Start at the Beginning

I created this website as a way to serve as a resource to those who are interested in elementary education and child development. This will also serve as a journal of my own journey as I become an elementary teacher in California. Journaling provides an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. I firmly believe that education is a lifelong journey for educators, we may reach markers (certifications, degrees, etc.) but to be excellent educators we never stop learning, growing and developing as professionals.

I believe that every student is different and as teachers, we must strive to reach out to students at their personal learning level through our lessons. To discover each student’s personal learning level I would conduct assessment activities at the beginning of the year. The results would inform my instructional design choices for that student. The goal is for a student have lessons that are challenging without being frustrating. I believe that another way to figure out the needs of our students is to help them discover their learning style. As a teacher, I will strive to create lessons that appeal to the whole class by including activities geared toward each of the three learning styles.

I hope my blog may inspire other students who are working towards a California multiple subject credential, elementary teachers, homeschool instructors, and parents. Together we can inspire the next generation to a love of learning and encourage them to become lifelong learners.

As a way to boost my blogging habit which got a slow start, I will be posting content that I write for my Credential program, Multiple Subject in California, and my Master’s program, Best Practices in Education.

 

References

Steever, S. (2015). Personal Education Plan (PEP) Books. In Best Practices for Elementary What Award-Winning Teachers Do(2015 ed.). New York, NY: First Skyhourse Publishing.

Future student teachers: get on all your nearby substitute lists

There is a lot of paperwork that goes into student teaching.  I am going to make a fairly big suggestion for anyone looking at starting student teaching in the next six months, ready? Get on the substitute teaching list for all the districts that you live nearby. Do it now that way when the time comes to get your placements set up you have done a huge amount of the needed paperwork already. The district has already vetted you and accepted you to work in their district. I did this with my first placement’s district (in my hometown where I regularly took substitute jobs) which made starting there a breeze. I did not do this with my second placement which is a town away. I had figured, why get on the substitute list for another school district when the one in my hometown keeps me plenty busy? The answer is…to make student teaching easier, much, much easier.

Added bonus: many districts consider substitute’s internal candidates when they apply for teaching positions and grant them preferential treatment in the hiring process.

 

Differentiation in Action

One way I have differentiated content was using the website NewsELA to generate multiple different levels of an article for the class to read. Students met with their reading leveled groups to read the article together. Then we shared out as a class to create a graphic organizer about the topic that everyone copied into their journal. We started the discussion having the lowest reading level share out since their article was the most generalized. I moved up in order to the highest reading level group. As each group shared out more information was added to our graphic organizer. What is really great about using these articles is that all the students can participate at a level that is comfortable for them. The students got much more involved than when we read a single article, whole class. I think that the smaller groups bolster more voices to share out and that translated into more voices during the whole group. I would use this method again if I was working in a classroom that had such a wide range of reading levels. I felt that the students were able to access the thematic content presented in the articles and were more confident reading articles at their own challenging, but not overwhelming,  level than articles below (lost interest) or above (confused) their reading levels.  I loved how the higher readers were able to dig deeper and share that new knowledge with their lower reading level peers using peer to peer communication.

However, my favorite moment was probably when a whole group of my middle readers was super confused about this gene-editing article we read and two students from the lower reading group understood not only what they were confused about but also were able to explain it using the simplified terms from their article. It turned into this whole peer to peer teaching moment, it was kinda like watching a bunch of Christmas lights turn on all at once.

Professional Dispositions

Teacher’s Professional Dispositions have a big effect on student learning. When teacher’s model flexibility in situations it teaches students to embrace flexibility. When we are cooperative with other teachers and staff we are showing the students the value of teamwork. When we collect data through assessments our instruction can be tailored to our student’s needs. Each and every aspect professional dispositions is something that affects our students, it is both a best practice and an opportunity to teach them skills that they will use throughout their academic journey and life beyond. Highly effective teachers at my school demonstrate flexibility, consistency and are cooperative. They listen to others and are responsive to feedback. They are proactive, not reactive.

Decision Made

I took a real hard look at the syllabus and decided that student teaching is already going to be fairly demanding without another course in the mix. So I dropped MAT 674, the Masters level class on Differentiation. I feel confident that I am making the right decision.

Decisions…

So my first student teaching position starts Monday. I am currently enrolled in my last regular course (MAT 674) for my Master’s Degree  (student teaching, student teaching seminars and Master’s Capstone not included as they are all very individualized) which also starts on Monday. Originally, I thought that my student teaching seminar was going to bump my MAT 674 course off my schedule. However, my actual student teaching seminar does not start until February. So now I am trying to decide if I want to keep the course and juggle my first month of student teaching at the same time or if I should re-schedule the course after my student teaching is done. I am torn. I think ultimately all I can do is wait until Sunday night when the Blackboard for the course opens up and check out the assignments. I do not think that I can really make a clear decision without more information, but it is weighing on my mind.

Student Teaching Seminars Scheduled

Since I live so far from a physical campus (and my student teaching position is about a block from my house) I put in a formal request for an exemption to allow me to take the student teaching seminars online instead of in person. The request was conditionally approved over the holiday break but the notification did not explain what “conditionally” actually meant. Later, I found out it depended on whether there would be an online course available. Today, I was notified that I was (finally) enrolled in my student teaching seminar courses. I checked, they are online and that means that I do not have to commute to a University campus for the seminars. Woohoo!

Professional Development Spotlight: Torsch

Torsch (Today’s One Room School House) is a paid site (~$7-17 per month) aimed at professional development. The idea is that you record yourself during a lesson, upload it from your computer or a number of online cloud services and send it to a mentor, coach, admin, etc. There is automatic transcription service of the videos, places to upload supporting documents like lesson plans or sample work, etc. The individual who receives is able to view all the materials and collaborate with you (without being in the same room) to provide assessment, feedback, coaching logs, live video conference or chat, create video libraries, tag video timeline with keywords linking to rubrics, frameworks, etc. While this may not be for everyone, it is a really fabulous tool for those working with coaches who are farther away.