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Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Honest Reflection on the Practice

A few weeks ago I had my first Master Educator evaluation. It went pretty well overall. There were a few things that I got marked down on, but for the most part I was fairly happy with my scores. In preparation for my first administrative evaluation (which will be followed by a conference where I will spend a good amount of time presenting evidence that I'm a decent teacher according to IMPACT), I decided to sit down and write a detailed reflection outlining where I was before I began at my new school, how I've grown in the past few months, and where I need to go. I wrote it in order to share with my administrator, and it felt good.

Too often, I feel like I'm trying to trick my evaluators into thinking I'm a good teacher. I think my students probably try to do the same with me. But I think true growth comes with complete, and sometimes harsh, honesty about who we are. So instead of trying to fool my administrators into thinking I'm something I'm not (which I think is what the entire public school system is trying to do with the public in a lot of ways), I'm just going to be completely honest about my faults. I suspect this will probably seriously affect my rating, and it might even diminish the amount of money I make next year, but if I really want to get better at this job, I can't play the game. I've got to be real. So I'm going to be real and see if my administrators can be real back and actually provide me with support that will allow me the opportunity to achieve real growth.

I've pasted my reflection below, mostly as a reference for myself in the future (to see if I've really grown a year from now), but also because being completely honest with everyone about who I am and what I'm lacking is truly liberating. So....here it goes...

Reflection on Teaching Experience at New DC School (NDCS)
First Advisory (August-October of 2009)
Management
Where I was
In my previous year (’08-’09) I was struggling to consistently use a Do Now activity, and rarely managed some form of closure or daily assessment. I spent my time between classes at the front of my room preparing for the next period. I developed positive relationships with students and maintained solid rapport with practically all of them. However, I almost never called home, and fell short of establishing rituals and routines at the beginning of the year by reviewing them over and over again. Overall, I’d say I was a mediocre classroom manager, my strength being in student relationships.
Where I am
At NDCS I’ve developed some more consistent routines when it comes to classroom management. I stand at the door between every period and monitor the hallway. I shake hands and greet every student as they enter the classroom. As they enter, I tell them what their Do Now is. I have a Do Now every day. I’ve come much closer to using some form of closure every day. I would say I’ve developed the habit to the degree that I probably manage to use it four out of five days in a week. These habits formed because I invested quite a bit more energy in establishing routines at the beginning of the year. I didn’t just read the syllabus and expect students to remember what I said, I reviewed the routines every day for the first few weeks and really tried to implement them. I’ve also attempted to contact every one of my students’ parents, having had success with about 75% of them.
Where I’d like to go
I still lack a consistent behavior management plan that can be used with every student. It would be useful to outline what consequences I would use with specific behaviors in students and stick to it consistently. I find myself so overwhelmed with this job that doing that seems almost impossible at this point. I also need to begin documenting outrageous behavior more regularly and reporting it to the dean with referrals. I find this process difficult because I feel the students I have reported have suffered no consequences, and I’ve received no feedback. It would also be useful to begin asking for parent conferences. I’m afraid I assume that I can’t get a hold of parents or that they would be unwilling to come talk to me and administrators, or that it would be too difficult to round up their other teachers to have an effective conference. However, this individual attention to some of my students’ needs may have significant benefits I’ve not yet realized.
Data
Where I was
Prior to coming to NDCS, I’d always believed that data was important to have, but never really made an effort to gather data on my students that I could use in a useful manner more than a few times. The times I did gather data and use it, it was usually to improve short-term comprehension and not support long-term growth. I did not write or implement any SMART goals.
Where I am
At NDCS, I’ve heard the emphasis on data, and I agree with it. However, I can’t honestly say that I’ve grown to any great degree in this area. Currently, the only data I’ve been keeping track of has been my grade book and my attendance. I can’t honestly say that I’ve been acting on it to any degree that would drastically enhance student achievement. I can say that I’ve begun to think it about it more, but there’s still a long way to go. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating charts that identify which of my students have met objectives, but I haven’t been able to stick to them outside of keeping up with my students completion rates on their homework.
Where I’d like to go
I feel I have a long way to go in terms of using data to inform my practice. The greatest roadblocks I feel that I currently face include obstacles in terms of retrieving DC BAS data, my inability to properly interpret DC BAS data, my lack of understanding about how DC BAS data can be used in my class, a lack of clear focus from both my grade level and my department about where I want my students to end up (no SMART goals), and a lack of planning time with colleagues to interact with and learn about how to use data. I also believe that as I continue to learn the ropes of working here, I will have more time to think about these things. The often feel the current workload and expectations prohibit me from thinking about data in a meaningful way.
Instruction/Planning
Where I was
Prior to coming to NDCS, I believed in objectives-based teaching and strived to implement it, but I always felt as if I was working alone. Nobody else on my staff really talked about objectives-based lesson planning, and I ended up creating a lot of things from scratch. UBD was not something I’d been introduced to. As a result, I was reinventing the wheel in terms of lesson and unit design. I often created objectives, but they weren’t tied to standards, and they were often let go of as soon as I thought of an interesting activity. I felt I was often forcing my objectives into the activities.
Where I am
At NDCS I feel I’ve really made a lot of progress in terms of objectives-based lesson planning. It took about a month, but I really feel that my lessons are now entirely based on my objectives, I communicate them clearly to my students, and I assess them on the objectives each day. I’ve learned to break down standards into objectives, and use them to create activities that build on one another. I’ve learned to use accountable talk as an instructional strategy. I ask my students to talk to one another on a daily basis.
Where I’d like to go
I feel I could still use some work in writing objectives that go toward my standard. I wonder how many of my objectives should use Bloom’s HOT terms (judge, evaluate, compare, synthesize) and how many should use MOT or LOT terms. I also constantly struggle with working with the standards. I’m always asking myself what the real purpose of standards is. Some standards don’t seem to need breaking down, and others seem to need significant breaking down. How do I differentiate between broad concepts and more specific standards? Does it matter? The directions in the standards say that teachers can use the standards as a base for instruction and introduce things they enjoy as long as the core of the class if focused on the standard. So does that mean I can teach about tank warfare in WWI even if it doesn’t seem to really go toward any standard? I also need to think more about providing students who answer my questions in class with higher-order question follow-ups and developing UBD templates and GRASPS PRIOR to beginning my units.
Assessment/Grading
Where I was
Prior to NDCS I had gotten to a point with at least one of my classes that I was doing pretty regular formative and solid summative assessment. I feel like I generally used that assessment to give students a grade they deserved. I let students redo work if they had at least made an effort at it, but did not allow students to turn late work in. I used enrichment to generate student interest in the content area and provide incentives for students to do things I wanted them to do.
Where I am
At NDCS I’ve had to adapt to what I feel has been assessment forced on me by my department. I have also had to adapt to a new curriculum and new courses. I feel my interim and midterm assessments have thus far done a pretty poor job of measuring student gains in my class. This is largely a result of attempted collaboration and lack of time to prepare for assessments. I often feel so pressured to create the perfect lessons that I let assessment creation fall by the wayside. However, I do feel that I’ve done a better job of small daily assessments. I generally have a pretty good sense of how many students are meeting my daily objectives. I am also relatively proud of the GRASPS I created on the Sepoy mutiny. However, I still have questions about how to create a rubric that measures standards that I don’t teach in class (as I've been asked to do this by my department head).
Where I’d like to go
I feel as though I need to find my own way in the classroom again. I would like to incorporate enrichment again as an incentive for my students to find things about the content area that they generally enjoy. I need to spend more time developing high-quality interims and GRASPS PRIOR to beginning a unit. This has not happened the way it should due to lack of time on our part. I believe we will be much better at this next semester.
Contribution to School
Where I was
At my previous school, I spent minimal time calling parents or working with the PTA. I did a moderate amount of work with students after school. I sponsored one club, and helped out with just about every activity I could after school. I chaperoned dances, helped out with sporting events (and went to most of the games), and helped with band and choral recitals. I was well-known throughout the school and well-respected for my devotion to the community.
Where I am
At NDCS I’ve attempted to contact every parent and spent significant amounts of time working with students after school. However, I’ve spent virtually no time helping with after school events; I’ve attended no sports games; and I’ve served on no committees. I believe the reason for this is the overwhelming amount of work I feel I have to do. I leave at six or seven o’clock on most days and feel so stressed out that the idea of helping with any of this other stuff doesn’t seem realistic.
Where I’d like to go
I would like to begin serving on committees at the school to try to improve the way we do things around here. I would also like to find time to attend community events and extra-curricular activities. My largest barrier to this at this moment is my lack of time. I feel this may be something that has to wait until I get more of a hold of things.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic information, and really helpful for a new teacher. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete