H – Honor student diversity, development and their right to learn.
When human beings are treated with respect, they feel valuable because there is someone who cares and believes in them. I make a point to lead by example by showing my students what it looks like to honor and respect each other. I believe that honoring student diversity creates a classroom environment that supports each student and their right to learn. Since each student is a unique and special learner, I take time to invest in their lives to really know who they are. I then base my instruction on this knowledge to honor each student’s personal development. These learners all grow in different ways, and my job as a teacher is to create a diverse classroom that supports this growth. My careful planning and instruction teaches students new skills and knowledge while encouraging them to to explore their own unique gifts, passions, interests and perspectives.
H1 – Honor student diversity and development.
How do I honor student diversity and development?
I honor student diversity and their personal development by creating a respectful classroom atmosphere where they are safe to learn and grow. In this arena, I give students different opportunities to express their unique perspectives and explore their gifts and talents. In lesson planning and instruction, I make sure to incorporate diverse teaching strategies to adhere to the various learning styles of my students. To honor student diversity, I not only provide a safe place to learn but also a respectful environment that honors multicultural diversity.
Throughout my time at SPU, I have grown in my perspective and awareness of how important my role for multicultural advocacy in the classroom is. I have always been supportive of multicultural diversity, but action only occurred when an opportunity was right in front of my face. As a teacher, I did not plan space in lessons for students to build an awareness of the culture that they are immersed in. Instead, I waited for moments and conversations that came up in class to add cultural comprehensive discussions. It was evident that these issues were afterthoughts and were not at the forefront of my thoughts. My classes at SPU really challenged me to see cultural advocacy as something that does not just simply happen. I now build this type of classroom atmosphere by intentionally creating lessons that force students to think beyond themselves. In my visual art classes, I ask students questions about pop culture, art and media that cause them to think globally and not just from an individual standpoint. Through this foundation, I then strategically plan multicultural activities that create cultural awareness in my classrooms.
I am constantly on guard for opportunities to instruct students on how to respect each other. When I hear students speaking disrespectfully towards one another, whether or not they meant to, I speak truth into these situations rather than just letting them occur. Many times students do not realize that their words might be hurtful, so I make an effort to have students see from each other’s perspectives. I have also taken strides to teach students how to effectively ask respectful questions rather than giving into the fear of saying something wrong which results in saying nothing at all. I use these opportunities to remind my students how to respectfully care about the thoughts and feelings of others.
The speakers in my classes at SPU really challenged me to look beyond my own lens and try to see the reality that students live in. I now see and understand that cultural background greatly impacts a student’s progress in learning. The perspective that Erin Jones gave us in our Diversity In America class was a powerful example of how one person can create change, and I was inspired to follow in her footsteps. She showed us that cultural competence in schools could be the impetus of change that closes the opportunity gap in education. The action steps that followed from hearing Erin Jones’ passionate perspective started with me analyzing my lessons to see where they were not culturally sensitive. I soon realized that certain students in my class were left at a disadvantage because of what I assumed to be their reality. Now there is extra time and consideration devoted to creating curriculum that is culturally relevant to my students.
An effective teacher knows his or her students and puts great effort into knowing them. Students face so many challenges and obstacles on a daily basis in their journey to learn. For many students, these difficulties arise from their genetic makeup, and for others it comes from life at home. I have always focused on having good relationships with my students, but now I understand why it is so important to know what is going on in my students’ lives. A new sensitivity has come up in me towards the struggles that these young minds face on a day-to-day basis. From my internship experience, I am developing a new awareness of what students are seeing and feeling rather than what I perceive to be their reality.
Multiple intelligences and learning styles has deeply impacted how I plan my lessons, my instruction, and the way that I organize my classes. In the article “Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles: Two Complementary Dimensions”, Stephen Denig (2004) connects the idea of multiple intelligences with the many different learning styles that students thrive in. He encourages teachers to give students the chance to learn through their strengths because that provides the opportunity for learning to occur rather than simply memorization. Denig (2004) writes that, “…learning style advocates counsel teachers to use different instructional resources in a different sequence in accord with how each learns best” (p. 106). Throughout my time at SPU, these thoughts have been on my mind of how to continuously provide opportunities for students to learn in the ways that work best with how they were uniquely created to be.
As I spend more and more time in the classroom, I have realized that it takes a large amount of time and effort to succeed in implementing these practices. Is it worth it? Yes. In response to this question, I have been devoted to exploring new ways to support student diversity and development in my classes. An example can be seen in the T-Shirt Design project that I walked my Junior High Visual Arts class through as they learned the basics of graphic design. I have spent a large amount of time creating written instructions and requirements for every project that I give my visual art students. The instructions, requirements and Grading Rubric were posted online so that students were able to access the material in class when we went over it together, but they could also access it at any time to learn through repetition. I devoted class time to open discussion of graphic design for the verbal-linguistic students to sink their teeth into. For the spatial learners, I have had them sketch out their projects before digitally creating them. I gave space for both the interpersonal learners to interact with the material through communication with each other and I gave time for the intrapersonal learners to reflect on their own.
I have in no way arrived at the completion of in-depth incorporation of multiple intelligence and learning styles in my classroom, but I have gotten a good start on it. Through these experiences, I have learned that no matter the messy outcomes of trial and error, my students’ learning has been positively affected. I know this from the students’ growth, quality of work, and interest in the subject as they learn in their many and varied styles. Student A and B’s work samples (seen below) shows how I created this project to be very flexible because of various learning levels. This allowed students to apply the basic editing skills that they had learned in Photoshop while also creating a unique art piece that reflected their perspectives and interests. To adequately meet needs, I challenged the higher level students with extra credit where they were asked to make a more detailed T-Shirt design by creating additional “layers” in Photoshop. Student A’s finished work is an example of this as it displays multiple layers and images that were arranged one on top of the other. Since this was a class of 7th and 8th graders, higher level students were also given extra credit for assisting other students since my attention was constantly sought after during the activity time. The extra credit was important because it kept the higher level students engaged in their work or developing leadership skills, while the lower level students had enough time to do their best and complete the project’s requirements.
At the end of the assignment, I practiced “Peer Feedback” through a showcase of the students’ work. During this time, students were asked to share their thoughts with the class. They were told to be respectful and to encourage each other as growing designers. I was surprised to find how well students did with this; their words of praise and constructive criticism were both very specific. The students continued to refer to the projects’ objectives (seen in the T-Shirt Design link above) which I was very pleased to see. I recorded some of their comments which can be viewed below. The respectful environment that I establish in my classroom and the relationships that I seek to develop with students support their diversity. My planning, instruction and assessments support student development by providing them with new skills and the use of projects to motivate growth. I honor the students’ right to learn by setting high expectations that I know they can reach and then guiding them to do so.
Peer Feedback: Student Comments on their T-Shirt Designs:
Student 1: “I like how you made the shapes on your shirt have texture. I think that it would more organized if you did not do a colored background; then the shapes would stand out better.”
Student 2: “I like how the focus of your shirt goes to the middle. It’s like where my eyes go first. I think you totally made the lines go in the right direction.”
Student 3: “The Photoshop effect that you used on the lion looks really cool, but it kinda blends the lion in too much with the background. What if you copied the picture (lion) so that you could have one clear on top and then the one that you have in the background?”
Student 4: “The font you used looks really good with the rest of your design. I think that it would look cool if you made it a brighter color so that it is easier to read.”
Student A Work Sample:
Student B Work Sample:
H2 – Honor student access to content material.
How do I honor student access to content material?
As we have progressed deeper into the school year, I have realized that I had to alter my teaching to honor students’ access to content material. When I came into teaching, I planned on giving my students homework so that they can continue the learning process at home. I soon found a challenge when I realized that would be disregarding my students’ ability to access the materials necessary for the classes that I teach. All of my visual art classes rely on the students using the school’s computers, design software, and camera equipment. I soon realized that I could not tell students to work on their projects at home because I cannot assume that students have the necessary technology outside of what they are given access to at school. I cannot assume that every student has a computer at home, because they don’t. None of these assumptions will honor my student’s access to the content materials necessary to succeed in these classes, so I changed the nature of my classes to honor the students’ access to the content material.
My school provides my classroom with the technology, and so that has decided where my students do their work. I give students adequate class time to complete projects, and use this as an opportunity to work alongside students in their learning. To honor students’ access to content materials, I also had to be more lenient on late work than I was planning on. If students are absent from class, they probably will not be able to complete a project on time because they do not have the necessary materials at home. After realizing this truth, I changed my late policy to be based on individual student situations and their communication with me about their absence. I had to alter my expectations to honor students’ access to content material and better fit their needs, which is a good reminder to always be flexible in education. To better organize my classes, I post any projects, assignments, Powerpoints and helpful materials online so that students can access them at school and at any time. This is helpful for the English language learners in my class because they can access the material outside of class. I also provide extra time in class to go over assignments with them. To give students more access to the class materials, I rallied to have the graphic design and video production software that we use to be installed in the computer lab and on the library’s computers so that students can work on projects outside of class.
An example of my efforts can be seen when my Junior High Visual Arts class stepped into the video production unit. After students learned and practiced the basics of cinematography and video editing I then gave them an assessment called the Music Video Project. As earlier stated, I posted the assignment’s instructions and Grading Rubric online so that students could access it outside of class. This proved to be very helpful for 4 students who had early dismissals for sports and missed a number of classes in this unit. They were able to come to class prepared and ready to catch up on what they missed. These students had an excellent idea for a western themed music video that they wanted to create, but needed extra time to make it happen. To meet this need, I created an equipment check-out system so that students can take the school’s cameras to film at home. This Equipment Checkout Agreement keeps students and families accountable to protecting the school’s property while also providing the opportunity to continue the learning process outside of school.
To support students’ access to content material, I also make myself available during most lunches and after school for students to catch up on class work. Since these 4 students did not want to fall too behind, I was able to work with them during lunch for an entire week to instruct them through the editing process since they had missed important lessons. The students put a great deal of time and effort into completing this project and it shows in the finished product. Their western themed music video (as seen below) shows excellent planning, cinematography and video editing as they did indeed reach the learning targets.
H3 – Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning.
How do I honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning?
I place a great emphasis on the positive impact that our school community has on student learning. This is seen in my planning, instruction, and in my relationships with students, families, teachers, and administration. My teaching also focuses on how students need to contribute to the learning community. I do this through instruction and assignments that empower students to use their gifts and talents to impact our school. To honor the classroom and school community as a milieu for learning, I provide space for collaboration in and outside of the classroom. Inside the the visual art classes that I teach, I allow space for student collaboration by consistently providing space for group discussions and projects so that students can learn how to effectively work and communicate with each other.
It is not only important for students to work together in each diverse classroom community, but it is also important for different classes to work together. An example of this is when I went on an art graffiti field trip with my mentor teacher’s Art Dimensions class. I filmed the students spray-painting a community board while my mentor teacher helped to direct students. The students were able to contribute their unique perspectives and create positive messages of art in this park. The trip ended with supportive parents bringing cinnamon rolls for everyone to eat, while we all enjoyed the finished artwork. The collaboration continued as I taught a high level student in my video production class how to edit the footage from the day. The student’s finished work was a wonderful contribution to the learning community as the art teacher was then able to show it to students and families. The video can be viewed below and displays the contribution of students, parents and teachers. This was an event that opened the door to connect two very different classrooms and teachers, and gave students the opportunity to explore their gifts together.
This art event brought together the surrounding community and gave an open invitation for families, students, and teachers to be a part of this experience. The school that I teach at contains a tight-knit community of students, teachers, administration and families, where everyone is expected to be involved. In my Junior High Yearbook class, I used the overall assignment to create a yearbook as a catalyst for student contribution to learning. Below are 4 pages from our finished yearbook, which are excellent contributions to the learning community because it allows the junior high class to reflect on their progress throughout the year. In the yearbook creation process, I learned that students will be even more actively involved in assignments if they are interested in the subject. For this reason, my mentor teacher and I spent extra time getting to know our students, their interests, and passions. We were then able to assign students pages and subjects that they really enjoyed which is evident in the finished product.
Student Council and Junior High Yearbook:
7th and 8th Grade Science:
Band and Choir:
H4 – Honor family/community involvement in the learning process.
How do I honor family/community involvement in the learning process?
I think that honoring family and community involvement first starts with communication. I have already learned that there are some outspoken opinions that I will hear no matter what. However, this is not usually the case. Most parents do not know how to initiate communication into their children’s’ world at school beyond asking, “How was school today?” I think that this barrier can be broken by teachers stepping out and involving parents in their classroom whenever possible. I do this by taking extra time and effort to send emails to families, updating them on what is going on in class and inviting them to be a part of their child’s learning.
To encourage families to be involved in their children’s’ learning, my school has asked that all teachers post their daily lesson plans on a teaching tool called RenWeb. This has proved to be quite effective because parents are continuously checking in with what is happening in class, and it enables them to be a part of the learning process when students leave school. We also post grades and comments each semester in Renweb for families to view. 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. There are “canned comments” that teachers can use and we are not required to write our own, and so they 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 component (below is a screenshot from the comments for my Junior High Yearbook class).
Parent-Teacher conferences are also an important time to honor the family and community involvement in the students’ learning. Our school stretches this time over three days where the teachers camp out at tables and parents can simply walk up to whoever is open. It is exciting to show parents the work that the students have been doing in class and get them excited about their student’s progress. I am also able to talk to parents about any learning challenges that their child might be having or that I could foresee occurring in the future. I also use this time to discuss any behavioral issues and see if parents resound with the same situations existing at home. Either way, I think it is still important to softly explain my experiences with their child and hopefully we can work together to encourage the student to reach his or her full potential. Throughout my internship, I have learned that a humble and soft heart is going to open a lot more doors into the students’ lives. That is the heart I want to have in and outside of the classroom.
H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society.
How do I honor student potential for roles in the greater society?
In my visual art classes, I encourage students to explore their unique gifts and passions. It is important for students to think about who they want to be right now, and also who they want to be in the future. I use my visual art classes to encourage students to explore their gifts and interests as they consider their role in greater society. My instruction causes students to ask questions about their actions in their daily lives and then evaluate how those actions continue to create their worldview. I believe that it is not only important for students to grow in knowledge and skills, but to also become young people of character who are contributing to the greater society. This concept was supported in a design project that my high school students completed in a class called “Technology Information Literacy” where I assigned them the task of creating a personal business.
The first project was called Your Personal Business: Publisher where students created a brand identity for their business while learning how to use Microsoft Publisher. The students were asked to think about what the overall goal and purpose was of their business. Below is an example of Student C’s finished brand identity for her chocolate shop. This example shows how students had to choose a color scheme that would represent their theme and feel, a mission, logo, and a business card.
In the second project called Your Personal Business: Powerpoint, student’s learned new skills in Powerpoint while also getting the opportunity to practice public speaking. A main focus in my teaching is staying relevant with anything that will provoke an interest in learning, so I decided to focus the presentation time around a reality show that some of my students watch called “Shark Tank”. Following the setup of this show, the students each got the chance to pitch their business to the shark tank investors. Below is a video of Student C’s presentation, where she is professionally dressed, well prepared with cue cards, and has designed an organized Powerpoint presentation.
The final portion of this project was called Your Personal Business: Excel where students had received funding from the “Shark Tank” investors, but needed to create a finance plan in Excel to show how they would use the investment. Once again, I used the students’ interests and passions to teach them how to create spreadsheets and formulas in Microsoft Excel. Student C’s spreadsheet (seen below) shows how she had to research real life prices which helped students begin to see what the business world looks like.
Through this project, students applied their creativity, gifts, and passions to create a brand identity for their personal business. In a safe environment, they were able to implement their own ideas and perspectives. Throughout this project, I consistently asked students to think about what they want their roles to be in society. This caused a number of students to think about goals for the future which opened up to conversations about how they can then reach those goals. To honor students’ potential for future roles in society, I teach them real life skills that are relevant to their lives and I challenge them to pursue their gifts, passions and interests now.