TeacherReady: Final Reflection

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.

Advertisements

Teacher Ready I

I recently began an alternative route to professional teaching licensure through Teacher Ready a program supported by the University of West Florida. There were several reasons I started this program. The first being that I am interested in learning more about Common Core standards and how teachers should operate, and design their classes within these standards. The second was to improve myself as an educator, to reflect on my teaching practices and incorporate new ideas into my pedagogy. Finally, the Teacher Ready program has the opportunity to further my education by transferring 12 credit hours to the University of West Florida’s Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed, which has a cognate in Instructional Technology. I have recently completed the second lesson, and thought it would be a good time to reflect, and synthesize what I have learned recently.

It is interesting to see the parallels presented in this Teacher Ready course to things I have been learning in courses for Instructional Design. Despite the fact that Teacher Ready is focusing on best practices for the elementary or secondary school classroom, there are important similarities that are represented in the lessons presented at Skillagents and Blendkit. Although there are important distinctions between how adults and children or adolescents learn there are comparable elements, specifically regarding learner engagement and the development of aligned learning objectives.

One of the first things that I learned in the Teacher Ready course, was the importance of the learners’ first interaction with the teacher and the course material. This was referred to as PRIME TIME, and is related to the notion of first impressions. It is not only the first day of school, but the first few minutes of class as well. If successfully prepared for, it presents the students with an instructor who is prepared, caring, calm and stable. It sets the tone for the course by clearly defining the expectations for all the participants of the course. Finally, it is rooted in the idea that the learning process is ongoing and collaborative, the learners are valuable and represent untapped potential that can be realized through the structured design of this learning environment. These ideas of worth and potential have been discussed in the Value Mindset of Skillagents. The idea of establishing clear expectations for learners in the blended learning environment were presented in Blendkit as well. These ideas are intimately related to the second lesson in Teacher Ready that focused on defining learning objectives.

The Teacher Ready course is dedicated to preparing teachers to enter the classroom in American or International schools. The second lesson in Teacher Ready focuses on defining learning objectives from the Common Core standards that many states have adopted. Learning objectives are essential to the learning process. They represent the necessary steps for learners to be successful not only in their educational pursuit but in the ownership of this process, that is the development of learning autonomy. Learning objectives need to be challenging to the students, clearly defined, and referenced throughout the course. Learning objectives are a communication tool. They express to the learners the goals of the course, describe the relevance of the practice activities within the course, and shape the feedback whether that be personal self-reflection, teacher created assessments, or responses from peers. One very interesting statistic related to the use of learning objectives as a communication tool is that merely stating the day or lesson’s objectives can increase student achievement by 27%, and by including a rubric for their learning to encourage self-reflection can increase that rate to 37%.

There is much more to say about both of these topics, and I am sure they will be referred to regularly throughout the Teacher Ready course. It is exciting to learn new things related to instruction from a different perspective, and I look forward to the following courses in Teacher Ready and how I can apply those lessons learned to my own instructional designs.