Category Archives: Internship

My Philosophy of Learning

1.3 Engaging Students in Learning. Just eight short months ago, I believed engaging students in learning meant teaching information to my students in a way that was not boring to them. Now, at the end of my internship, engaging students in learning means so much more. It means teaching information in a way that they can connect with. It means differentiating information to each student’s level of understanding. It means including activities that spark thought and encourage questioning. It means creating lesson plans that are clearly defined and organized. As I have grown as an educator, my philosophy of teaching has grown from a basic understanding of the importance of engagement to a belief that students learn from active involvement in the learning process.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.                                                – Benjamin Franklin

I have learned that a large part of engaging students in learning is creating lesson plans that are clear, concise and include activities that enable students to learn. There are so many little details that can facilitate the engagement of student’s ability to learn. A few months ago, I created a lesson plan to teach telling time. The goal of the activity was to see if my students could determine how long 1 minute was by starting with their heads down and eyes closed and when they believed a minute had passed, they were told to give me a thumbs up. I taught this lesson to my first group of students and found that the momentum I was trying to build was fizzled out by little movement and engagement. When I taught this lesson with my next session of students, I changed it by having the students stand up when they believed a minute had passed. This time, students shot straight out of the seats excited to find out how much time had passed compared to my first session who barely opened their eyes as they raised their thumbs. The degree of movement between a thumbs up and students standing up out of their seats made a considerable difference to the amount of engagement my students had in the activity.

I have learned that teachers can use a continuum of strategies during whole-group instruction to maintain student engagement, gather information to inform future instruction, and monitor student progress. This continuum ranges from proactive strategies that promote engagement to reactive strategies in response to students who become disengaged (Nagro, Hooks, Fraser, & Cornelius, 2016). To me, this means that if something is not working, I need to change it! As a novice teacher, everything is new to me. The strategies, theories, evidence-based practices and planning is all new. As I create lesson plans and activities, I assess myself. I assess the level of engagement from my students, I assess the degree to which their knowledge has grown and I assess the the degree to which they understand each lesson. Through trial and error, I’ve been learning as I go. I continuously learn what works, does not work and what could be done more effectively. I have learned that change does not mean failure. If one strategy or practice does not work I am not afraid to grow and change.

I have also learned the importance of utilizing my classroom paraeducators to better facilitate the learning process. Involving paraeducators in planning and decision making can have a positive effect on student learning (Riggs, 2004). Working as a team creates a positive environment, additional support for students and opportunities for a variety of activities. Next school year, I will have 2 paraeducators assigned to my classroom of 9 students. While some teachers may not be favorable to the idea of that much additional support for such a small number of students, I feel that this is great benefit to my classroom because it gives me the opportunity to create lesson plans that are full of engaging activities that are offered in a variety of levels of understanding.

 

Riggs, C. G. (2004). To teachers: What paraeducators want you to know. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(5), 8-12.

Nagro, S. A., Hooks, S. D., Fraser, D. W., & Cornelius, K. E. (2016). Whole-group response strategies to promote student engagement in inclusive classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 48(5), 243-249. doi:10.1177/0040059916640749

Reflection

5.2 Managing Classroom Procedures through Transitions. To me, this standard reflects the importance of making sure that transition times are clearly displayed so that transition times move fluidly without loss of instruction time. For example, in the elementary grades, teachers often display a daily schedule on the wall or white board for students to refer to through out the day. In middle and high school classes where students may only be in a classroom for 1 period per day, teachers may post the schedule on the overhead projector and read the daily expectations aloud to the class. During my internship, my mentor teacher was in an accident and I became his full time substitute for four months. I had been co-teaching for a short period of time before I was completely on my own. I was teaching in an 18-21 transition classroom where students moved in and out of the classroom throughout the day, at varying times. As far as I could tell, there was not a set schedule for teaching curriculum. My mentor teacher is a seasoned teacher who is great at planning that days activities, the morning of. As a novice teacher, I need a clear expectations and a well planned out schedule.

About 3 weeks into my solo teaching, many of my students behaviors became undesirable. I found that some were having a hard time focusing, there was bullying within the classroom and some were throwing tantrums. I could not figure out what the trigger was to this new set of behaviors. I did some research and came across and article about classroom transitions for students with disabilities. According to Pierce, Spriggs, Gast, and Luscre (2013), students with Autism typically have difficulty following verbal directions alone due to their communicative deficits. Visual cues offer non-intrusive prompts for smooth transitions, often increasing activity engagement, decreasing aberrant behaviors. Research also supports visual activity schedule use with students with intellectual disabilities and with students with learning disabilities. This made perfect sense in relation to my problem. Our transitions from one activity to another were erratic and inconsistent. I instantly realized that I was not meeting my students unique needs. I decided to make a day by day, well planned out schedule. As we do not use a specific curriculum in our transition classroom, I made a list of all the topics that I felt were important for my students to learn in our vocational program. I paired up the topics and made a master schedule. The times were the same for each day, only the subject matter changed. To best support my visual learners, I then posted our schedule on our white board in large print. Each morning, before my students arrive, I change the subject matter to reflect the activities for that day.

After just one week, both myself and my classroom paraeducators noticed a vast improvement in our student’s behaviors. They not only appreciated the new schedule but they lived by it. If I went even one minute over a transition time, hands flew into the air. Even now, months later, they alert me to an upcoming transition. They take pride in following the schedule and keeping track of time. I also noticed that not only did the behaviors improve, but some of my students exhibited less anxiety. This realization made me understand the importance of a well planned out schedule and how inconsistency can truly hinder some students ability to learn. Through this experience I learned that I need to pay close attention to any changes in behavior because it may be the only way some students know how to communicate effectively. If a student’s behavior begins to noticeably change, it is my job as their teacher to investigate what might be causing the change. I am so thankful that I was able to problem solve an effective way to manage classroom behaviors. When my mentor teacher returned to work, he was so impressed with how smoothly our students moved from one activity to another, he decided to continue using my schedule.

Next year, I will be teaching 1st and 2nd grade extended resource room. As I now understand the importance smooth transitions and how they can positively effect a students ability to learn, I know it will be very important for me to develop ways to implement a schedule into my elementary classroom. I know that many of my future students will not be able to read so I am looking forward to developing methods of using pictorial visual aids to represent transition times. I am also looking forward to integrating telling time lessons into my lesson plans and correlating it with our displayed transition times.

Pierce, J. M., Spriggs, A. D., Gast, D. L., & Luscre, D. (2013). Effects of visual activity schedules on independent classroom transitions for students with autism. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 60(3), 253-269. doi:10.1080/1034912X.2013.812191

Reflection

6.1 Assessment – Designing Student Assessments around Criteria and Standards. One year ago, if you would have told me that I would be looking forward to creating new types of assessments each week, I would have thought you were joking. As a paraeducator, I did not understand the importance of determining the student’s level of understanding in order to better select appropriate curricula to meet student’s individual needs. One year later, as a teaching professional, I see assessment in a new light. I rely on the information that assessments provide to help me identify what my students know, identify specific needs, select appropriate curricula and set goals.

Without the carefully collected ongoing assessment information, teachers make the assumption that all learners are the same. I have found that in special education, students do not progress at the same rate and in the same patterns. I’ve learned that it is necessary to use collected data to make adjustments during the instructional sequence for students to better understand new material. A key part in applying assessment data to learning is the ability to strengthen the link between differentiated instruction and assessment. Some students will move at a quicker pace or with greater independence; others will move with more foundational tasks or tasks structured with greater support mechanisms (Moon, 231).

I teach in an 18-21 year old transition classroom where the main academic focus is on vocational abilities and technical reading and writing. My students spend half of their school day at job site internships. At the beginning of this year, I was having a difficult time assessing their progress, on our core vocational skills, at their jobsites. I would receive feedback from our paraeducators who accompany them to their internship site each day but it was apparent, after interviewing my students, that there was a lack of understanding between the internship goals and the students comprehending the expectation. With that in mind, I created an Intern Assessment and an Independence. Previous versions of the Intern Assessment had been used in the past but I felt that it would be highly beneficial to add a section for the student to assess themselves. Figure 1 shows our Intern Assessment. This assessment is filled out each work day by both the student (Intern) and the paraedcucator (job coach). Figure 2 shows our Independence Assessment. Like our Intern Assessment, this assessment was created for our students and paraeducators to fill out. This assessment is filled out on Friday of each week.

Figure 1

Intern Assessment

Figure 2

Independence Assessment (For USE)

Throughout my internship process, I myself have had to participate in a variety of self-assessments. I have found this to be beneficial to my learning as an educator as it has helped me to take a deeper look at my own abilities based on the discrepancies between my current and desired performance. I incorporated self-assessment into my student’s daily and weekly assessments because I wanted them to fully conceptualize their benchmarks for performance and criteria for evaluation. Students are able to construct meaning, in part, by self assessing prior to and during learning. They organize, evaluate and internalize when learning and self-assessment is part of that process. They must connect new knowledge, understanding and skills with what they have already stored and used. It fosters their ability to make these connections themselves, provides a mechanism to enhance learning in a meaningful way and results in greater student motivation and confidence (McMillan & Hearn, 2008).

I am now in month 7 of my internship and I have seen a substantial growth in my students abilities while at their work site. The intern and independence assessments were always beneficial in visually allowing my students the degree to which they were improving based on the paraeducators assessments. I believe that by adding in the opportunity for self-assessment, my students have improved their understanding of the expectations, reflected on their own learning, generated strategies for more learning and improved their performance with meaningful motivation.

Next year, I may be working in a classroom that is not transition. I am looking forward to the opportunity to adapt these assessments to be implemented in a variety of education settings. I believe that it is important to encourage self-assessment in all grade levels as it promotes self-efficacy and confidence to learning. I know that I have grown considerable as an educator over the past 7 months and truly have found a passion for the use of assessments. Tracking student progress is not only for collecting and analyzing information but it also is used to reflect on the learning process.

 

 

References

McMillan, J. and Hearn, J. (2008). Student self-assessment: The key to stronger student    motivations and higher education. Educational Horizons. Accessed from       files.eric.edu.giv/fulltext/EJ815370.pdf

Moon, T. (2005). The role of assessment and differentiation. Theory into Practice, 44(3),               226-233.

 

 

Reflection: The New Age of Professional Practice

           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. To me, this category represents the importance of utilizing and going beyond the use of typical professional seminars, workshops and conferences by enhancing professional development through the creation of collaborations with other teachers, school administrators, highly qualified mentors and professional partnerships. This greater range of development contributes to our collective goal of setting up our students for optimal success. According to Desimone (2011), over the past decade a more broadbased view of teacher professional development has emerged, treating teacher learning as interactive and social, based in discourse and community practice. In this view, formal or informal learning communities among teachers can act as powerful mechanisms for their growth and development. I really like the idea of collaboration and find that in my internship, working with state agencies involved with transition is an invaluable tool.

            I feel so very lucky to be endorsing special education because the community of teachers that make up our department are a very close team of individuals. I never imagined that teachers would work so closely together, supporting each other through the good, the bad and the in-between. Beyond the amazing support system that has built up around me, I continuously have been afforded opportunities to further my career through professional collaboration. I recently was asked to help facilitate an amazing opportunity for collaboration between my school district’s high school special education teachers, a non-profit called Open Doors for Multicultural Families and many state agencies directly involved in our student’s education and transition. As a group, our goal is to help multicultural families with children with disabilities plan for transitions and help them better understand why interventions are important. This experience is significant in my development as a teacher because it gives me the opportunity to work with numerous multicultural families, an array of special education teachers and state agencies that help support the student population that I am endorsing. I feel so fortunate to even be considered to participate in such a unique professional collaboration and know that the outcome will greatly benefit my student’s learning. At the grade level I am interning in, 18-21 year old special education transition, it is beyond important that we teach our students the importance of what transition means. It is just as important that we also help the families understand what transition looks like so our students will continue to be successful once they leave our program. These professional collaborations afford me that opportunity and equipped me with the knowledge and support that I need to teach my students successfully.

            For the future, I will continue to network and collaborate in ways that will better facilitate learning. I also plan to join the National Association of Special Education Teachers because I believe that they are a wealth of knowledge. They offer trainings and supports in regards to IEPs and transition that I am just now starting to use in my internship. Their website offers ideas on different community based outings which is something I have struggle to plan for my students. These outing need to be educational and relevant to young adult life and it has been difficult to plan field trips that are engaging and appropriate. I was thrilled to find many different examples of community based outings and am looking forward to implementing them into our lessons.

Desimone, L. M (2011). A Primer on Effective Professional   Development. Kaplan Magazine, 92(6), 68-72. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from https://bbweb03.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1068143-dt-content-rid- 2249919_1/courses/EDU6134_10240_201561/Desimone2011. pdf

Webquest Chart of Professional Organizations