My Professional Learning Community

It is of utmost importance for teachers to come together and collaborate because we have so much to learn from each other. I make an effort in my school to collaborate with other teachers, the administration and families by building relationships. These relationships exist because I have dedicated time and effort into communication through face to face meetings, phone calls, and emails. My school has also put teachers in collaboration teams that we call PLC (Professional Learning Community) groups where we consistently meet to sharpen each other and grow together as educators. I think that the “Community” aspect of this group is extra important because these relationships also create an open environment for teachers to bring collaboration into the classrooms.

Our last meeting made a big impact on me because we dedicated most of the time to really learn from each other’s experiences, knowledge and unique perspectives. During this meeting, we focused on thinking about what our “Best Practices” are and then shared them with the group.

On the first page of this PLC’s Minutes, the collaboration begins by reviewing the overall goals of our PLC and then the specific goals that we hope to reach in this meeting. I think that this is a very important practice because we place so much weight on having goals for our students to reach while we as teachers also need objectives to follow. Our team then used the majority of the time to discuss our best teaching practices. I quickly noticed how diverse these practices were, which reminded me of how we can use these differences to grow. This group has a wide range of educators who teach art, photography, choir, band, video production, and special learning. Everyone has different styles and practices, and I found that many of these approaches would also work well in my classes. I specifically took to heart what Teacher B said about seeing through the student’s perspectives. I have so far taken this statement to practice by trying to think about what a junior high or high school student goes through on a daily basis to become educated. However, Teacher B was saying that she specifically looks into the student’s social interactions and the emotional roller coaster that students are going through and tries to incorporate that into the learning process. She made an excellent point by explaining that most teenagers are much more concerned with how their peers in the classroom view them than the work itself. If teachers can better understand the high and lows of teenage emotion, then we can better encourage, instruct, and guide students towards learning.

Throughout this collaboration time, I also took away some specific practices that I hope to incorporate in my classroom. Teachers D and F explained how important storytelling is in their junior high and high school classrooms. I found this to be an interesting best practice because I would have expected it in an elementary setting rather than in high school classes. On the contrary, these teachers said that storytelling was one of their main best practices because it causes students to let their guards down and engage with the material. People love hearing stories and students will tune in to listen without realizing that they are also learning at the same time.

Teacher G reminded me of how important it is to make sure that students are actively engaging with the subject matter. This teacher said that he does this by constantly being on his feet and circling the classroom; always creating movement and checking in with students. I have actually sat in this teacher’s classroom and can attest that he does this the entire time and it does have a positive effect on the students. I think that I have grown in this multitasking skill over this year, but I think that there is still more room to grow.

In this collaboration group, we are dedicated to encouraging each other to become better teachers. I choose to make the most from this valuable opportunity and have given this group a fresh perspective on how we can grow together. I have expanded this collaboration beyond this group and into the classroom so that it can even further benefit student learning. It is so important for teachers to use each other as resources because as seen from this PLC, we all bring something different to the table.

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These Next Final Months…

This week students returned from Spring Break for the last couple of months of school. It is crazy to see the year coming to a close and also exciting to look at my students and see so much growth. I of course look at myself and reflect on how much I have also grown this year. Spring Break was a good time of renewal for me and reminded me of how important rest is. During this time I got to collect my thoughts, reorganize my life, and set some new goals for these final months before students break for summer.

My focus in my visual art classes is for students to really make this art their own. The first quarter of second semester was dedicated to students learning the craft of cinematography and the art of video editing. Now that they have had efficient time to practice this new found knowledge, students can use it as an expression of who they are and build upon their own unique gifts and talents. Students have already been doing this, but they get easily distracted by the need to just get it done. I am going to continue to encourage students to really make these last video projects their own; to choose subjects and stories that they have passions for so that they can really put their heart into it.

Reflective Response: The Inner Game Of Teaching

As I reflect back on my previous thoughts on Marzano’s  (2010) chapter over “The Inner Game of Teaching”, I see how the author’s words make a lot more sense now. When I was reading this before, I could understand how there is a constant interaction of a teacher’s inner thoughts with the surrounding school experience. However, this was from an outsider’s viewpoint for me. Now I fully comprehend this reality as a teacher and this knowledge helps me be aware of how my inner thoughts in the classroom affect my behavior.

As I read again through this chapter, I see Marzano’s examples now readily available in my own experiences. Throughout this year, I have fought inner battles to not stamp students with labels that would thus affect my unconscious perception of them. At first, I did find myself taking less time to grade students who have excelled in the past because I was already so familiar to their pattern of turning in excellent work. In these moments, I have forced myself to take extra time to evaluate their work and make sure that they continue to reach the class’ objectives rather than me quickly grading them on their previous track record. The same goes for the students who struggle with their class work or display poor behavior. I realized that I had to follow Marzano’s instructions and constantly evaluate my perceptions of students, how they are created, and how I can best support student learning. This constant reflection and evaluation has gotten easier and easier because I now see that it is becoming less of a forced discipline and more of a immediate habit.

In my previous reflection on this chapter, I discussed the impact that a constant exercise of inner reflections would have on my growth as a teacher. Throughout the year I have tried to ask myself some of the questions that Marzano (2010) suggests on page 350 when presented with the challenging situations that we as teachers face on a daily basis. This began as a forced event and was actually very difficult because I am not very good at multi-tasking. However, through repetition and constant reminders from myself, this has slowly become a routine and quite an encouraging realization. Once I can interpret the situation, I can then decide on an action and goal to reach for in response to that event (pg. 352). This has positively impacted student learning because I have been able to better build supportive relationships with students and families by constantly evaluating my own thoughts and feelings.

Wiggins, G. (2010). R. Marzano, On Excellence In Teaching. Bloomington, IL, Solutions Tree Press.

Reflective Response: What’s My Job?

As I look back on my first thoughts towards our readings from “What’s My Job“, I see the impact of my experience as a full time teacher. In my original post, I see a good amount of my writing focusing on emotional aspects of teaching and an almost childish hope for what things would be like in a perfect world. Some of these hopes are good, but as I reflect on my experience now, I see how important the concrete ideas in education are. Of course we are still teaching to make a positive impact on the students lives, but I now have a more solid viewpoint of my motivation as a teacher and the goals that I hope to achieve. Teaching does not seem as whimsical as it did in the beginning of summer, and I think that is a very good thing.

Through this experience I have been able to see the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of education. The issues that Wiggins (2010) points out in this chapter are something that I now read and recognize as examples from my own experience. He talks about the “…absence of true accountability in education…” (pg. 7) and I now understand how this is a reoccurring reality in teaching. A full day of teaching barely gives room to eat lunch. When I first started this program, I was very overwhelmed and was in constant go-mode throughout the entire day. I soon found that it was very easy to retreat to my own classroom for a moment to catch my breath and even easier not to see other colleagues throughout the day. This is not to say that a moment to rest is not good, it just shows how easy the temptation in teaching is to not set up a system of accountability. This year I have learned that accountability is something that teachers need to be deliberate about, which is exactly why Wiggins is bringing up this major need for teachers to think about what they are supposed to “do” as teachers (pg. 9). With this in mind, I have taken deliberate steps towards growth and have also put together a group of teachers that can hold me accountable to make sure this growth happens.

As a growing teacher, I have also learned what Wiggins (2010) meant when he discussed the need for teachers to teach for student understanding (pg. 23). When I previously read this, I did not fully comprehend what the difference was between “understanding” and the regular student learning that occurs in the classroom. Throughout my teaching experience, I am now able to see when students really understand something and also when students are simply regurgitating information. When students display the latter, I can now give students opportunities to further comprehend the information rather than just moving onto the next subject.  This is positively affected student learning in my visual art classes as I see students applying the information in their own lives. As I reflect on my growth as a teacher throughout this year, I see how I am also “understanding” the many aspects of education, which is quite exciting.

Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job? R. Marzano (Ed.), On Excellence In Teaching (pp.213-246). Bloomington, IL, Solutions Tree Press.

A Comment in 50 Characters or Less

This week was really busy because grades for the third quarter of classes were due. Along with these grades, we are required to write comments for each student to reflect on their progress in our classes. The only problem is that the comments can only be 50 characters or less, which allots for about a 6-8 word fragmented sentence. I took extra time to complete these comments because it is an important communication piece to families. After I submitted my comments, I got really encouraging responses from my vice principal and my mentor teacher who both said that they really appreciated  the time and effort that I put into these short sentences. The vice principal especially said that these comments show families a reflection of what is happening in class and it provides an important connection that is truly valued even though it seems like such a small thing (I posted a screenshot of an example from the comments for one of my classes).

My Growth As A Teacher

As I reflect on my earlier post of “The Teacher I Hope To Become”, I see how I have made steps this year towards this vision. My hope to have impactful relationships with my students has been something that I have put a lot of effort into. Through this experience, I have learned that to really know your students well, it takes initiative to maintain meaningful relationships and communication. Throughout this year, I have developed a discipline of asking my students inquiring questions about their lives, which honestly has been a bit intimidating at times. Through these interactions I have learned that high school students do take notice and are positively affected when teachers are interested in their lives.

In my initial post I talked about wanting to be a teacher who is always a learner and I feel that I am reaching this goal this year. I think that this discipline will be something that is important to continue to practice when I am away from SPU’s classes. I have also worked really hard to incorporate technology into my classes and work through the problems that it creates in my digital media production classes. To work towards my goal, I put a lot of focus in my classes on troubleshooting technical issues well and learning through obstacles that might arise.

I have been collaborating with a small group of other teachers each week to talk about how we can be better educators. These actions have come from my initial hope of being a teacher that is constantly sharpened by others. As I look back on my first thoughts of the teacher that I hope to become and have now completed my Draft Professional Development Plan, I see areas where I have progressed and areas that I still need to grow in. These goals can keep me accountable to being dedicated to grow as an educator.

My Students Setting Fire to the Rain

My high school video production class just finished their Music Video Project, which turned out great. This class has been a bit of a challenge because the grades range from freshmen to seniors which makes for a diverse room of learners. I have met this challenge by being as flexible as possible while also giving the students a firm foundation of video production skills. The flexibility allows for certain students to take the necessary extra time to understand the content matter, while I can also give advanced students more of a challenge.

After students learned and practiced basic cinematography skills, we then embarked on this Music Video Project. In this project, students were asked to focus on framing excellent and interesting shots to keep viewers hooked on their video. They were also challenged in their growing video editing skills as they had to time the music with their footage. Through this assessment, I learned that students will put extra effort into what they are learning if they can apply it to their own personal interests, unique perspectives, and creativity. Below is an example from two of my students that decided to take a dramatic and humorous approach to this video project.

http://vimeo.com/39602564