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.

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?