Reflecting On This Experience

This year has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. Throughout this internship experience, I learned what it means to be a teacher. I learned about challenges that I would have never foreseen and then learned how to overcome them. I think that the hardest part of this experience was trying to have a balanced and healthy life. To have this as a core part of a teacher’s life, I have realized that time and effort has to go into making sure that balance happens. I have seen a number of teachers burn out because of the nature of this position and I want to make sure that I don’t. The high-points of this year was seeing why teaching is such a rewarding experience. I have had the honor of watching young people grow in leaps and bounds. I have learned what it means to set high expectations and then be so incredibly excited when I watch my students reach for these standards.

I have learned how important it is for teachers to be surrounded by colleagues that push them to grow. My mentors and collaboration team have made a huge impact on me this year. They have given me wisdom and best practices that they have developed over the years. They have also been a well of encouragement that has really supported me throughout this process. I will continue to develop my best practices and classroom management because I will continue to learn. A main theme for this year was growth and I think that is something that I will continue to take with me as an educator.

Wrapping Up Video Production

This year is coming to a close and so is my high school Video Production class. The goal of these last couple of classes is for students to take what they have learned throughout the year and apply it to a final project. Yesterday’s lesson was for students will finish pre-production for their Final Video Projects and get ready to move into production. This last unit focuses on students reflecting on how they have grown in knowledge and skills of videography. The objective for this last unit is that students will use their knowledge and learned skills in cinematography and video editing to create a quality video of their choice.

In this lesson, I think that my short lesson was very helpful for students to understand the expectations that I have for their “Final Video Project”. This helped students realize the amount of work that I want them to put into this. They seem to be excited about this last project because they get to decide what it will be. As I reflect on this lesson, I now see that the “Verbal Check-In” that I used as my formative assessment needed to have a more concrete platform for grading. In the future, I should have a grading rubric that I fill out for each group as I engage in conversation about their progress.

I think that I did well in explaining appropriate expectations for students for this class period. However, I could have been better in my transitions between each section. My differentiated adjustments happened naturally because each student had different needs and that was evident in my conversations with the groups. I made adjustments as needed in each situation. Some of these adjustments were helping students with technical problems that continue to come up with our computers, and some were simply to better explain things to the students.

Students practiced their learned academic language during my “Check-In” and they were able to ask any clarifying questions. During my lesson, I included academic language that we have previously gone over so that students can continue the learning process. Student voice was shown in my conversations with each student since they were able to verbalize the learning targets and reflect on their progress in reaching the objectives. Student voice will also be evident in their “Final Video Project”. As students worked on this project, I could already see their own unique perspective, talents and creativity coming through in this process. Overall, I think that this is a good unit for students to reflect on everything that they have learned throughout this class and they can be proud of the progress that they have made.

Family Involvement in Junior High Drama

I believe that families and surrounding communities should not just know what it happening in their child’s classroom, but should also be involved in the learning process. An example of this can be seen in how I have set up my Junior High Drama class. I was given the opportunity to teach this notoriously difficult class in the middle of the year when the previous teacher dropped out. The reason that this class provides a challenge is because the end result needs to be a complete production with costumes, a set, and 20 energized junior high students with memorized lines. I first set off to involve families by keeping open communication through emails to update parents of the students progress. An example of this communication  can be seen in this first introductory Email where I explain expectations for the semester. On the top of the page is a response from Parent A that shows her excitement to my approach.

To maximize class time for rehearsal, I sent students home each week with  Line Memorization Contracts. Each contract had the number of lines that students needed to rehearse for their parents as well as a note from me for the families (the example is the last contract that families signed to show that all lines were completely memorized). Through these contracts, parents were able to be a part of the learning process as students rehearsed their memorized lines each week. Since this production is done on a budget, I also asked parents to come alongside me and help with costumes, props, and set construction. Everyone seemed genuinely excited to help and be a part of their child’s learning. The focus of this class is not to have a perfect production, but is instead on student growth and self confidence. I have had so many parents provide feedback on ways that they have seen their child grow throughout this class, which is always rewarding to hear. The plays that I choose are also uplifting and something that the surrounding community looks forward to experiencing and being enriched by. Throughout this experience it is evident that I honor family and community involvement by taking extra time and effort to establish constant communication with families while actively involved them in the learning process.

What Are My Professional Responsibilities?

I display my understanding of my professional responsibilities as a teacher not only in every day actions, but also in the careful planning and preparation that I take for each class period. I have taken extra time to meet with my Principal and mentors to make sure that I fully understand the expectations that my private school has for me as a visual arts teacher. These responsibilities also align with state standards, but the foundation is based on the Christian faith that my school’s mission was founded on. To bring these expectations into my teaching, I created my Classroom Management Plan and based it on what I believe as an educator. The first paragraph on page one shows that my philosophy of management stems from my understanding of the overall professional responsibilities that my private school has given me.

I have based my Classroom Rules on respect and give students high expectations because I believe in them to reach these goals (pg. 2). My Discipline and Consequences also align with my school’s standards by taking the students’ misbehavior and immediately finding a solution of growth (pg. 4). My Conclusion on the final page of my “Classroom Management Plan” does acknowledge that it is based on the professional responsibilities that my school holds me to as a teacher. However, I put a great amount of time and effort into also making sure that these plans also aligned with the overall state standards. I will continue to stay current with state standards and policies to base my classroom planning and instruction on this foundation. Since every teacher brings different perspectives and personalities to the educational field, it is important to make sure that I am combining my unique approach with my professional responsibilities to positively affect student learning.

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.

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.

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).