students in general, never mind that they are deaf and are protected under more laws because of their dis/ability. Additionally, these students need to be aware of their rights under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) law.

Teachers also have rights, that includes, but is not limited to: teacher right to union, constitutional rights, tenure, discrimination, leaves, resignation, suspension, liability, felony, child abuse, and appeals (Teacher and School Staff Rights, 2011). One that is important for me as a deaf person is the ADA law, which states that I can not be discriminated when trying to find a job just because of my dis/ability. Employers cannot discriminate and also “the law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer,” (Disability Discrimination, n.d.)

In The Teacher Wars, I learned that in light of women’s rights and women’s suffrage during the 1800s, there was a woman named Margaret Haley, who fought for women teachers to finally have higher pay after years of low pay and pay freezes, as well as more political power in education, (Goldstein, 2014).  We must remember that all students and all teachers are human beings, and this means that all of us have rights in this country.

 

References:
Disability Discrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
First Amendment Rights. (2014). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.ushistory.org/gov/10b.asp
Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504. (2010, August). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html
Goldstein, D. (2014). The teacher wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.
“Safford Unified School District v. Redding.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Feb 26, 2016. <https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-479&gt;
Teacher and School Staff Rights. (2011). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.educationrights.com/teacherrights.php

How can instruction be differentiated for diverse learners?

As I think about the topic of “how can instruction be differentiated for diverse learners?”, I am reminded of what I do everyday at my job. I am working towards a degree in Deaf Education, and while doing so, I work as a Long Term Sub at the Elementary level for Life Skills/Resources class. Part of my job duties includes being a “para”, or rather, In Class Support person for another Deaf Education teacher. Her third graders are taught in two different classroom settings, one being an inclusive self-contained Deaf Ed. classroom and the other part of the day is taught in a general education classroom with a certified interpreter and co-teacher. At our district, we call this “60/40” where 60% of the time they are in general education and 40% of the time is spent in Deaf Education.  For these students, some instruction is in the least restrictive environment, but also some of it is taught in a more restrictive environment. They are pulled out of class for tests, given extra time on assignments, as well as having plenty of accommodations and modifications that includes things such as preferential seating, sound amplification, modified tests, to name a few. These accommodations and modifications are tailored to each student’s specific needs according to their IEP (Individualized Education Program) and all teachers, both general education and Deaf education, must follow these IEPs as required by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).

The other part of my job is teaching students with disabilities. I have one student who is DeafBlind, one who has intellectual disabilities, and another who is a twelve year old who just moved here from Nigeria with no language. As I listened (read the text) to the interview between Dr. Krutka and Dr. Mandy Stewart of Texas Woman’s University, Dr. Stewart spoke of L1 and L2 (Language 1 and Language 2), I couldn’t help but wonder about those who don’t even have a L1. My student from Nigeria only knew the written alphabet and how to write his name. I want to know what resources are out there to teach a person English that has no prior L1. Especially for one who is Deaf, as they learn language differently from someone who can hear. When considering teaching my DeafBlind student, I am required to teach TEKS curriculum, but must greatly expand content and completely modify my lesson plans to adapt to how my student learns. For example: this week, we were learning about the water cycle. I had to make a tactile model of the water cycle and  explain various parts of the cycle in a way that made sense. To simulate evaporation, I had to use a humidifier to really show him what evaporation is like. It requires a great deal of creativity on my part and also bouncing ideas off on a certified DeafBlind teacher.

Differentiated instruction is important in education for many reasons. The main reason is that not everyone learns the same way. For example, deaf children are visual learners. Others learn by doing physical activities. And yet, others learn best by working alone or in a group setting. As a teacher, we should aim to include various methods of teaching. Not necessarily only because everyone has different learning styles, but also because a multi-modal approach is the best way to effectively teach students. It is like the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Teaching one thing in multiple ways ensures that everyone has a chance to understand it because of their different learning styles.

To allow all learners the best chance at being involved, Lois Barrett (n.d)) writes in her article, “Seamless teaching navigating the inclusion spectrum” that we should:

  • “Provide multiple means of representation- Present content in different ways to give students a variety of options for acquiring information and knowledge.
  • Provide multiple means of expression- Ensure students have a variety of ways of demonstrating what they know.
  • Provide multiple means of engagment- Create a stimulating learning environment by offering various ways for a student to engage, based on preferences and interests.”

All students have specific strengths and weaknesses. As educators, we must remember that those who have a disability will also have something that they are good at, even if that means simple math addition for someone who is in high school. Teachers are always refining their craft and they do so by experience. Teachers gain experience throughout the years by learning different strategies and changing up their lesson plans so as to expose all students to various types of learning throughout the school year.

References:

Barrett, L. (2013). Seamless Teaching: Navigating the Inclusion SpectrumTeaching Tolerance, 52(43), 53-55.
Stewart, M., & Krutka, D. (n.d.). #2 Approaches to Bilingual Education.txt. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from https://drive.google.com/a/twu.edu/file/d/0B1_i_NlfcQW4TmtjbVBKN1g4dWM/view

What is the purpose of public schools?

Public education has evolved so much over the last few hundred years. In the early days during the 1700s to early 1800s, public school was not for everyone. Only the elite and few could go. And in the beginning, students who had the privilege of going to school learned about religion. According to Breckenmyre (n.d), the Puritans of New England wanted all of their students to read the Bible, and it was so important to them that they enforced this through the Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642. Not all children could go to school because often they were required to know how to read and write, but many parents did not have the education themselves or the means to teach their children. A few years later, the Old Deluder Act of 1647 made it mandatory that towns had to establish their own school for the locals (Breceknmyre, (n.d). However, it was still not accessible for all children, and those that could go did not have the best of classroom conditions. They often had one classroom crammed with kids ranging from ages 5 to 20 with only one teacher and very little resources. Children of less wealthy families were to be educated by churches or other family members.

Two prominent people that had certain opinions about the American public school system was Thomas Jefferson and Catharine Beecher. Breckenmyre (n.d), stated that Thomas Jefferson wanted American children to be educated so as to create a democracy that generation of citizens that were informed well enough to be able to vote. He also created educational reform in the way of Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, which would allow for a happier and freer group of citizens. His whole premise of education was that he did not really care how children were educated, whether it be at home by a family member, or at a public school, just as long as it would create a nation of educated people in support of a democracy.

Catharine Beecher was a very interesting woman. She is known for the female teacher movement. Early in the days, teachers was a male dominant profession, but thanks to her and her beliefs that women are better educators and should be teaching instead of only doing domestic duties, there are more women in the profession. She led a movement of new female teahcers by doing lectures and educating them so they could travel west to open new schools. In Goldstein’s book (2014), The Teacher Wars, Catharine said some things that got me thinking. The first is this, “A lady should study, not to shine, but to act… She is to read books, not to talk of them, but to bring the improvement they furnish . . . . The great uses of study are to enable her to regulate her own mind and to be useful to others,” (Goldstein, p. 19, 2014). Although what she said about women as teachers makes sense, I do not see why this would be a female only thing. Men also can be teachers. Although, they do not have that same nurturing quality as women do. According to Goldstein, Catharine Beecher believed that the home and the school are two intertwined things in where a woman can nurture and teach, (Goldstein, p.18, 2014). As a mom and a teacher myself, I realize that I am always being nurturing, but at the same time, I am teaching. I may not be teaching academics necessarily, but I would be teaching him morals and values and how to be a good citizen in this world.

Nowadays, a public school is a place where a child can get a free education. What they are teaching in public schools now varies from state to state, even district to district. They all have curriculum that they follow and they teach a wide range of subjects, but there is one thing that is different from hundreds of years ago, and that is that they try to keep religion out of it, so it has come a long way from the old days where religion was the primary and sole focus. However, there are still some similarities between now and then. Even though public education is accessible to all, money does come into play and those schools that have more money tend to have better resources and often higher assessment scores compared to those schools that have a poorer demographics or a more diverse socioeconomic status.

References

Education to the Masses – US History Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://ushistoryscene.com/article/rise-of-public-education/

Goldstein, D. (2014). The Teacher Wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.