Prepared by Laurie Goode


"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." - John Cotton Dana

Collaboration

Colleagues
At one point in the history of education, a teacher may have walked into the classroom and closed the door, only to be left to conduct the class with no assistance from others. This time has long passed, however, and it is beneficial for educators as well as students for teachers to collaborate with each other. This collaboration increases the possibility of brainstorming a solution to a classroom management problem or preparing more effective lesson plans for all student populations and learning styles.

I strongly believe in the power of collaboration as I have actively been a part of collaborative efforts in the school. I have worked with colleagues from my graduate cohort to plan lessons, such as the Discovery Circus on Magnets and the Culture Kit on Sri Lanka. There have also been multiple in-class assignments we have worked together to analyze the Virginia Standards of Learning or work with manipulatives to derive mathematic formulas. In the schools, I co-taught a lesson with the technology specialist at Norge and worked closely with my cooperating teachers and team members during planning. It has been helpful to work with teams who like to share resources, ideas, and tips to help instruction run smoothly.

Parents

Parents are a teacher's ally in the education of their children if they genuinely feel that their child's best interest is at the forefront of the teacher's decisions. I want the best for each of my students, and it is my responsibility to communicate this with the parents. One way to show to parents that I have their child's best interests in mind is by keeping an open door of communication intact. To do this, parents should be contacted at the beginning of the school year with a welcoming conversation that shows the parents I am excited to work with them throughout the year to further their child's education. The first contact with parents should never discuss negative agendas. After initial contact has been made with parents to establish a partnership, communication must be kept open throughout the year. There are many ways of keeping this open communication: newsletters, email and class website, and designated phone times only name a few. One example of keeping open communication with parents can be seen in this letter to parents explaining a grading issue for a third grade science test. I wanted to explain the scoring process.

During my student teaching, I have spoken with several parents in both elementary and middle school. I wrote daily letters home in one student's planner to enhance communication between the family and the school and signed several planners to check that homework was written down correctly. I have also responded to emails from parents about students' missing work with guidance from my cooperating teacher. This has prepared me for communicating with parents as a sole teacher in the classroom.

Reflective Practices
What can I do differently to improve this lesson? How can I make this activity more effective next time? What did I learn about myself and my students from this lesson?

The questions above are examples of questions that I ask to reflect on experiences in the classroom. Reflection is critical to my growth as a professional because it helps me
learn from my experiences. Reflection happens both during lessons and after lessons. As I develop these reflective ideas, I write them on the lesson plan or on a sticky note to place on the lesson plan at first chance to ensure I remember the idea. An example of a change I made to my fraction strips template that came from a reflection during the lesson can be seen here. I found it difficult for third graders to follow directions on how to cut out the fraction strips. Therefore, I realized I needed to find a way to make the directions easier to follow. With the revised template, students first cut along each dotted line and then go back to cut along the solid lines.

There are many types of reflection in the classroom. An example of a formal reflection is a written reflection such as the one here with the newly implemented behavior interventions. This reflection shows how I reflected on the first day's poor judgment of time management and adjusted the second day's lesson for better time management. Another more informal but equally effective type of documenting reflective behavior is by the use of sticky notes on the lesson plan, which was the type of reflection I used during the fraction strip example above.



Professional Development and Leadership
I believe in order to get my students to buy into the importance and value of life-long learning, I must demonstrate being a life-long learner. Even though my profession is "teaching," I will show my students that I am also still a student. This can be accomplished by looking up answers to a students' questions or asking our "class researcher" to find answers to share with the class or by continually finding ways to learn more about being a better teacher. The best way to learn about teaching is through professional development with other teachers. In addition to attending workshops presented by local professionals at The College of William and Mary's Math Day, I attended two staff development workshops at Norge Elementary School. The first meeting was a cross-team workshop to determine how teachers can better prepare students for moving on to the next grade. Therefore, my third grade team met with second grade teachers to explain what is desired in a rising third grade student, and then fourth grade teachers met with the third grade team to explain their desires for a rising fourth grade student. The second staff development day I spent in a Writing Workshop for novice teachers. I also attended a workshop with a contracted professional during planning period and after school at Berkeley Middle School where I gained many helpful instructional strategies to implement in the classroom. Finally, I attended faculty meetings at both placements as well, where in-house professional development was presented by specialists and teachers.

Joining professional organizations is another way to develop as a professional. As a member of Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) and the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA), I have been able to follow current best practices in the field and other information shared through regular emails and announcement that further enhances my teaching.

The program at The College of William and Mary has prepared me to become an educational leader. I feel confident in the knowledge I have learned with the support of research to back the information, and I would like to share it with other professionals for the sake of bettering the education of students. Beginning immediately, I see myself sharing lesson plan ideas and resources with colleagues as I already shared units with other teachers during student teaching. In the near future, I can see myself leading an in-house development session or volunteering to attend professional conferences and report the findings back to colleagues. I believe that leadership roles I have held in the past, such as President of the High School Student Government Association, President of the Association of Early Childhood Educators, captains of sports teams, and organizing volunteer groups, have also prepared me with leadership skills that I can combine with my knowledge in educational theory and practice to be an effective educational leader.