Standard Reflection P2

February 26, 2013

P2 – Practice differentiated instruction.

Practicing differentiated instruction is taking each individual’s students strengths and weaknesses into account and adjusting accordingly to help them learn. For example, a student who may have trouble with language acquisition, perhaps an ELL student, would have difficulty with assignments that are primarily written. A student that may be advanced and have skills above those of other students may find themselves bored and unchallenged by the  content in the class. In both of these examples, the teacher would need to intervene or plan methods to help these students learn. Instead of “teaching to the middle”, teachers try to take advantage of each student’s unique abilities.

When I am planning for a lesson, differentiating the instruction for students is an important part of the lesson. Some of the students in my class will excel at the content and some will have difficulty understanding portions of it. For each of these students, I will need to plan activities. For example, in my beginner’s class there are certain students that are proficient in the program were using and finish the assigned tasks quickly and accurately. On the other hand, some students have trouble applying the lesson to the assignment and will quickly become stumped.

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For the students that meet targets with ease, I need tasks for them to do to maximize the content they are learning. In this example, the student masked items in their collage with skill and precision. They had no problem understanding and applying the tools. If this student is not challenged, he will become bored and learn nothing. If I continually nitpick his current assignment, I undermine his confidence and am not really helping him excel. For these sorts of students, I assigned an extension that builds on the skills they’ve already learned within the collage, but also that challenges them to apply what they already know to something new. For this assignment, I ask students to edit themselves believably into another photo using the tools we just used in the collage.

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For students that fall behind, I need to allow for extra time and attention for these students to become proficient. This student is challenged by the content as wasn’t quite sure how to use the tools. He tried to meet the assignment criteria, but didn’t have a great grasp on the tools. Some of these students genuinely do not understand the content, but most of them have issues with motivation or creativity. Part of this stems from poor motivating force from my end, but some of this stems from problems that may be beyond my control. For these students, I try my best to give them multiple different ways to succeed, multiple different explanations, and as much time as I can to help them succeed.  For the collage, many of these students had trouble understanding what was expected of them and I would constantly need to refer back to the handout I gave them that listed the exact requirements. Perhaps these students are unable to comprehend the list well, but once I explain it, or show them examples, most students begin to understand and perform.

I learned a lot from this experience with the students. It was something that I did not have a lot of experience with. When I learned about differentiated instruction, the parts that were emphasized most were how teachers bring up the students who can’t succeed. From his experience, I learned that it is not only the low achieving students, but also the high ones that will need adjusted lessons to help them meet their potential. It had not occurred to me that the high achieving students would need extra attention, as well.

Differentiating instruction is an extremely effective way to plan to help students succeed no matter their level of ability.  Whether they need more help or more challenging content, students will gain more from differentiating instruction than by averaging out the objectives to meet the majority of the class’s needs.

For future lessons, I think I need to explicitly express how I plan to address students with varying abilities. For this lesson, I hadn’t planned more challenging content for higher achieving students. I asked my mentor for assistance, and he suggested the method I used above. This really helped me understand differentiated instruction a bit more, and I feel I need to be able to plan for all these inevitable student differences.

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Standard Reflection H4

February 18, 2013

H4 – Honor family/community involvement in the learning process.

Schools serve more than the students attending, but also the families and communities that surround them. Sometimes these interactions are indirect, but have a great impact. Honoring the family or community’s involvement in the learning process is an important way to help students learn, gain support, and keep education relevant.

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At the school where I am interning, my mentor teacher and the students in his class make a positive impact in the school and surrounding community. They do this by offering services to the surrounding schools and organizations. In the Production Graphics class clothes are screen printed, banners are constructed, and plaques are made. All of these things are building connections within the school and within the surrounding community. For example, a local elementary school asked the class if anyone would like to make a banner in recognition for their recent listing as one of the coolest schools in America. One of the students in the class volunteered. This particular volunteer had actually been a former student at this elementary school, and her passion for her former school helped her create an amazing banner. Her banner was even featured in a magazine in an article about that school. Another example of community involvement would be the many t-shirts that the class makes. People from all over the community call or email to see if the class has the availability to make custom t-shirts for their particular group. Most often, these t-shirts are printed in order to raise awareness or help a charitable cause, such as breast cancer awareness or heart health. The students will actually design these t-shirts and give them back to the community, often to great acclaim. By connecting these students to ideals that are important in the community and then having them give so much back, it creates a great bond that I don’t think a lot of other classes have.

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Part of this standard is about integrating what is important to the community and families involved in the school in the learning process. By combining these values and ideas that are important around the school, education becomes more relevant and important to not only the students, but the community as well. Students connected to the community feel better about where they live, and better about what they’re learning making a more positive learning environment. Communities that are connected to their students offer more support and feel more invested in what their students are learning.

Connecting to families and the communities of the school is an important way to get students motivated and connected. Having these outside influences from the families and communities helps students connect with what they’re learning and creates an investment in what they’re doing. This is an important part of having that community involvement.

Although I am currently in a program that has the support to offer multiple services to the community, I do not think I will ever be in a program as great as this one. However, it is still important to get that community involvement. Connecting the community to what the students are doing and vice versa would be an important part of an art class. I think that part of how I could get this involvement would be to invite guest speakers from many different fields in the art world. These varied perspectives and artists would help students understand the opportunities around them. It would also help them get connected to artists from their own communities, and show them that what they’re learning is relevant and important to their lives.

Standard Reflection E3

February 11, 2013

E3 – Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies.

Teacher’s relationships aren’t merely limited to the students that they teach, but also their peers, administration, and the parents and community that all have participation in their school. Part of this relationship is the understanding of how the school is run, and how each teacher has a responsibility to uphold the standards and help the school and students run smoothly. This is to the benefit of the entire school, students and teachers alike. Understanding and correctly practicing these responsibilities and polices makes the classroom and school a better learning environment.

Part of almost every teacher’s responsibilities lies in taking attendance. This simple act may be something that some teachers do quickly and without pausing for a moment, but some teacher may have to spend large amount of time on. It helps some teachers learn names, it helps some set routines, and some may have fallen into a routine  themselves. However, this simple exercise is extremely important. Attendance has a number important connections associated with it. For one, it keeps the teacher in contact with their peers and the rest of the school. If a particular student is gone, the school will know by that teacher’s attendance record, and this helps everyone adjust and address it accordingly. It also keeps students safe, and a student in school is statistically less likely to get into all sorts of trouble outside of the school. Keeping them to this standard makes sure they understand their responsibilities and hopefully gives them structure that helps them succeed. Attendance also helps parents keep track of their students, and the school can get into contact with them, as well. It  also may become a legal issue.

attendanceDuring my internship, I made many mistakes regarding taking attendance, but each helped me to improve and perform my responsibilities more adequately  This was mostly due to me overlooking quiet students, students trying to take advantage of me, and me being very busy and making mistakes during attendance taking. In one instance, every teacher for one student overlooked that she was not attending school that day. This list of teachers included me. I felt extremely disheartened by this, but I talked to a more experience teacher that had also made the mistakes and he let me know that sometimes teachers make mistakes, but we do our best to correct them and learn for next time. That really helped me take initiative to improve my understanding and practice of these responsibilities and how to improve for future experiences.

Being a teacher includes taking on these professional responsibilities that insures that the school community runs safely and provides a welcoming, safe, and effective learning environment for students. Knowing how the school addresses these areas so that I am aware and able to implement the chosen policies is an ever changing part of the job.

Undertaking the responsibilities of a teacher is immense. When I first started my internship I was very intimidated. Now these responsibilities  have  become a part of my routine, but I’m still making improvements. Sometimes students will make it difficult to fulfill these responsibilities, but that is why the policies are there to aid the teacher and the students able to learn and teach more effectively.

Students benefit from teachers understanding their professional responsibility. When a teacher is helping the school perform, the students see the benefits through a better learning environment. Every student should be safer and feel more welcome because of it. This does not work for every students situation, but each policy and responsibility is designed to make the best of it.

Standard Reflection H3

February 4, 2013

H3 – Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning.

As a teacher, one of the biggest impacts on your students is their learning environment and their peers. Part of making education for students as effective as possible is making the learning environment a safe and positive place where students feel comfortable. Also, students should be tolerant and accepting of their peers. No student should feel as if they are negatively judged, especially if these aspects are parts of themselves they have no control over, such as looks, race, gender, etc.

Part of creating an effective learning environment comes from creating a place where students feel most likely able to learn. An important part of this is classroom management. Setting clear goals and boundaries for students helps them focus on their education. For example, part of the problem with contemporary classrooms is the proliferation of cellphones. Almost every single student has one of these handy little devices. Unfortunately, cellphones offer a unique distraction in the classroom. Most cellphones allow students to talk to their friends, surf the internet, check their email, the list goes on and on. All of these little distractions add up to a large problem in the classroom. Fortunately, the school has a policy for cellphone use, but it is not widely enforced in every classroom. In my classroom, students are warned that if we see a cellphone they will be warned, confiscated, and even be used as reasoning to get into contact with their parents if the situation with their cellphone becomes too much of a detriment to their learning. By setting these standards, students can focus more on their learning, and less on using their cellphones. Students will sometimes have lapses, but letting them know that cellphone use in the class is unacceptable has really cut down on the major distraction it had become.

Classroom Management Plan

Also an important issue in helping make the classroom a safer learning environment is how we educate and help students treat their peers. In the high school where I an interning, there have been multiple instances where I have seen students mistreat other students to the point of a breakdown. On the other side of the spectrum, many students in my classes can positively interact with other students I am sure are not within their immediate group of friends. Part of strengthening this tolerant and accepting attitude comes from helping students understand another’s perspective. I think that group work is a great way to facilitate this communication, though it isn’t as effective for some students as others. Sometimes, the tolerance and understanding is so far from the minds of these students that separation becomes more beneficial for the health of one or more parties. By building relationships in the classrooms between students and between the teacher and student, it is easier to see where these problems may arise and be able to circumvent it in group exercises. Most group work that has taken place in my class seems to help some of the kids that have been more withdrawn actually take an interest in what they were learning.

By improving these areas in the classroom it benefits the students directly. One of the most important parts of the classroom is the effective learning environment teachers create for their students.

To better improve tolerance and understanding in my class, I think group activities designed to strengthen bonds and acceptance of others in the classroom would be more apt. I’m not sure exactly how to integrate these as portions of my lessons, but I am sure there are many ways to approach this topic to improve building these relationships.

Standard Reflection H2

January 28, 2013

H2 – Honor student access to content material.

Students learn differently. There are many different ways students can be taught, and some of these are more effective for certain students than others. For example, some students learn best from listening to a lecture and following those auditory directions. Some students learn better by seeing an example and then attempting to replicate the results. Others are better at imitating the motions until they can perform it perfectly. Students learn differently and it is the teacher’s job to teach to their strengths.

This topic isn’t quite so simple for some of my classes. For example, there are students in my class that are ELL or have 504s. For these students, utilizing academic language or even properly understanding and expressing themselves becomes a challenge. Because of this, it is important that students have multiple forms of instruction to allow each student access to the content. In my class we try to utilize a number of different teaching tools to help students meet the objective and get a good grasp on the material.

Simple Animals Rubric

When teaching a lesson it is important that in our class we present a rubric with the learning objective clearly stated, we state the learning objective during the lesson, and that we show examples of these objectives in not only our rubrics, but in our demonstration. In this way, we teach to as many strengths as we can, and then give individual attention to those who need the extra assistance. Motivation aside, by teaching the lesson in multiple ways, teachers gain the benefit of being able to reach as many students as they can utilizing these different methods for the same goal.

Because students receive the objectives and content in the lesson in a number of different ways, the students are more likely to retain at least one of the methods and be able to succeed and achieve their objectives. This helps not only the majority of the student population, but also the students who need extra help due to the additional challenges they each may be facing. Unfortunately, this may not be enough and it  will also be important, in my class, to give each student individual attention so that they aren’t at all confused about how the achieve their goal or what direction to be heading in.

To improve student access to content material, I think that there may be even more methods I could use to help students grasp the concepts and objectives. I’m still researching ways to effectively integrate these different methods into my class to better my lessons and student achievement.

Standard Reflection O1

January 21, 2013

O1. – Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes.

Teachers must endeavor to plan lessons that have learning targets for students with objectives that they can clearly understand. It is also important that these objectives be measurable in that students and teachers are able to gauge their progress towards these goals. It is important that students clearly understand what is expected of them, and also clearly understand what it is they’re trying to achieve. In this way, students can better plan for meeting targets and check their own progress.

One of the lessons I was recently writing was challenging. When I sought help from my mentor teacher he pointed out that my objectives were too broad and not easy to understand. This was an important part of lesson planning that I still struggle with. Making objectives clear for students is important as students in my class need to know that, for example, today we are learning how to use the brush tool. The objective, for them, is to demonstrate a simple exercise. Students by the end of this lesson will be able to render a composition with the brush tool.  Students will know the objective, be given the tools and instruction necessary, and assistance to achieve these targets. They will be able to see how far they’ve grown just by looking at what they have demonstrated. That is my hope, anyway.

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On the road to clear, easily understood objectives and targets for students.

By understanding that objectives must be clear for students, I think it improves how students will come to understand what is expected of them in class. On more than one occasion, I have wondered if I was too vague, but with simple and clear objectives for students I can proudly state what is their target and how they can reach it. I’m sure that this not only helps me when writing a lesson, but students as well. When my objectives were too general and broad, I can recall more questions on what exactly was expected, but when they were simple and succinct, students were much more engaged in their task.

When planning objectives it is difficult for me to state explicitly, “This is what students will be able to do..” This statement sounds so simple, but to me it sounds restrictive. If a student will only be able to do this by the end of the lesson, where is my room for students to explore or find their own methods and means for success? Art is a topic where some areas are not measurable and where objectivity is not always an option. However, for many classrooms and even for much of an art classroom, it is important to offer these lesson where the objectives are made extremely clear to students. If I stated that by the end of the lesson the student will be able to paint a sunrise, they would still need the requisite skills in painting, even if their particular style makes it difficult to judge the quality of the painting (in some cases).  In this way, I think that planning these art lessons is difficult. Finding these measurable targets for learning in art is challenging. I want my students to be able to understand what it is they’re attempting to undertake, how they can get there, and also how close they are to achievement, but to tell them that their particular style is not conducive to my assessment of their progress is disheartening. It is something I constantly struggle with. Maybe with proper planning some of these doubts could be alleviate, but I am still suspicious. Perhaps my understanding of this standard is suspect.

It is extremely beneficial to have teachers wiser than I to look to for support.  With each lesson I write, I hope the objectives for myself and the students are clearer and more easily gauged. I will continue to ask my mentor for assistance on my plans, as his feedback is invaluable not only as a much more experienced teacher, but as a different perspective that lends itself well to some of my broader thoughts.

Standard Reflection H1

January 10, 2013

H1 – Honor student diversity and development.

The standard H1 is a challenging one to meet in  curriculum centered school systems. H1 has teacher candidates support students with learner centered strategies that focus on the individual needs and experiences of the student. This means that not all students will arrive to a class at the same level of preparedness, but each will bring their own unique strengths and weaknesses. To address this, lessons need to be aware of the differences and adjust accordingly so that every student in the class gets a relevant and appropriate growth experience. This means providing opportunities for all students with necessary steps taken to allow the expression of culture and self and also their level development relative to the challenge of the program.

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Examples of Student Work

A short while ago, my class was assigned a sticker project. In this project, students were directed to create the design for a sticker, print the sticker, and then weed it. The design process held some technical challenges and printing and weeding went fairly smoothly when students understood the steps involved. However, the most challenging area for most students was choosing the design for their stickers. The guidelines for the assignment limited the size of the sticker and also stipulated that their design must be original. With this in mind, students were perplexed as to what they could create that would meet the assignment criteria and, more importantly, how their sticker would represent them. It was difficult for some students to communicate their ideas, so they were encouraged to make stickers that represented themselves or things they found important. Some students went with geometric shapes, unsure of how to best represent their specific interests and cultures, but many chose designs that were influenced by who they were, and what they valued.

By allowing students the ability to express themselves and the importance of their ideas as individuals, I think more students became invested in what they were doing. It also allowed students who were not as apt at design as their counterparts to create designs that may not have been as technically impressive, but were of similar quality due the representation of their ideas or identities. This gave all students the chance to make something relevant and important with fewer difficulties regarding experience and knowledge. This was refreshing as implementing assignments seems to be very curriculum centered with each student having to achieve the same goal, but with this it seemed very much that each student were given opportunities to express themselves and also took into account where they were at developmentally.

I think students took more from this assignment than from some of the assignments with a much more rigid curriculum centered focus. It allowed them express themselves as individuals and also made it so that each student didn’t feel pressured to play keep up if they met challenges that others had already overcome.

I think that to improve on this as a teacher, I be more aware of how the students in my class face assignments. Is it something relevant to them? Will they all be able to learn from it? These are questions that I think I need to ask before working on any project. If they aren’t interested, or completely hopelessly lost, then the lesson won’t work. It is more important to teach to their strengths and identities so they can feel more apt and more connected to what they are learning.