Module 5 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency and demonstrate a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

But first, a brief anecdote:

They said the meeting would focus on “technology.”

We sat together (after a day of trying to help adolescents learn new things) and listened to step-by-step instructions on how to use each of our school’s tech tools.  The attendance tracker, the grade book, the google suite. 

To tell you the nasty truth, this busy, tired, first-year teacher was pretty annoyed.  I had lessons to plan and papers to grade, but was forced to sit there while a relatively small group of my colleagues learned how to pin tabs in a web browser, initiate a Google hangout, etc.  I didn’t need what they needed. I had hoped that this “technology” meeting would equip me with tools I might use to make English Language Arts come alive for the brooding teens I love so much.  But my colleagues – I really do love them very much – weren’t ready for any of that.  They wanted to know where the shared documents are hiding on the Google suite (Oh, well, you can find them under the “shared with me” tab.)

Here’s the problem with keeping teachers up to speed on technology: we all start in different places.  One colleague at my school is blazing a trail for kids with special needs to design and create products using 3D printers. At the other end of the spectrum, one dear teacher-friend of mine sincerely believes that data is deleted when she toggles between different sheets on Excel. The rest of us find ourselves scattered between these poles.

Standard 5 asks teachers to commit to their own ongoing growth in technological proficiency, and it asks them to demonstrate a vision of this for others. The vignette above shows, I think, both how overwhelming this can feel and how necessary it is. So here’s my personal question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency while demonstrating a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

And here are the partial answers I’ve picked up over the first 3 quarters of my first year:

“A classroom educator’s primary job is understood to be covering the assigned content and ensuring that students test well. Many educators do not have the information, the time, or the incentives to continuously improve their professional practice” (39).

1.) Beginners aren’t exempt from leadership, especially when it comes to technology.

While I might not lead the school in tech integration, this is a realm in which I can make a contribution.

At first, It was tempted to shrug off parts of this standard: “exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.” Who am I to exhibit any kind of leadership, especially when the guy down the hall just printed a chess set?! And I just got here!

But it was unfair of me to take this stance. I work with a bunch of knowledgeable sweethearts, and any success I have achieved in my first year was made possible by their help. Coworkers have shared curriculum, advice, planning methods, and grading systems. Some of the teachers who’ve been so helpful to me are the ones who asked about how to access shared documents and pin tabs.

I take for granted that these things come easily to me. If I’m intimidated by ISTE Education Standards, I can’t imagine how it feels to be the person who’s still a little overwhelmed by the Google suite. One way that I can begin to demonstrate vision for technology infusion is to first share my excitement and my knowledge of these little tricks.

There are a ton of knowledgeable and experienced teachers who are afraid of the bigger changes in ed tech because they’re struggling with the “regular tech” that new teachers [use]. The support needed among my school’s faculty requires relational initiative; while I’m not a world-class tech expert, I am pretty friendly. One easy step toward demonstrating a vision for technology infusion is to help even the playing field among faculty members by sharing my excitement and knowledge about these little tricks.

2.) Comfort with the technology of daily life does not automatically boost student learning.

This module’s reading pointed out that “Young teachers are similar to their students in that they… are comfortable interacting with digital devices and accessing the internet as their students are. Still, this does not mean they understand how to use the technology of their daily lives to improve their teaching practices” (44).

While it’s true that technology integration feels more obvious and organic to me than it does to some of my more seasoned teacher friends, comfort with technology does not automatically translate into increased student learning. The standard doesn’t ask me to be handy with a computer, it asks me to “make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.” If I want to leverage technology to support student learning, I need to explore “existing and emerging digital tools.” Fortunately, independent professional growth is easier than ever before. In her post about standard 5, my friend Marjorie shared about a curated list of teacher tech tools, available at ala.org.  They’ve even organized their suggestions into categories:  Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Manage & Organize, Social Networking & Communication, Content Resources, Curriculum Collaboration.  After just a few minutes of poking around, I found two resources I’ll likely use in an upcoming unit on the history of the US Presidency.

3.) Modern technology promises to make Professional Development easier than ever before.

I can see why some teachers roll their eyes at professional development. As my vignette above illustrates, trying to bring a diverse staff up to speed on a topic as broad as “technology” seems like an impossible task. With so many different levels of knowledge, experience, and willingness, it’s difficult for education leaders to help teachers “develop” together.

Our reading talked about the ways in which educators can personalize learning for our students (page 41), but the personal possibilities apply to teachers, too. We can leverage online trainings and resource sharing in order to meet individual teachers or departments in their area of greatest need. Schools can give their teachers access to webinars and tutorials that allow teachers to become proficient on the same tools at their own pace. (Oh! Look! I’m “demonstrating a vision of technology infusion” right now! I’m doing it!)

References:

AASL. (2016).  Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2015. Best Tools for Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/websites/2016

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology.  November 2010.  Transforming American Education:  Learning Powered by Technology.  National Education Technology Plan 2010.  Retrieved from: https://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf

Proactive Burnout Prevention: The Life and Times of a Student Teacher

This workshop will be written in the future, by Kirsten A. Bennett, after she has accumulated an admirable time management record. She will share what she learned when she first used them during her internship back in December 2015.

Much is expected of teachers:  cover this list of standards, differentiate instruction for this range of learners, communicate with parents, and respond to every crisis.  It’s no wonder that so many teachers experience “burn out,” a condition Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison (2011) have described as “a hemorrhaging of the self” (p. 145).  Wendi Pillars (2014) identifies six common signs of teacher burnout: exhaustion, extreme graveness, anxiety, being overwhelmed, seeking[1], and isolation.  The kinds of people who become teachers do not like to admit that we identify with that list.  Many of us came to this profession because we consider ourselves exceptionally energetic, charismatic, empathetic, and optimistic; we prefer not to admit that doing what we love is making us into people we hate.

Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison (2011) have observed that since the term “burnout” came to the scene in 1974, over 6,000 journal articles have been written on the subject (p. 146).  Burnout is a huge issue and every teacher (and so many others) will experience burnout differently.  There is an equally diverse array of methods by which teachers can combat burnout.  Some experts recommend creating a mission statement or manifesto.  Others say the key to teacher survival is collegial relationships.  Unfortunately, the mention of these worth-while strategies will overwhelm many first-year teachers in what Ellen Moir (2011) has called “the survival phase.”  Moir has noted, “…new teachers are caught off guard by the realities of teaching.  “I thought I’d be busy, something like student teaching, but this is crazy. I’m feeling like I’m constantly running. It’s hard to focus on other aspects of my life.””

As a student teacher, I was especially disappointed to find myself always thinking about my feelings, my schedule, my health, my self.  But preliminary research on the topic of teacher burn out convinced me that “to be successful in the high-touch professions, we must continually maintain professional vitality and avoid depleted caring” (Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison, 2011, p. 4).  Experts agree that anyone who aims to care for others must, in some sense, care for self.  Self-care involves a thousand tiny things: an apple a day, a stroll in the park, a call to a friend, a cup of coffee in the quiet morning.  And every one of these things takes time.  To emerge from survival mode, we must make time for these elements of self care, in addition to the other tasks of teaching.  We must manage our time.

During my student teaching, the term “time management” felt like a disgraceful imperative: Get more done!  But time management is means more than working efficiently.  Time management is a more detailed system of approaching time which helps teachers protect our professional vitality avoid burnout. It’s a three-stage process of anticipating, observing, and reflecting on how you spend your time.

Anticipation – Make a Plan.  Good rebounders anticipate where the ball will bounce.  Good defense attorneys anticipate the prosecution’s argument.  Good students anticipate what will be on the test.  Good time managers anticipate where their hours will go.

Decide when you will sit down to make your plan.  For me, this is Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 9:00.  Fill out a detailed template of your weekly schedule with the meetings, obligations, grading, planning can you anticipate as you look forward to the upcoming week.  Moir (2011) has aptly pointed out that “Beginning teachers are instantly bombarded with a variety of problems and situations they had not anticipated,” but it’s also true that there is much we can see before the week begins.  Focusing on these known activities diminishes the sense of helplessness we feel when other activities surprise us.

See and measure the open windows.  Now that you know how much of your time is “free” you can move from saying things like “I wish I had time to exercise” or “We should hang out sometime” to “I’ll run during this one hour window on Tuesdays and Thursdays” and “Fridays at 7 I have dinner with my brother.” The decisions that you make about these windows will fuel productivity in the blocks – you’ll work to earn the plans you’ve made.

Observation – Watch yourself.  During the first few weeks of this new discipline, expect to see your schedule (and yourself) in a new light.  Now that you’re making more intentional decisions about how to spend your time, you’ll be more aware of what doesn’t go according to plan.  Let the pain be instructive.

I spent those first weeks of my new regiment with two copies of my schedule in hand: one I had filled out during Saturday morning planning time, and one that was blank.  I filled in the blank version throughout those weeks with my true “life and times.”  I recommend this practice to novice teachers because it shows us a glaringly instructive view of where your time really goes.  You’ll very likely find time you didn’t know you had, time that has been getting slurped up by time-vacuums like police dramas and online shopping.

The observation phase will show you some of the negative implications of your time management.  I resonate with what Shelley Sanchez Terrell (2014) has said of her own busy teacher life: “I was wearing myself out.  I realized I needed to strive for a better balance, because the stress was impacting my mood and the way I interacted with my students.  I didn’t want them to think they were the cause of my stress” (p. 100).  Some days, I don’t care about myself enough to do anything about my frantic schedule; but when I look at the way my frantic schedule affects my students, I do care.

Reflection:  A lack of reflection contributes to what Moir (2011) calls the disillusionment phase: “There is little time to stop and reflect on their experiences.”  Teachers can keep burnout at bay by engaging in meaningful reflection throughout the year, as the first item on your weekly planning time agenda.

Begin by holding the two versions of your schedule side by side and asking yourself some questions.  “These questions help us become aware of how we might be neglecting our health.  Being aware is the first step towards achieving more balance in our lives (Terrell, 2004, p. 99).”  The most important question, perhaps, is why?  For example:  Why did grading vocab tests take such a long time this week?  Why did I watch three episodes of this TV show when I could have been grading narrative assessments?  Possible answers: “Grading takes longer in the evening than it does during my 3rd period prep,” “When I try to work through lunch, I’m less productive after lunch,” or “When I don’t intentionally enjoy myself, I accidentally watch terrible television.”  By asking yourself why when you review your schedule, you can identify and replace many of the tasks that steal your productivity.

Other questions to ask as you reflect on your schedule:

  • Am I adopting unhealthy habits for the sake of my job?
  • How can I relieve stress on a daily basis?
  • What am I doing now that makes me happy?
  • When and where do I eat my meals?  How do these rituals make me feel? What impact do these rituals have on my overall well-being.
  • What un-planned activities make their way into your schedule?
  • Which tasks took more time than I allotted to them?  Which took less?

Meaningful reflection on time spent will inform next week’s schedule.  As you grow in this discipline, you’ll be able to replace the unnecessary tasks with more meaningful and rejuvenating ones.  You’ll find a logical place for things like optional professional development, conversations with other teachers, meal planning and preparation, and exercise.

 

Reference

Brown, D. (2012). Now that I know what I know.  Educational Leadership, 69:8, pp 24-28.  Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may12/vol69/num08/Now-That-I-Know-What-I-Know.aspx

Maurice, E.  (2012). Teacher Burnout: What Are the Warning Signs? EdUtopia.  Retrieved from:  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-burnout-warning-signs-maurice-elias

Moir, E.  (2011). Phases of first-year teaching.  New Teacher Center.  Retrieved from: http://www.newteachercenter.org/blog/phases-first-year-teaching

Pillars, W. (2014). Six Signs of—and Solutions for—Teacher Burnout. Education Week. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/05/20/ctq-pillars-signs-of-solutions-for-burnout.html

Skovholt, T. M., Trotter-Mathison, M. J. (2011).  Resilient Practitioner: Burnout Prevention and Self-Care Strategies for Counselors, Therapists, Teachers, and Health Professionals, Second Ed.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Terrell, S. S. (2015).  The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.

[1] Pillars defines this as Losing your creativity, imagination, patience, and enthusiasm for daily challenges. Craving reflection time and productive collaboration rather than group complaining.

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.

Course Reflection: EDU 6918 – Introduction to Teaching

This class has covered a huge assortment of information.  Our content ranged from the huge questions, such as “Where does knowledge come from?” and “What is your vision for education?” to smaller and more practical questions like “What does OSPI stand for?” and “What should I wear to work?”

Why such an outrageous range of topics?  Not surprisingly, effective educators are expected to know lots and lots of things.  That’s probably part of the common misconception that every great teacher is a Renaissance type.  Teachers are supposedmary-poppins-practically-perfect-in-every-wayto be exceptionally knowledgeable as well as exceptionally patient, interesting, diligent – the list goes on.  No wonder
friends and family give me a glossy-eyed look when they learn about my professional aspirations.  People believe that all teachers are just like Mary Poppins.  I have mostly believed that in order to be a great teacher, I’ll have to be “practically perfect in every way.”  So I had planned on pretending; I would just pretend to know and be everything.

I was relieved to find the following quotation, from Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach, projected in enormous letters on our first day of class:  “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”  Parker goes on to explain that, “Identity and integrity have as much to do with our shadows and limits, our wounds and fears, as with our strengths and potentials.”

Parker Palmer and the work of this course recommend the opposite of pretending; this quarter, we have practiced a two-fold method for improvement: humble self-assessment and collaboration.

One assignment through which we were able to humbly confront what Palmer has called our “shadows and limits” was the Disposition Self-Assessment paper.  We rated ourselves on teacherly dispositions, such as compassion, attentiveness, and professionalism.  And then we had to write a paper about it.  Parker Palmer loves this stuff, but it’s hard for me.  I have never thought of myself as “professional.”  As far as I know, no friend or colleague has ever described me as such.  This section of the disposition self-assessment, as well as our eighth program standard, gave me a bit of a rash.

8. Professional Practice The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

Developing proficiency in this standard requires Parker Palmer’s notion of integrity, not Mary Poppins’ measurement of perfection.   In order to engage the educational community in a meaningful and collaborative way, I can’t pretend.  My contribution is only as good as what I actually know, and a humble awareness of the gifts I bring to my community.  In other words, professional collaboration begins with honest self-assessment.

Unfortunately, my first stab (and I do mean “stab”) at reflection on my dispositions yielded more fretful self-consciousness than productive self-awareness.  I stayed up far too late writing what was more or less an apology to myself, and submitted this about a 80 seconds after it was due.  That’s when the a slightly more authentic reflective thought occurred to me – what have I just turned in?  Was all that navel-gazing what my professors had in mind when they designed this assignment?  Do I reflect in a way that will make me a better teacher?  Or do I mostly scrutinize myself, stew about the fact that I’m not Mary Poppins?

During the next class session, we had an opportunity to talk through our strengths and weaknesses with our classmates.  While it seems like the added social factor would make this experience much more unnerving than the process of writing a paper alone at my desk, I found that the opposite was true.  It was only after I spoke with my peers about our self-assessments, that I able to accurately evaluate my own dispositions.  In the context of academic community, my self-conscious inner monologue became a focused and profitable self-awareness.

The Disposition Self-Assessment, and this course, has effectively replaced my most troubling misconception about becoming a teacher – that it’d require me to feign perfection in order to be professional.  As it turns out, professional practice isn’t about perfection. Professional practice is developed by taking humble and well-informed steps, in the context of educational community, toward the goal of positively impacting students.Dispostions Evidence

Characteristics of an Effective Educator

Effective educators are empathetic experts.  The order is paramount:  empathy comes first.  Empathy is the means by which an expert earns the right to share what they know with students.  In other words, passion for students is the necessary first step toward sharing a passion for content.  Students will encounter a variety of obstacles with content – disinterest, fear, embarrassment – until teachers communicate their willingness to be with students in the difficulty:  You can do this.  I’m with you.  I’ll help if you get stuck.

Empathy is communicated in atmosphere, words, actions, and reactions.  Empathetic educators will create a welcoming environment where students feel comfortable to ask questions and make mistakes as they confront new content.  Empathetic educators will remember more than just the names of their students; they’ll take pride in adapting a lesson for a specific kid.  Empathetic educators will respect even disrespectful students, will persistently treat everyone like they can learn.  This all-encompassing empathy is built with care and persistence.

Empathy continues and meets with expertise in the next phase where content is communicated.  An expert educator is intimately familiar with both their audience and their subject.  He or she can deftly field the questions of the intellectually curious, as well as break down material for the students who have yet to taste success.  At every step, each student is more important than the lesson or the content.