- *Reflection: You will fail and succeed. Master teachers. Veteran teachers. Novice teachers. We all have fails. You are innovating and creating – often from scratch – ways to reach and teach children every day. This is an enormously hard and challenging task. Every day when you show up, demonstrate vulnerability and risk taking, you are modeling the methods of success for children. You will have fails, and then you will reflect on that, and then you will try again a different way, and attain successes. *Tip: As you reflect regularly on your teaching craft, consider surveying the customers! Use SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, exit slips, etc., to gather student feedback and input. ~ “There is no innovation and creativity without failure” ~ Brené Brown
“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” ~ Aristotle
- *Reflection: What do Master Teachers have to say about it? Local Teachers of the Year all have similar philosophies: They help students believe in themselves; … know the importance of being flexible and adapting; they view themselves as students eager to continue their professional growth and discover ideas. Great teachers … “wear many hats, want to hear students’ voices and believe those voices have value, balance Tradition with Innovation, ‘sell it’, and are ‘real’ with students.” What Master Teacher habits and High-Leverage practices will you develop?
“Once she knows how to read there’s only one thing you can teach her to believe in and that is herself.” ~ Virginia Woolf
- *Reflection: Find a Mentor. You have the benefit of recent educational training in current teaching practices and philosophy. Veteran teachers have the wisdom of experience with children, tried and true methods for connecting with and reaching them; and know that until you reach them, you cannot teach them. You will benefit greatly from finding such a mentor at your school. Look for the teacher who practices open door policy with students during recess and lunch (they always have kids in their room), who offers after school help, who is involved with school-wide events and projects, and who practices self-reflection and attends Professional Developments to stay on top of new ideas and research. This is the teacher who is truly invested in students.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is noblest; Second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is bitterest.” ~ Confucius
- *Reflection: A word on your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. I am hearing more frequently from Administrators and HR personnel: they are doing an online media search on employment candidates. That means those fun photos from that Cabo party weekend, or the angry rant you posted about a co-worker could disqualify you before you even get your foot in the door. Check your privacy settings, including the tagging trail from friends’ sites, and look over your own messaging/posting trail. On the plus side, begin building an online professional profile: follow professional organizations and educational blogs, post and comment in professional forums, add links and connections that show your active involvement in professional development and keeping current with educational trends. That may be the point that tips in your favor!
- *Reflection: This is harder than I thought. By now you have glimpsed some of the joys, and also some of the challenges in the teaching profession. We teach because we want to inspire children. It can be hard when we do not see the fruits of our labors right away, or maybe ever with some kids. But you never know what blooms will emerge, maybe years later, from the seeds you plant today, so take heart! You are doing amazing and profound work with children, who may carry your influences places you never dreamed of. You never know how far your influence to inspire may reach!
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” ~ Malala Yousafzai
- *Reflection: Where do I start?? Constructing lessons can feel intimidating to new teachers. One method is to build it backwards; starting with, “What is the learning goal/objective I want my students to know at the end of this lesson or unit?” Don’t forget your Essential Question! After you have determined this, ask yourself:
- What basic knowledge and skills do my students need to complete this activity?
- What knowledge base do my student have?
- To what extend is the process of learning the basic knowledge likely to distract from my students’ ability to learn the skills and knowledge which is the goal of the activity.
- To what extent can students with greater skills/knowledge support those with a gap in their skills/knowledge during this activity?
- What activities can/must be done prior to the desired activity to enable my students to successfully complete and benefit from the activity I am considering?
- Is it possible to adjust this activity to better fit my students’ skill/knowledge set?
Another strategy is Curriculum Mapping for longer range cross-curricular planning. This can be done by individual classroom or department or school-wide.
- *Reflection: What about motivation (part 2)? Drive and motivation have been studied extensively since the 1970s and the jury is in. When considering how to best motivate your students in learning, it is important to understand innate human drive and how it informs motivation and reward:
- Autonomy: having a degree of control over what needs to happen and how it can be done
- Competence: feeling that one has the ability to be successful in doing it
- Relatedness: doing the activity helps them feel more connected to others, and feel cared about by people whom they respect
- Relevance/Purpose: the work must be seen by students as interesting and valuable to them, and useful to their present lives and/or hopes and dreams for the future
What types of motivation supports these basic drives?
- Intrinsic vs Extrinsic
- Motivation vs Rewards
What does each look like and when is each best used to optimize student motivation for learning? Do you notice an over-reliance on extrinsic reward systems, both tangible (stickers, treats, etc.) and non-tangible (praise, extra privileges, etc.), to motivate students? It is true, these often work for immediate and short term desired results, but often at the cost of students developing intrinsic motivation, which is needed for long-term success and mastery. Extrinsic rewards also tend to undermine creative and higher order thinking.
*Point to ponder: Children are innately curious and self-directed; how can you harness these attributes to turn work into play?
*Tip: Extrinsic rewards can turn play into work, intrinsic rewards can turn work into play. Which would you rather?
“Rewards and punishment is the lowest form of education.” ~ Zhuangzi
- *Reflection: The Right Question… to promote behavior change. As teachers, we often fall back on behaviors of habit. Sometimes this is seen in the way we talk with students when they are not behaving in ways we want. We ask closed and judgmental questions that do not elicit responses that help the student change their behavior for the better. Instead, consider how to frame a series of questions that help students understand their own motivations so they can make better intentional choices. Break it down and walk through the event with the student: “what happened… then what happened… then what happened?” Repeat the responses to the student for clarity. This micro-walk through the events often uncovers the underlying reasons and shows them to the student. Or the Five Whys method: When a student gives you a reason for their behavior ask “why” five times until they have peeled back the surface reasons to their underlying motivation.
- *Reflection: Meet the parents… where they are. Some of your challenging students come from challenging circumstances. As you get to know them, seek ways to meet their parents where they are. Do not let language barriers be barriers to communicating about the needs of the child, understand that different cultures have different ways: from attitudes about home/school boundaries to communication. Recognize the stresses on families living in poverty, when every day is survival mode. Learn about these in order to better meet the parents where they are. Remember your number one goal with parents: to facilitate communication so they can support their child, you, and the school. Meet them where they are. *Tip: Avoid using children as translators for non-English speaking parents.
“Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer–into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.” ~ Nancy Astor
- *Reflection: What sticks? Learning new information and concepts in isolation may be an exercise in futility. In order for students to make a permanent space in their memory and understanding, they need a concrete ‘anchor’ to attach the new information to. How will you facilitate students’ making connections between new and existing knowledge? How do you scaffold so they can build these bridges of meaning and construct new knowledge that will be anchored in memory and not ‘dumped’ after the test (burned in the brain)? Does metacognitive reflection help?
*Tip: In your lesson plan, add a few questions that will encourage students’ self-reflection: Why did we do this? What did you learn? How do you think you will use this tomorrow? Questions like these help students absorb the information and make the experience stick.
*Teaching for Meaning: Evidenced based practices • Problems that involve multiple solutions • Hands-on activities • Real-world problems • Project-based learning • Learning metacognitive skills • Service learning
“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”
― John Dewey, Democracy and Education
- *Reflection: Are you teaching information or facilitating learning? As we move toward new ideas and ideologies in education for the 21st century, we are re-evaluating priorities. At the top of the list is teaching kids how to learn, not just imparting information. In that regard, we are facilitators for students’ learning how to construct their own knowledge through guided discovery. This is very exciting! How do you facilitate in the classroom to support your students’ driving their own discovery and learning? How do you support their productive struggle and help them develop a growth mindset; and teach them to be prepared to be wrong??
“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
- *Reflection: Can you go deeper? The questions you ask have a purpose; different types and levels of questions are designed to promote specific learning goals. When and why do you ask closed questions? Open-ended questions? Be intentional with your questions.*Tip: Facilitate higher level learning through sentence stems. *Points to Ponder: What if you teach students how to formulate their own questions to drive their learning??
“The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.” ~ Alice Wellington Rollins
- *Reflection: Are you including a Fun Factor? Are you nurturing the life-long learner developing within your students? Will they leave your class believing that learning can be fun and rewarding in and of itself?! The fun factor can also help students retain material and reduce anxiety. “Fun is the genetic reward for learning.” ~ William GlassnerPoints to Ponder… Go Pro or Bust. As teachers, we encourage and inspire students in finding their passions, exploring their interests, and developing their skills. Yet, often times the messaging in education is that the value of a skill or interest is measured by its probability of future return in the form of employment or monetary gain. Consider a student who is passionate about drawing, or playing an instrument or a sport; but what if their passion does not translate into a viable career or maybe they just don’t have the talent or skill level to make a living doing it? Should they stop? Are career path pursuits the only valuable endeavors? Can we expand the idea to include learning for a holistic balance of pursuits, for an enriched life with meaning and joy, as well as developing viable career and employment skills? “The job of an educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves.” ~ Joseph Campbell
- *Reflection: How are you nurturing creativity? Expression through the Arts is a fundamental part of our humanity, and in fact informs invention and creation across academic spheres. Are your students exercising their creativity muscles across disciplines and content areas? ~ “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” ~ Albert Einstein
“Life is not linear it is organic, we create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson
- *Reflection: The Parents are coming! As parent conferences approach, initiate a discussion with your Cooperating or Mentor teacher about parent communication. This is a time to give parents feedback concerning their child. While areas of challenge and improvement are discussed, it is equally important to share areas of strength and positive feedback about children. Remember that parents know their child best and are a good resource – ask them questions about their child! Refrain from using ‘ed. speak’, keep in mind some parents may harbor trauma memories from their own school years and are primed for a negative experience. How can you help them feel welcomed and at ease? Also, important to note: consider these conferences in a confidential nature. You share only information about their child with parents.
*Tip: Sit on the same side of the table as the parent. *Tip: Invite the student to participate and share their own work, successes, and ideas for resolving any issues! *Tip: This is a good opportunity to review your behavior plan with parents and students.
- *Reflection: What are your technology boundaries? While there are many wonderful and useful tech tools that enhance teaching, the boundary lines can get blurred in this brave new world of media technology. Carefully consider how you will use technology in the classroom to expand learning and engage students, while creating appropriate boundaries. *Tip: Never ‘friend’ students or post about them on your personal social media.
- *Reflection: What about motivation (part 1)? How can you motivate the reluctant learner? And how can you tap into a student’s intrinsic motivation? Are you employing Motivation 3.0 strategies?
*Tip: Occasionally let it go off-topic! In the words of Jonathan Kozol from Letters to a Young Teacher (paraphrased): “As a child is traveling down the trail of tangent… through the blissful kingdom of irrelevance… sometimes, at the end there’s a hidden treasure where the child tells us something we never knew about him up to now. Good teachers use that piece of hidden treasure as a key to unlock motivation and bring the child back into the classroom work that must be done… but now with a sense of purpose.”
“… it has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is ever laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up in the world of thought–that is to be educated.” ~ Edith Hamilton, American translator, classical scholar, writer
Ideally, as you transition the class back to your Cooperating teacher, you should schedule some time the last two weeks of your program to observe in other classrooms at your school site. I suggest seeking out classrooms that have excellent reputations, and also some that do not. This offers a good compare and contrast of strategies and environments that work well, and those that do not.
“Observing and discussing teaching is an important element to the development of teaching expertise.” ~ Robert Marzano