My time with TeacherReady has come to a close much more quickly than I could have possibly imagined. Am I teacher, ready? I certainly feel that I learned a great deal during the length of this program. I was able to examine the way I educate, and identify several areas where I can make significant improvements that will benefit my students’ learning. I have included below my final reflection, part of my culminating lesson with TeacherReady.
Having taught for over thirteen years to a variety of ages, in multiple institutions, and several subjects focused on English language learning I felt confident enrolling in the TeacherReady program. It was not that I thought I had nothing to learn, but that I was a good teacher. As I progressed through the course, and especially during the culminating lesson, working with my mentor, I learned that there were a great many areas to improve in my teaching methodology, but above all, it related to planning: defining specific and appropriate learning objectives, planning regular means of feedback, and following prescribed routines for classroom management.
The first and most important lesson I learned regarding planning related to learning objectives. When I started working through the lessons in Teacher Ready, I soon realized that I was not planning my lessons effectively. I was often simply filling the classroom time with topic focused learning tasks that the students would enjoy. I was skipping essential steps in the lesson design process and doing a disservice to myself and more importantly to my students. I was not assessing students’ needs appropriately, and I was therefore not defining appropriate learning objectives that clearly defined what students needed to know to achieve mastery. This became quite clear during the culminating week. I had made improvements in my lesson planning, but there was still some disconnect between learning objectives and learning tasks. It reminded me, planning needs to be cyclical, an ongoing process that responds to the students’ learning gaps, which need to be regularly determined through appropriate feedback.
This brings me to the second area for improvement, planning regular and varied means of feedback, an area that I was woefully neglecting. It became abundantly clear during the culminating week of TeacherReady, simply by having to answer the question, “How do you know?” I had to admit that for a great many classes in my teaching life, I did not know until the summative assessments. I would find myself surprised that students performed above or below my expectations, and I realized that my students’ progress towards mastery was not being effectively monitored. First, because mastery was not clearly defined for them, and second because I was not effectively checking in with them, nor providing opportunities for the students themselves to self-assess. To avoid this in the future I will include specific means of feedback for me to assess students, students to assess the learning activities as well as their progress towards mastery.
The last area related to planning that I have learned to consider more carefully is that of classroom management. Because I usually teach older students, I overlooked establishing routines in the classroom. I provide a list of expectations at the beginning of class, but I do not refer to them regularly and it is obvious that students quickly forget them. They do not understand that learning could benefit by attempting to meet or surpass these expectations. I also noticed during the culminating week that I was attempting to talk over students, and that students often misunderstood my instructions. They realized that if they did not listen to my instructions that I would come to them individually and help them anyway. I plan to establish classroom rules and routines as a class and hold them accountable. I also plan to include in my lesson plans, comprehension checks after giving instructions. If students need to answer questions, like “Ok, what do we do first?” after they hear instructions they will strive to pay greater attention, and it will reduce the amount of effort I expend to get learning tasks started.
In conclusion, the time spent with TeacherReady was indispensable. The lessons that I learned reached far beyond what I described in this essay, and I look forward to learning and improving my teaching methodology in the years to come. What TeacherReady may have provided most of all is the desire to provide better educational opportunities for my students, as well as the means to do that through effective planning, implementation, and review of my lessons.
It was a valuable experience, and I would recommend the program to those interested in becoming a professionally licensed teacher. Take a look at the ELA lesson plan I created during the culminating week of Teacher Ready.