This Professional Development Plan is only the beginning of my reflections as a teacher. This document demonstrates how I have grown as a reflective teacher that is committed to professional and growth-centered practice. The strategies mentioned in this document are ideas that I will continue to use throughout my career as I continually develop and grow as a teacher.
Category Archives: P: Understanding of Teaching as a Profession
This week was tough due to the fact that I was not feeling well; I stocked my area with tissues and hand sanitizer and convinced myself it was time to make it through the week. The students, for the most part, were respectful of the fact that I wasn’t feeling well and were generally cooperative and willing to work. I feel like things went rather well this week as I continue to come to grips with the fact that it is now Spring and students aren’t exactly excited about sitting in the classroom while the sun is shining and the temperature rising.
As I continue to plan for classes I have been trying to be more aware of involving students in a meaningful way. This means less lecture and more activities! Coincidentally, the reading from the Wongs’ talked this week about increasing student learning. They covered several areas of interest, and after reading several of them I either felt convicted or comforted. Some of the things that I have been trying to do fall into place with what the Wongs are saying; on the other hand, I’m beginning to realize how much work it takes to do less work in the classroom. To put it in their words, “the effective teacher has the students spend time working and earning their own achievement and success” while “the person who does the work is the only one doing the learning.” That being said, the students should be putting in more work into the class session.
Another interesting (and vitally important) point made in this chapter involves students’ readiness to learn. A classroom procedure in place before I began my student teaching and one that I will take with me is this: you are expected to be prepared for class. It’s as simple as that. The text points out that “successful people prepare themselves daily for their work. That is why they are successful.” In this classroom, students are expected to be prepared with materials (including paper, writing utensil, and textbook) and homework. If a student comes to class and does not have their textbook, they are permitted to go to their locker and retrieve it, but they will be marked tardy. Students have learned through this policy that there are consequences for not being prepared to learn. Although the textbook is only one piece to preparation, it seems to have shown students that they need to be ready and on time. Of course, there are still plenty of times in which students do not have supplies, but they are told that they need to get them from their peers without interrupting class.
Overall, this chapter, in conjunction with this week, was helpful for me to see that it is okay to push students and expect a lot from them. I should set expectations and follow through with them. “Follow through” is my goal for this upcoming week (and the weeks to come.) In U.S. history we talked about the Cold War. I used this cartoon to illustrate how the different sides were “battling” against each other, and asked the students, “what good would arrows do in a battle when you have atomic bombs?” followed by “what do these arrows represent?” I got some good responses, but the overall theme was that the arrows represented threats—ineffective ones at that. While I’m not afraid of retaliation for using my “bombs” (detention, staying after class, etc.), I do need to hold students accountable for their actions. When I say I’m going to use a punishment, I should actually do it (as opposed to asking repeatedly.) Although this will be a challenge for me, it will be a really helpful attitude as I finish out the year!
 Wong, H. K., and Wong, R. The First Days of School (Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, 2004) 200
Acting as a professional is important in any position, but with the teacher position comes many responsibilities. It has been pointed out to me time and time again (and I have indeed seen for myself) that teachers play a multitude of roles besides someone who simply passes on bits of information to student minds. Teachers have an ethic and legal responsibility to ensure that students are not being neglected or abused; students should feel safe and respected within their school and teachers have the job of allowing that to happen. It is important that teachers understand the fact that they will do far more than teach a particular subject. The attached document attests to the fact that I understand the legal responsibilities that I have as a a teacher to report abuse.
I had a bit of a break this week again as Deb is working with the students on a research paper. They have had class time to work on it, and it has been a good chance for me to observe again, given the fact that I’ve been with these classes every day since I’ve started teaching. It gave me a chance to stop and really take a look at how this classroom works, what I can do to improve, and how I should be planning the remainder of the year. Of course student achievement is important to me, so reading from The First Days of School this week gave me more to think about as I begin to plan for the remainder of the year.
Some of the most valuable information that I will take from this reading came from page 31 in the text. There, the authors provide research on improving student achievement, and have given me something against which I can check my own work. One that I found most interesting was the reminder that objectives really are an important part of lessons, and students should be made aware of those objectives. Here at Seattle Lutheran, it is a department-wide practice to share with students one objective at the beginning of each class or lecture. I would even take this one step further to remind students again of the objective at the end and even during the middle of the lecture, in order to help them understand why they are learning the specific topic.
Another idea that I have begun to implement (and a reminder is always helpful!) is the idea that I should have a “wait time” between asking a question and expecting an answer from a student. Sometimes I rush through questions and do not allow much response time if students aren’t responding right away. I have been trying to get better at this; sometimes waiting 10 seconds for an answer may seem like 10 minutes, but it allows the student time to thoughtfully and carefully answer the question.
This week was slightly challenging for me in that I decided to try new things, and they did not go quite as planned. Of course, it is important to note that just because something doesn’t go well the first time that I will be doomed to repeat it! The situation is this: in the past (and in other classes) I feel like lectures for this class have relied heavily on PowerPoint presentations. I decided that it was time to change things up, and so I informed the 11th graders that they would be taking notes on their own. I walked them through what I expected and how things would work. They were told that I would be giving my lecture without the PowerPoint and that they should be taking notes accordingly. I informed them that I would be writing important ideas or terms on the whiteboard and I also provided them with a graphic organizer that they could potentially use to take notes. At the end of the lecture we went over the graphic organizer to help fill in the blanks (I asked students what they thought would go in each blank based on the lecture we just had and discussed it somewhat as a class.) The next day I did another lecture without a PowerPoint lecture and provided them with a rough outline. This seemed to help a bit more, but I think that it is something that these students need to work on, as they really struggled with taking notes on their own. I encouraged them to paraphrase certain definitions, but there were several students in each class that repeatedly asked me to repeat a definition more than once so that they could write it all down. One of my goals for the remainder of the year is to use activities in class (or possibly homework) that encourage them to paraphrase or summarize their knowledge.
This week was…interesting. I gave the first test that I’ve written so far. (The past few final assessments have been papers/projects.) I was discouraged by the lack of studying that they did and was especially disappointed by the fact that they were not finished with the test by the end of the period. I suppose that was just a mistake on my part in making it to long, but I feel that it was handled well enough when I told them that they could have time the next day to work on the essay portion alone. Giving this test was one of the first times thus far that I’ve really seen how accommodations work in the classroom. For the most part, the students with 504 plans are allowed 50% more time for their tests, which was easily arranged. However, this week I also saw how much some students struggle with things that I take for granted. For example, one student completely failed a portion of the test. He told me that he did not even remember taking it. I sat down with him after school and actually read the questions to him. I wasn’t giving hints, or coaching him in the right direction even. But somehow, in my reading the questions to him and modeling effective thinking strategies outloud, he was able to earn a B on the test. I was really proud of him, and he told me two things that I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon. First of all, he said that a teacher had never taken the time to do that for him. Maybe he’s never asked, maybe he’s never struggled that much…I don’t know. (But, his 504 does allow for it, so I wasn’t breaking any rules…) Secondly, he said that his grade on this test has given him the confidence he needs to finish the year well. That interaction was what got me through a week of struggling with discipline problems and unexpected issues.
Another triumph of the week was in my world history classes on the 20th. As we continue through the Ancient Rome unit, I took one day to talk about gladiators, and the students really enjoyed it (a lecture, at that!) One student said “Miss Jensen, this is the best history class I’ve ever had. Seriously.”
This week was slightly challenging in that we had a half day (periods 1-4 followed by an assembly) and took another day to go see the school play. Despite the gladiator day, it just wasn’t enough to keep them focused for the rest of a very unusual week….
In reflecting on the readings this week from The First Days of School, I feel like I actually struggle with this in that I have no problem smiling and saying “please” and “thank you,” but I have allowed certain issues with classroom management to persist to the point that saying “please” and “thank you” simply isn’t cutting it. (Not like I thought it would, but it’s certainly an important part!) As I continue to figure out an effective way to handle behavior issues in the classroom, it will be important to remember this chapter.
The past week warrants daily reflections; as a brief overview, I had to: confront some students about issues with plagiarism and copying on an essay, deal with some very blatant disrespect from a student, give several students detentions, AND sub for a very weird day where nearly half of the school was gone on a field trip. Also, as the beginning of this week was the Monday after spring break, we were “welcomed” back with the news that over the break some students had broken into the school and done some serious vandalism. The damage was not only extensive to some of the physical property, but it was very personal and targeted specific members of the faculty.
On Monday (the plagiarism/cheating confrontation day) I wrote: Well, my reputation as the nice teacher has been soiled…and it’s not good. I never thought that students would react so dramatically to being told that they need to redo an assignment because they cheated/plagiarized! I chose to print the web pages where I found exact sentences on the internet, and one girl’s comment was “Oh, how nice, you printed the website,” followed by “I never went to this webpage.” So all I said was that the sentences were exactly the same. She didn’t say anything after that…
I’m scared for the possible retaliation…so far things have been so good. But WHY am I feeling so bad? They are the ones that didn’t do the assignment right, aren’t they? They are the ones that had the opportunity to ask me questions that never did? THEY are the ones who wrote the paper and INSIST that they knew the answers that they had already written…as soon as class started I just go so nervous to the point that I could hardly function..
The rest of the day was better, although still nothing very pleasant!
Moving on to Wednesday, in one class a particular students was being incredibly disrespectful to me. Mrs. Hook wasn’t in the room, which may have made a slight difference. I repeatedly asked him to stop talking after the other “tricks” (location, etc.) failed. He proceeded to tell me that if I gave him a lunch detention he would not come because that was “my time.” Unfortuntely I did not deal with this situation the way I would have liked, and let his blatant disrespect pass, as class was almost over. However, after discussing it with my mentor teacher and the dean, I was told that he needed to serve a detention for his actions. I did confront him later in the day (with the dean standing by.) I guess the thing I had been dreading (giving a detention to someone) wasn’t so bad after all! Again, the rest of the day wasn’t so bad…the students were really chatty today, but it was nothing too terrible.
Thursday, oh Thursday. I essentially bounced from class to class or collected students from the hallway that didn’t seem to have a teacher. There was a field trip that took most of the juniors and seniors, and enough teachers that they were scrambling to find enough coverage. As it turned out, I spent 5 of the 7 periods that day with mostly the same freshmen, teaching my world history class and subbing for 9th grade health and English. (The other 2 periods I just had any students in the hallway come hang out in my classroom…nothing fancy!) From my notes on Thursday’s health class:
“I did it. I finally brought kids into the hallway to talk to them. While subbing for Mr. Menache’s class, I had “a student” come into the hallway because he was making really inappropriate comments really loudly to the class (especially about people being gay.) I just told him that it was not right and that while I didn’t want to give him a detention (especially for someone else’s class) but I would if he kept talking. For the rest of THAT class, he was fine.
For the next class (my normal World History) I had to bring another student into the hallway to talk to him about his inappropriate and excessive comments. As “luck” would have it, the principal happened to be coming to check in on my class at that point, which meant he listened in on our little chat. I think it helped with the noise level for the remainder of the class, until…
SUBBING for English (almost all the same kids as the last 2 periods). To keep a long story short, as they were watching a movie, I had to move several students to prevent them from talking, gave one student a detention for excessive talking (same one I’d confronted not but 30 minutes earlier) and caught one student touching another inappropriately. I filled out “pink slips” or referrals for each of those situations, which turned out to be very helpful when the students did not appear for their detentions.
Needless to say, I was really thankful for Friday, and things went much better that day. Overall, this week was a week of learning that my “threats” need to have some meaning behind them. I can’t spend all my time worrying about whether or not the students will like me. (In fact, I lost “teacher of the week award” according to one student…!) I know that in the weeks to come this will be an important factor for me in the way that I handle a classroom. Good learning experiences this week…although I can’t say I appreciated them all at the time, I’ve made it through all the better.
UPDATE: the students responsible for the vandalism confessed on Friday and were expelled from the school. This week has been a good opportunity for me to see, close-up, how administration deals with such issues. Being at a small school allows me to experience things or know more first-hand than a larger school…
In reflecting on being “invitational and disinvitational” I sometimes think that this is a great topic but at times it can be a challenge for me. What I mean by this is the fact that, as I read through the levels of invitational education, I would place myself in the “Unintentionally inviting” category. Through self-reflections and talking with my mentor teacher, this seems to fit my interactions with the students. In The First Days of School, Wong and Wong state that these teachers “do not have a consistent philosophy of education” yet they are “generally well liked and effective” This is generally consistent with how I have been feeling so far this year; being a “people-pleaser,” I’m generally content with the idea that students like me. In fact, it has been a real confidence booster for me as I learn that more and more students do, in fact, think I’m a good teacher. However, it’s also good to be aware that, as an “Unintentional” inviter, it can hide “the fact that [my] students may not be learning to their fullest potential” Of course, this is never my hope for the classroom, so I will be more aware of the balance between being liked for my personality while maintaining high expectations for my students. I suppose this will also improve over time as I continue thinking about my philosophy of education and classroom management plan.
 Wong, H. K., and Wong, R. The First Days of School (Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, 2004) 67