Course Reflection: Edu 6134 – Professional Issues

According to Laura M. Desimone, professional development happens throughout a teacher’s work day, as they teach and reflect on lessons, read education journals, and interact with colleagues (Desimone, 2011, p. 69).  What Desimone calls “embedded professional development” happens both formally and informally – a principle vigorously confirmed by the student teaching experience.

Formal professional development happens in and outside of school.  Bi-monthly PD meetings offer training on a variety of topics from behavior intervention to formative assessment to methods of instruction.  Beyond the building, several professional organizations exist to provide networking and development for educators.  I researched three such organizations:  Phi Delta Kappa Washington, Washington Organization for Reading Development, and AVID.  Some findings are listed in the chart below.

Webquest prompts
Organization name Area of focus Membership cost (cite the student teacher fee if possible) Does the org. publish a journal or newsletter; if it does, is the content helpful, can you provide a sample title of an article or news item? Does the org. have a conference; if so, when and what is the cost, what is one of the session titles from a past or current program? Does the organization offer any professional development, if so, what kind? Does the organization use Facebook or LinkedIn?

 

State-level organizations
PDK

Washington

Publically funded education. The professional fee is $99 (includes processing fee), the student teacher fee is $56.50. I read a very helpful article in the Spring 2015 issue of Washington State Kappan, Thinking About Thinking About Learning: A Student Teacher’s Reflection on Student Voice, Metacognition, and Authenticity, by Lucie Kroschel. PDK has an annual conference.  The 2015 conference was about social justice and equity.  The website encourages those interested in attending to join PDK. In addition to annual conferences, PDK hosts events “Education and Food” events in June. PDK Washington does have a Facebook page.
WORD–

Washington Organization for Reading Develop-ment

Literacy and reading practices. $25 WORD Membership, $15 Membership for student teachers and first year teachers. WORD doesn’t have a publication, but International Literacy Association (affiliate) does.  Members receive this bi-monthly publication, Literacy Today Magazine. WORD had a fall conference this year, which seems to have been focused around the work of one author/speaker.  WORD membership gives entry to all WORD and Seattle Reading Council events.

$45 non-member event cost at door.

The Seattle Reading Council (an affiliate of WORD) puts on webinars.  The one currently featured on their website is called “Hooked on Independent Reading:
Motivate Your Students
with Assessment-Driven Goal Setting.”
WORD also has a Facebook page.
National-level organization
AVID Closing the achieve-ment gap. AVID membership happens at the district level, which means that the benefits are shared among many schools and teachers. AVID creates three publications – Access, an educational journal, and Year in Review, AVID’s annual status report.   Curriculum resources like AVID Weekly are also available to members. AVID has an annual conference

$555 for schools whose districts have contracts with AVID, $629 for those who don’t.

AVID hosts member events and open events.  Both focus on professional development and best practices toward closing the achievement gap. AVID has the best Facebook page I’ve seen in the course of this research.
Questions about one organization
Which organization seems worth joining and why? What is one way you could get involved?

My district has offered AVID as an elective for over ten years.  Several members of our staff attend AVID Institute each summer.  Most importantly, though, AVID makes a clear and direct difference in the achievement of students – which is the ultimate gold standard when it comes to professional development.  My involvement will begin with asking more questions and observing when I can in the AVID classes at my school.

Rate the organization using core features from Desimone (2011): 1-Strongly Disagree, 2-Disagree, 3-Neither, 4-Agree, 5-Strongly Agree
The organization provides content focus – e.g. emphasis on subject matter and how students learn 5
The organization provides active learning – e.g. opportunities to get involved 5
The organization provides coherence – e.g. consistency across teacher knowledge, beliefs, school goals 5
The organization provides duration – e.g. activities span across the year for at least 20 hours of contact time 5
The organization provides collective participation – e.g. teachers group by subject to form learning communities 5

Informal professional development taking place outside of school depends on what each educator can seek out for him or herself.  I can read articles published by organizations above, I can devote time to interpreting assessment data, and I can reflect on my teaching practice.

One of the happiest surprises of my internship has been the informal professional development that happens in the context of teacher friendships.  The teachers here at my favorite middle school have energetically asked about my course work and teaching practice.  I’ve been so humbled at the amount of support offered to me – so far, too humbled to accept much of it.  A social studies teacher I observed for a separate reflection offered to come observe one of my lessons to offer a second expert perspective.  A health teacher, during staff happy hour – we weren’t even at school – shared some really helpful constructive criticism of a lesson he’d watched me teach and offered to come back and see what I’ve been working on! Looking back on these conversations with our Internship Performance Criteria in view, it’s clear that I haven’t been making the most of an unusually eager and supportive internship environment.  If distinguished teachers seek out feedback from other teachers, I want to spend the rest of the year taking these friends up on their offers to come watch me teach!

It’s true that professional development is embedded in so many ways, which means that I’ll need to take advantage of every embedded opportunity to become a better teacher.

Reference

Desimone, L. M. A primer on effective professional development.  Kappan magazine, V92 N6, 68-71.

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The Role of Shared Thinking in Learning Environment – for EDU 6130

I see rules posted in most classrooms.  In many cases, teachers created these rules based on student contributions.  According to our Internship Performance Criteria (as well as the “State Eight”), evidence of student contributions to classroom norms is part of a “distinguished” learning environment:

5.4 Component 2d: Managing Student Behavior by Establishing Expectations

Distinguished – Standards of conduct are clear to all students and appear to have been developed with student participation.

Inviting students to suggest and modify classroom norms is an excellent way to encourage authentic consideration and ownership of their participation in a learning community.  But student-generated norms will not automatically boost student buy-in, nor do they necessarily reduce behavior problems. The practice has little power in itself, but a humble and empathetic teacher can put it to powerful use.

Hex. Good AudienceMy friend Mr. Hexagon has a unique version of classroom norms posted just above his whiteboard.  It’s titled “Good Audience” and lists five qualities that fit that description. Mr. Hexagon and his students created the list collaboratively, in perfect alignment with criteria 5.4.  But the real power of this classroom management tool, and one reason Mr. Hexagon is a distinguished teacher, is in the way he references the list when problems arise.  This 6th grade social studies teacher doesn’t have to repeat the words, “please be quiet” throughout class, or stand in front with an index finger pinned to pursed lips.  When a member of Hex’s class talks out of turn, he faces them and engages a calm, dignified conversation.

When one student interrupted a peer’s comment with a lively and mildly spiteful, “Whatever!” Mr. Hexagon turned to face him and asked, earnestly,

“Are you being a good audience member right now?”

“No.”  The student replied with thoughtful regret, but not shame.

“What will you do to be a better audience member now?” Hex points to the “Good Audience” poster.

“Not blurt out.”

“Thank you!  Perfect – you can do that!”

And then he’s back with the rest of the class.  This tiny conversation is well worth the time it takes because, for Mr. Hexagon, it isn’t a side bar. If students really are in school to think, and if they really are in social studies to think about the ways in which people affect each other and the world, then a 25-second dialogue about respectful audience behavior is well within bounds.

My friend’s use of community-made norms is an admirable instance of the second basic principle of Love and Logic – “share the thinking” (Fay and Funk, 1995, p. 26).  Mr. Hexagon shows his students dignity and respect when he invites them to think: think about what norms you want to operate by, and think about whether your actions honor the norms you’ve created.

Like Jim Fay and David Funk, Mr. Hexagon is committed to having this personally affirming and dignified method of discipline.  The learning environment he has built reveals his belief that kids will do what’s expected of them when they’re “treated with dignity and allowed to think” (Fay and Funk, 1995, p. 183).

Reference

Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with love & logic: taking control of the classroom.  Golden, CO: Love and Logic Press.