What’s My Job?

In the first chapter entitled, “What’s My Job? Defining the Role of the Classroom Teacher,” Grant Wiggins (2010) focuses on eliminating “the glaring absence of true accountability in education” (p. 7). He asks the all-important question: “What’s my Job?” In other words, what are the key goals and desired outcomes of my teaching? Although this seems to be obvious, Wiggins (2010) explains that these key goals and desired outcomes are rarely communicated by hiring institutions in job descriptions (pp. 8-9). He compares and contrasts a job description from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development with the usual job description given most educators in order to illustrate that most education job descriptions focus on the immediate instead of long-term desired outcomes (Wiggins, 2010, pp. 10-11). Although I understand how many schools could be like this, I must say from my personal experience of teaching in a private, Christian school that the desired outcomes and goals were not only communicated to me, but the curriculum for my classes was highly based on these goals. The nature of the Christian Worldview class I taught necessitated this because the goals were clearly outlined in our school’s mission and vision statements. Because of this, my experience stands in stark contrast to the disconnect between school purpose and teacher practice that Wiggins (2010) describes throughout the chapter.

Wiggins (2010) later describes what he believes will span the gap between goals and teaching. He outlines the key goals of every teacher:  “Causing successful learning,” “Causing greater interest,” and “Causing greater confidence” (Wiggins, 2010, p. 11). In order to determine what type of learning is successful, Wiggins (2010) believes we must derive our course lessons and testing from our course goals (p. 12). This results-based teaching focuses less on covering topics and more on helping learners succeed in life. Wiggins (2010) later suggests that this must therefore influence which chapters of a textbook teachers stress, which they skim, and which they omit from their course lessons based on the overall course goals (p. 20). I think this point is highly important because textbooks should not guide our lesson plans as much as our students do. In his description of how to cause confidence in students, Wiggins (2010) asks how many teachers are taking an inventory of their class before designing their lesson plans (pp. 14-15). Although the teaching calendar makes this difficult, I would love to see schools allow for less assignments at the beginning of the school year in order to establish rapport and design lessons around the class. I have to admit that I have sometimes tried to fit my junior high classes into my lessons instead of considering how to adapt the lesson to their learning styles.

Later in the chapter, Wiggins (2010) describes shaping lessons to class goals by stating, “If transfer is the goal, then spending the most time in class lecturing is inappropriate; if meaning making is the goal, then instructional strategies have to involve students” engaging in more than just listening (p. 26). What a breath of fresh air! I believe that if more teachers heard this type of thing early on, their lessons, their student’s test scores and even their overall happiness would reflect the freedom of this statement. Because the goals of my classes were communicated so clearly to me, it was easy to design curriculum with students in mind, and it was easy to design tasks that engaged learners in ways that would impact them more than simply lecturing for an hour. After reading this chapter, I have a clearer understanding of the job of teaching and what that means for the way I will approach each aspect of my job as an educator.

Developing Expert Teachers

After reading this chapter, it is clear that a teacher’s competency is directly related to student achievement. In classroom discussion at SPU, we have talked a great deal about putting high expectations on students, as well as placing high expectations on ourselves as teachers. The “expertise” of the instructor, which Ericsson and Charness (1994) refer to, goes hand in hand with the level of expectation on the students (p. 215). This is also supported in standards set by the EALRs and GLEs. In light of this discovery, one must focus on becoming an expert learner in order to become an expert teacher. The text says that this capability does not simply come from good genes; instead it is developed by a “well-articulated knowledge base and deliberate practice” (Marzano, 2010, p. 216). As a learner with both a speech impediment and poor short-term memory, this reinforces the adage that hard work pays off when coupled with diligent learning.

Of all of Marzano’s (2010) nine types of lesson segments, the classroom routine events resonated with me because it is an area where I see room for improvement (pp. 218-219). In these reoccurring events, Marzano highlights the importance of both communicating and making learning goals, feedback to students, and consistent routines and classroom procedures (Marzano, 2010, p.221). Looking back on my first year of teaching, I could have been clearer about how I conveyed learning goals by taking more time to map out where we were going as a class. Since I move from classroom to classroom, I easily got swept up by the rush of setting everything up each day and many times forgot to explain the daily goals.  With that said, I wonder if there is an efficient way for teachers who move from classroom to classroom to have an organized space that maintains classroom rules and procedures? This difficulty no doubt exacerbates any issues a teacher has with setting the tone of the classroom and communicating the daily goals of class lessons.

At the end of the chapter, Marzano (2010) says that teachers should devote time to deliberate practice, and in this point I believe that “practice” is the key word (p. 238). He stated that this “must continue for about a decade” to reach the level of excellence he refers to (Marzano, 2010 p. 238). In reading this, I can see how a teacher could have the temptation to admit defeat early in their career while reaching for a goal so far away. What would some strategies be for a teacher to keep optimism and confidence in the midst of experiencing the ups and downs of a decade-long refinement? Also, this must certainly not mean that a teacher is done honing their craft after a decade.  Marzano (2010) communicates this later in the chapter writing, “One reasonable expectation would be that all teachers in a school district should improve from year to year” (p. 239). In making sure that teacher expertise is improving year to year, Marzano (2010) assumes that the ultimate goals are being met. This only further illustrates the need for educator involvement when designing state testing if this standard supposes to be reaching ultimate teaching goals.  As Marzano writes, “Even small increments in teacher expertise over time could translate into substantial gains” (Marzano, 2010, p. 239). I hope to find joy in the process rather than finding failure, and I hope to find opportunities to learn, grow, improve and eventually, ten years down the road, reach expert performance as a practiced teacher and diligent learner.

Marzano, R. (2010). Developing Expert Teachers. In R. Marzano (Ed.), On Excellence in Teaching (pp 213 – 245). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Research, Practice and the General Principles of Effective Teaching

In this chapter, it was interesting to read through the different research examples to see which worked well and which did not have a positive outcome. Thomas L. Good (2010) focuses on several key points over the last forty years of his research in teaching. I particularly found the “Kounin Framework” (p. 39) to be helpful for me because it encourages teachers to focus on acknowledging student behavior or “withitness” (p. 38) as the text described. In my teaching experience so far, my first class of thirty-three junior high students overwhelmed me a bit. I usually had most of their energetic attention and acknowledged good behavior. However, I found that I had a difficult time also holding the attention of a few kids in the back of the classroom. The attentive students were alerted to what I was keeping them accountable to, displayed that they understood the subject matter, and so I moved on. Good (2010) describes how a teacher can misuse the “Kounin Framework” (p. 39) by saying that “if the same students are always called on at transition points, it might convey ‘If you understand, we can move on’” (p. 39). Realizing this, I should have made the few students in the back accountable as well, but I feared losing the rest of the class. In the future, I hope to engage in student learning through using the Kounin model effectively for the entire class.

I think that the “General Principles of Effective Teaching” (Good, 2010, p. 41) are extremely helpful guidelines for becoming an effective teacher. I felt it was important how Jere Brophy (2008) explained that focus needs to be placed on “learning” rather than “knowing” the wrong and right answers (p. 41). As a teacher this past year, I found that students were much more highly motivated to do well on assignments when I placed the focus on learning.  The students realized that although grades are important, it was even more important to take the information outside of the classroom and apply it to their lives.  This was probably an easier idea to plant in their hearts for me because I was teaching a Christian worldview/life skills class. As I teach different subjects, it will be a challenge to persuade students to apply their learning beyond simply “knowing”.

I also took note of Jere Brophy’s (2008) suggestion to set curriculum goals (p. 42). I believe that this takes more effort and planning from the teacher, but is well worth the outcome. When students understand the goals that they are set to reach, it is communicated to them that they have expectations to reach. Through these goals, the teacher is enabling students to reach their full potential. Brophy (2008) also pointed out the need for goal-oriented assessments that focus on the overall curriculum goals (p. 42). Students can’t always see the big picture, and so I ask the question how can teachers show students that their day-to-day activities are important? I see students putting extra focus on tests and large papers, yet forgetting to put effort in daily classroom learning.

After reading this chapter, I better understand the tug and pull that exists between teachers and the reforms that they are asked to accept. Since the state government has so much power and authority to make a positive impact on education, I wonder why it seems that they are not using teachers as resources? Why aren’t policy makers asking teachers where the problems are and working together to make a better educational system?

My Insight on the EALRs/GLEs

It was an interesting experience to review the EALRs for the Visual Arts Endorsement. I like how the components had so many different action words that were all very specific. I think that if a Visual Arts teacher made their lesson with these goals in mind, it would dramatically affect their teaching. I found it interesting that one of the major EALRs and components was that students learn how to communicate through art. I haven’t always viewed my lessons in art as lessons in communication, but I easily see how they go hand in hand. After reading through the EALRs and GLEs for reading, writing and communication, I was reminded of the high expectations that I need to hold myself to. Even though I am a Visual Arts endorsement, I am still held accountable for reading, writing and communication. As a teacher, I am expected to continue learning and teach with these expectations always in mind.

OSPI and Legal Aspects of Certification

When I first opened the webpage for the Washington State K-12 Laws and Regulations, I soon was lost in a sea of codes and laws, including everything from holiday instructions to food services. Although it seemed a bit overwhelming, one of the most helpful areas for me to read up on was the Professional Educator Standards Board. In the different chapters of this law, the requirements to be met by a Washington state teacher are clearly stated. It also displays the laws for teachers to follow while continuing their education throughout their career. After reading through some of the laws on the Washington certification requirements, it made my future classes at SPU even more relevant. The site said that approved universities for certification are held accountable by the state of Washington to meet every requirement given by the state legislature.  These laws are specific in the necessary course work and classroom experience the approved universities are to provide.

The online manual for organization and financing of Washington Public Schools was very interesting. I looked at how Washington Public Schools spend their money, who spends it, and the rules and regulations that have to be followed amidst all this. The manual informed me about state funding for education, noting that Washington is the seventh in the nation in the percentage of school district operating revenue that is provided from state funding.

The family resources tab from the OSPI homepage is a helpful place for both parents and teachers alike. It reminds faculty and staff in education the standards that they are being held to. The resources tab also makes educators somewhat transparent. When parents can go online and see these standards, they can then hold educators accountable, which provides a system of checks and balances. It was also helpful to read the Parent and Student Rights to better understand what parent-teacher and student-teacher relationships should look like.

On the Washington State Learning Standards page I enjoyed reading the learning goals that each Washington state teacher should strive for. Since I will be obtaining a Visual Arts endorsement, I looked through the Arts Standards Manual and found the OSPI Arts Mission which reads as follows: “The Arts: Communicating and integrating life, literacy, and learning through experience for all learners.” It is good to be aware of the overall mission, because that level of communication is what can unite teachers instead of divide them. It has been extremely useful to see the standards of education to which Washington State holds its educators. Hopefully, these high standards will induce the results that the state and educators alike are desiring.

Principals of Paraphrasing: How to avoid inadvertent plagiarism

I think one of the key pieces that this tutorial gave in defining paraphrasing is that it should give the meaning of an author’s ideas in a different form. This tutorial reminds me that correct paraphrasing is explaining something in my own words, and displaying that I completely understand the subject matter. I found module 2 of the tutorial the most helpful since it plainly stated rules for paraphrasing that would always avoid plagiarism. The tutorial gave a simple question to always ask yourself by saying, “Are these ideas my own?” If the answer is no, then I will always have to give credit to the source.  The tutorial also made a key distinction between summarizing text and directly quoting text. Since summarizing is putting an author’s ideas into my own words and clearly showing my knowledge of the subject matter, it still needs the author’s name and date of publication.

Understanding and Mastering APA

I used APA in my undergrad for my research papers, but it was very good to get a refresher on it from the online tutorial. This reminded me of what a consistent page header looks like, as well as a other formatting rules.  The outline for the different types of headings that are used in APA formatting was a helpful clear and concise table of how to choose the correct heading. I liked how the tutorial went over the many different rules about citation. APA style uses the author and then date means of citation in the text. If it is a direct quotation, then I need to include the specific page number. I took a screen shot of Basic Citations Styles Chart that was in the online tutorial, so that I can refer back to it when writing papers. I found these online APA tutorials to be very helpful and will be a resource that I will continue to utilize throughout my program at SPU.