- Standard 9: Professional Learning and Ethical Practice The teacher engages in ongoing professional learning and uses evidence to continually evaluate his/her practice, particularly the effects of his/her choices and actions on others (learners, families, other professionals, and the community), and adapts practice to meet the needs of each learner.
- Standard 10: Leadership and Collaboration The teacher seeks appropriate leadership roles and opportunities to take responsibility for student learning, to collaborate with learners, families, colleagues, other school professionals, and community members to ensure learner growth, and to advance the profession.
In the learning environment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are alone on an island, your classroom is directly reflective of your performance, and you alone\ are responsible for that. This is a mindset that I will admit that I’ve found myself thinking on more than one occasion, and have pushed myself to work beyond. During my first year in the classroom, there was very little professional collaboration within my grade level and department; everyone was teaching different things every day and in our biweekly meetings we would discuss generally how are students were doing and where we were going with this. I found myself constantly frustrated with how unproductive our weekly data team meetings were going and how little support I felt that I was receiving. As a result of this demoralizing atmosphere, I challenged myself to change it, to do what I could to change it, and that made a huge impact on my second year of teaching. In order to change my mindset, and the mindset of the others on my team, I took advantage of the fact that my 6th grade English and social studies team was about to have all new teachers except for me, that I had assumed a new leadership role as the social studies department head, and that I was able to push for more productivity in our ongoing professional learning and my personal leadership and collaboration opportunities.
At my school, each grade level partakes in biweekly structured teacher planning time (STPT) meetings to discuss current data and future lessons. To demonstrate my ongoing professional learning and ethical practice in these sessions I have included my first two pieces of evidence; meeting notes from our STPT meetings this year as well as results from learning walks performed by teachers, vice principals, the principal, and academic coaches, from which we can learn about our classrooms as well as the classrooms of others. In evidence 1, the STPT meeting notes, I have highlighted that we use this time as an opportunity to engage in ongoing professional learning where we are using the data to continually evaluate our individual practice and classrooms as well as the classrooms as others. We are able to use this time to look at the impact of our lessons, discuss whether or not they are providing students with the right information and the information that they need, and how we can make these experiences for students even better. We all have access to the meeting notes shown in evidence 2, and as such can see what is observable in other classrooms. This information is extremely useful for getting an understanding of what does and doesn’t work so that we can reflect on our own practices and discuss these during STPT. While this does have some elements of collaboration, as any ongoing professional learning should have, the main purpose of these meetings are for us as a team to gain a better understanding of our students and their needs, and to see what works for them.
I have also included in evidence 3 and 4 examples of learning experiences that I have taken part of in order to better my understanding of the information that is being presented to my students and to figure out how to work with it when I am in the classroom. Evidence 3 highlights my notes and takeaways from a Springboard training session that I was selected to go to at the end of the 2014-2015 school year to prepare myself for the integration of Springboard into our school curriculum. Though we are not required yet to implement Springboard, we needed to make sure that we had an understanding of it before implementing it on campus. This is an example of my ongoing professional learning and evaluation of my practice because of its demonstration of my commitment to fully understand material before implementing it in my classroom. All too often the feedback that I hear from others who are implementing Springboard is that in their first year they just jumped right into it without any training or understanding of what it is, and because of their administration and pacing guides, they were required to stick to it until they finally got their feet underneath them. While in my case I was fortunate enough to have an administration that provided me with support before implementation, I felt that it was essential that I get to know this program before teaching it or even entertaining incorporating it, so I sought out the learning opportunity to get to know the program better. In addition to the Springboard notes in evidence 3, I have also included my notes from a world history workshop that I attended over the summer before school began. As I noted in my Instructional Practice section, I put a lot of time and energy into revamping the social studies curriculum for 6th grade at my school this year. This workshop was a huge catalyst in my understanding the material and how to teach it. The workshop was put on by the foundation of the man who created the benchmarks for my school, with an outline and curriculum by colleagues who helped him create it, and as such in three days managed to help me understand standards that had confused and frustrated me for a year prior. After this workshop, I was energized and ready to do work on the curriculum. My favorite part about this workshop, and its subsequent effect on my curriculum planning, was that it focused on thematic education and polycentrism. These two aspects of social studies curriculum helped me to focus in on the essentials of the curriculum and learn how to leave out the fluff. It also helped me to figure out ways to work in historical empathy and recognizing bias, a huge factor when it comes to teaching a diverse group of students about cultures that were founded upon slavery and exploitation of others. This workshop helped me to learn how to take my curriculum away from linear history towards a more dynamic, ethically oriented, way of teaching social studies.
While I am always seeking out opportunities for individual development, I am also always seeking opportunities to encourage professional development and collaboration within my various communities. I have included four pieces of evidence to demonstrate my eagerness to take on leadership roles and collaborate with others to further their and my practice. My first three pieces of evidence show some examples of what I have done so far this year in my new role as social studies department head. Prior to this year, our English and social studies department meetings had been five minutes of announcements, supplies distribution, and sending us out the door. While this is generally appreciated after school on a Wednesday, I always felt like it could be so much more. So when I was able to accept the role as social studies department chair for this year, I didn’t want it to be as unproductive as it had historically been. So far in the two department meetings that we have had, we have had productive discussions about what 7th grade teachers feel that 6th graders need to know to start 7th grade successful, and the same with 8th of 7th graders. This alone is more than we had done the year before because we were getting department-wide discussions about what we need to do to take responsibility for student learning and to prepare them for their future classes. The other discussions that we have had have centered around data discussions; how are we making sure that an A in one 7th grade class is an A in another 8th grade class and how do we keep that fair for all students? This lead discussions between the grades to evaluate the materials they are using for student learning and how successful or productive they are being. In my role as a department head, I was able to facilitate these discussions to be responsible for making sure that all students in English and social studies at Wheeler Middle School are getting the best educations and opportunities that they can, and that in and of itself was an extremely rewarding experience.
In addition to my leadership and collaboration experiences on campus with my education team, I also find myself collaborating regularly with my TFA community and JHU community as well. I am fortunate to teach at a school with a high population of TFA teachers and TFA alumni, many of whom are currently going through the JHU program, or who have graduated from it already. Because of this, I am surrounded by a community that has a wealth of knowledge about my schoolwork, my TFA work, and my circumstances with my school site. I often find myself discussing assignments with my colleagues and talking through what I am working on with them in order to elicit feedback. To demonstrate this, I would like to highlight my fourth piece of evidence for this section, a video of my TFA, JHU, and Wheeler colleague and I discussing an assignment for JHU. In this video, you can see how we worked together to discuss an assignment where we were looking at motivation and students, and what that meant to us. Having these opportunities to discuss and engage colleagues in conversations is one of the most invaluable opportunities that I have had as a student and a teacher. This conversation alone prompted me to think even more about motivation and how I can ensure growth within my motivation, and within meeting the motivation needs of my students on a regular basis. Any opportunity that I get to collaborate with my peers, with my colleagues, with parents and administration, always proves to be a worthwhile experience to advance the profession as well as my understanding of my students’ needs.
Like any overachieving, never satisfied student, I strive to learn and grow as much as possible, and as often as possible. I demonstrate this throughout my active participation in group planning and data reflection, in my insistence on making the most of my leadership roles, and in my constant collaboration with members of my various communities. At the end of the day, it all boils down to “what is doing the best for our kiddos?” and that is the driving force behind all that I do. Whether that comes from taking the time to get to know who my students are as individuals, actively making sure I know as much as possible about my material, maximizing time in the classroom with students, or collaborating and working with other teachers and education stakeholders, I need to make sure that I am doing what I can to meet the needs of each of my learners, and to ultimately advance the profession that I have dedicated my adult life to.
Standard 9 Evidence 1
Standard 9 Evidence 2
Standard 9 Evidence 3
Standard 9 Evidence 4
Standard 10 Evidence 1
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Standard 10 Evidence 4