The Teacher I Hope To Become

I hope to become a teacher that has ongoing relationships with my students. A teacher that truly knows his or her students can have a powerful impact on their lives. I want to make sure that I know my students well enough to assess their learning. Teachers can easily fall into the habit of teaching to their own personal style instead of meeting the student’s individual learning needs. I want to purposefully avoid the habit by always turning my focus onto the students. This type of focus comes from a well-developed relationship between teacher and student.

To become an effective teacher, I also want to make sure that I am an effective learner. Since I will be teaching technology classes, I want to make sure that I am always looking for opportunities to learn. It can be very frustrating to try to keep up with a world of constantly changing technology. However, I want to see that as a positive resource rather than another thing to put on my list of things to do.

I hope to be a teacher that is able to collaborate and learn from my community. This type of teacher is always being sharpened by the wisdom of others. I never want to be so stuck in a pattern where I am unwilling to change, and I believe that collaboration with others also creates accountability. As a teacher, I hope to surround myself with mentors who will keep me accountable to the high expectations that I am working to hold myself to.

As a developing teacher, I want to effectively apply the idea of “scaffolding” that we have learned in class at SPU. My hope is that students can truly understand and digest what they are learning. I believe that incorporating the well thought out layers of scaffolding into my teaching will influence the impact it can have on the student’s learning. The teacher that I hope to become puts the students first and foremost, and I am constantly checking my focus to make that happen.

Identifying and Instructing Visual Arts Academic Language

                 In the article, “Cognitive Content Engagement In Content-Based Language Teaching”, Kong and Hoare (2011) compare classrooms in China that incorporated academic language successfully and unsuccessfully. The studies showed students were able to process information on a deeper level when academic language was applied. However, this outcome was incumbent upon the teaching of academic language. When students engaged in academic discussions, teachers saw that there was greater cognitive understanding that made, “…learning truly meaningful to them” (Kong & Hoare, 2011, p. 311). This shows that teachers must focus on teaching academic language as well as the inherent knowledge of communication. Kong and Hoare (2011) write, “They then need to develop content objectives that entail the understanding of concepts and relationships between concepts, and related language objectives, to support students’ language development” (p. 323).

                 Galguera (2011) argues that academia needs to stop categorizing English Language Learners (ELL’s) into one homogenous group. Instead, teachers should consider how best to teach academic language to promote learning. He suggests that “Participant Structures” allow teachers to empathize with their students. Galguera (2011) writes, “I propose that we concentrate our efforts in preparing teachers to consider the functions language plays in an academic setting” (p.86). By employing students’ personal vernacular and social communication, teachers form a bridge toward teaching academic language. Galgera (2011) writes that the goal of academic language is to “…describe complexity, higher-order thinking, abstractions, as well as using figurative expressions…” (p. 90). Here, we find a complex definition of academic language as a deeper level of cognition.

                 In the article, “Transmediation in the Language Arts Classroom”, McCormick (2011) discusses how “transmediation” can help students engage in analytical understanding, creating pathways to academic language. McCormick (2011) writes, “Through questions and direct comments, teachers encourage abstract association and logical reasoning” (p. 580). By involving students in transmediation activities, teachers present the opportunity to produce new meaning in a student’s vocabulary. The article placed emphasis on art education expanding student cognition through transmediation. McCormick (2011) argues that the arts can be used as a powerful tool to understand academic language.

                 Similarly, Mary Ann Saurino’s (2004) article, “We could do that! Improving Literacy Skills Through Arts-Based Interdisciplinary Teaching”, discusses the impact that art education has on the literacy of ELL’s. This idea was put into action by developing lessons organized around the question, “What is art?” (Saurino, 2004, p. 35). Through these hands-on classroom activities, she found that students developed a deeper understanding of language by expressing it through art. Saurino (2004) writes, “The students wrote and re-wrote descriptions of their antics, using both English and their native languages to negotiate, clarify, and extend their work as both artists and writers” (p. 36). This example of art being used to develop language literacy shows that interactive art activities can be used to bridge the gap between students and their understanding of academic language.

                 In my visual arts classes, I will use art as a communicative connection to academic language as well as ensuring student comprehension. I agree with the McCormick (2011) and Saurino (2004) approaches of using art as a means of making connections to understand academic language introduced in the classroom. For example, in my media classes I will teach students perspective by allowing them to see how different camera angles changes their point of view. For students to further understand the elements of “perspective” I can ask them to look at a painting right side up and then upside down while answering the question, “How does this change your interpretation of the painting?” Through this exercise, students will be able to develop an understanding of the different contexts of “perspective” and be able to practice having their own perspective.

                 In addition, I will use specific strategies involving visual arts language. In “Teach Like A Champion”, Doug Lemov (2010) explains a strategy I will employ: the technique of  “compare, combine, and contrast” (p. 274). This will allow students to see the difference and similarities between words to understand the vocabulary itself. I plan on teaching students how to ask rigorous questions, utilizing “text-to text, text-to-world and text-to-self” (Lemov, 2010, p. 296). Through these activities, students will be able to compare visual arts language with their current vocabulary. To create a deeper understanding of the visual arts language, I will “make connections” with student’s worldviews and personal lives (Lemov, 2010, p 303).  In conclusion, the resources reviewed have given me a clearer perspective on the importance and methodology of effectively teaching the appropriate academic language in my Visual Arts classroom.

References

Galguera, T. (2011). Participant structures as professional learning tasks and the                  development of pedagogical language knowledge among preservice                         teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly. 85-106.

Kong, S. & Hoare, P. (2011). Cognitive content engagement in content-based                       language teaching. Language Teaching Research. 15(3), 307-324.

Lemov, D. (2010). Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that put students on the               path to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McCormick, J. (2011). Transmediation in the language arts classroom: creating                     contexts for analysis and ambiguity. Journal of Adolescent and Adult                         Literacy. 54(8), 579-587.

Saurino, M. (2004). We could do that! Improving literacy skills through arts-based                 interdisciplinary teaching. Voices From the Middle. 11(4), 33-36.

The Inner Game of Teaching

This chapter focuses on a teacher’s “inner and outer world” and this impacts the teacher’s behavior as well as student-teacher relationships (Marzano & Marzano 2010, p. 345).  The authors seem to focus on control of emotion and thoughts, because it is that emotion that drives behavior. I agree with Marzano and Marzano (2010) when they propose that the “basic operating principals” will greatly influence a teachers approach to their position (p. 348). If a teacher believes that students are inherently prone to misbehavior, then this will become evident in their relationship with the students. From my experience, students quickly see this type of teacher as a disciplinarian rather than someone who wants to help them. On the other hand, when a teacher approaches students believing that they can reach high standards and expectations then this once again becomes clear in their positive relationship.

Marzano and Marzano’s (2010) breakdown of interpreting a “presenting event” seemed at first obvious, and I assumed that this should be second nature. However, the more that I sat with the passage, the more that I realized that these questions are not always the first thing that comes to my mind. In my first year of teaching when I found interruptions in the classroom, I at times asked myself other questions. What would the other teachers do? What does the student need? What would the student’s parents want my reaction to be? Although these are all good questions, most of them are based in the opinions of others. These opinions could be subjective or situational and not always the best query for what I needed. Marzano and Marzano (2010) suggest asking the following questions: “1. What is it? 2. Is it positive or negative? 3. How important is it? 4 How do I feel about it?” (p. 350).  The questions are simply yet powerful. This was a light bulb moment for me, as a remembered countless times where I had to sift through a long list of questions in my mind and quickly come up with a good reaction to student behavior. I can now have this short list that I consistently refer back to until it becomes second nature.

For a teacher to succeed in the inner game of teaching, Marzano and Marzano (2010) focus on the teacher being perceptive of their goals and interpretation of classroom events. Teachers need to constantly be thinking ahead of possible outcomes and looking for avenues to reach their goals. This practice comes from a teacher’s ability to think on their feet and a readiness for whatever might come their way. After reading through the elements of introspection, it is clear that this running commentary of important questions takes practice. I know that many people already have this gift of simultaneously perceiving, thinking and decision-making. At the same time, I wonder is this skill something that can also be developed?

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.