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Final Paper for Curriculum and Instruction ED 638 Deidre Jenson December 8, 2012 Most teachers, have studied

different learning theories, had a class on curriculum, could list the responsibilities of a principal, and all teachers have been through an evaluative process of some sort. Of course their level of understanding, as well as their perspective, will vary from teacher to teacher, and will bring a certain flare to their teaching based on their perspective, experiences, and personality. The Curriculum and Instructional Leadership class seems to be a review of previously learned information and past experiences with the new intent to view it from a different perspective in order to apply it in a leadership role. We began the semester with the overview of learning theories. Where some of these learning theories I had heard before, all were good to hear, even if it wasn’t the first time. Understanding these theories at a deeper level, for me will help understand the teachers that I will be working with. Each teacher has a construct which shapes their teaching style and when creating a shared vision with these teachers it will be important for me to understand their construct that has shaped their philosophy of education. I also think it is important to understand a teacher’s perspective throughout the evaluation or coaching process and I have experienced this first hand in professional development at our school recently. I have been given the leadership role in our PLC, which is a group of veteran teachers; one of which has been teaching for 40 years and the other two for close to 20. We are learning about planning for differentiation and have had some heated discussions regarding this topic. One teacher vehemently disagrees with me regarding the importance of differentiation being specifically included in our lesson plans. In the beginning, I was very frustrated with him, but it helps me to realize that he is coming from a different learning theory and a different philosophy of education than me. This understanding is helping me persevere in his professional growth. Upon entering a new site in a leadership role, I might ask my teacher’s to do some review of these theories in professional development to act as a precursor to learning about each other in order to foster a collaborative climate. Understanding learning theories to understand teacher’s perspectives is only one justification for studying learning theories. It has also been useful in learning about what has shaped my construct and has aided in learning about myself. I have come to the understanding that the way we learn truly impacts the way we teach and ultimately the way we lead. However, we need to not only teach and lead the way we find helpful, but we need to keep in mind our what our students and constituents find helpful. I have learned a lot about my own personal learning. I have never realized what a verbal learner I am. I think out loud and in doing that I generate ideas, fuse concepts, and hypothesize theories. There are many times I feel that like Arnold on “Welcome Back, Kotter”, the old TV series about a teacher in a inner-city school. Arnold is the student that sits in the front and gets excited about learning. When the light bulb comes on, he raises his hand high, jumps in and out of

his seat, yelling, “oh, oh…. oh, oh, oh!!!” On the TV series, Arnold tends to annoy his classmates and sometimes I feel I do that in our cohort and among faculty. It has been a valuable thing for me to learn and accept why I talk so much, but it’s also important to remember this in leadership. I need to create opportunities for people to problem solve through collaboration and discussion. My mentor does this well. In discussions, she allows people to do the talking first. In doing that, she provides them the opportunity to come up with ideas on their own. I have also learned from my sister, a therapist, the philosophy behind questioning and listening. In doing so, the client is to draw their own conclusions and it is believed that the success of the path of solution increases. The buy in from the person who came up with the idea is greater, so plan is implemented with greater fidelity. Utilizing this philosophy within a system, will cultivate creativity, stimulate productivity, and assist in the successful reaching of goals. These learning theories have also been helpful in the peer-coaching project. It helped shape my perspective of the teacher before observing him and his classroom set up. In my job as a resource teacher, I provide feedback to teachers fairly consistently. I frequently help teachers solve problems, observe what is going on in the classroom and trouble shoot about behavior and student learning. It is a very collaborative effort and very comfortable for me. I feel that I have gained the trust of most, if not all the teachers in the building, of course to varying degrees. I have team taught with many of the teachers and therefore at the onset of the peercoaching project, I felt very confident in completing this project. The most challenging part, has been understanding how an evaluation tool could be delivered or implemented as a coaching plan. It was difficult to know how to build trust and create a setting that would naturally lead to coaching using a tool that is meant to evaluate. This idea melded nicely throughout the process. Our district’s tool provides a pre-observation form, which helps create that setting. It causes the teacher to be reflective in the 4 domains in respect to their lesson. Like the learning theories, it gives you an understanding of the teacher’s perspective and helps build that trust that is necessary before giving feedback. This showed me the importance of the type of tool you use to evaluate teachers. I feel even more confident in the process and the possibility of being in the role of completing an official evaluation. I have also discovered ways that we can improve our tool, even though it is fairly good. A large portion of our studies and probably the most challenging has been about the parallel curriculum model. The PCM attempts to define a somewhat indefinable thing. There is a certain piece to teaching or teachers that is somewhat unexplainable. It’s like a ‘natural’ athlete; some athlete’s don’t have to work as hard at getting the skills needed to be really good; they just make the right moves at the right time. The closest analogy I can make to this is perhaps comparing two singers. You can take the same song and the same arrangement and two different singers with the same vocal range, similar vocal qualities, and skills, but one may have a certain ‘magic’ that touches the listener in a unique way. Teaching can be like that. The PCM describes the all the components necessary to provide the optimal environment for the highest level of learning to occur. It defines and gives examples of content, assessments, introductory activities, teaching strategies, learning

activities, resources, products, extension activities, practice opportunities, differentiation, and closure activities, not to mention classroom management and environment. Teaching is a very complex skill with multiple facets and layers, just like singing includes multiple skills like theory, rhythm, melody, breathing, notes, vocal tone, dynamics, etc. Some people have to work harder at not only understanding those facets, but also implementing them at the same time as other facets. I have played a number of instruments as well as sang, but not without a lot of work. Athletics on the other hand, came naturally to me. Like coaching an athlete or a musician, it is important to have a deep understanding of all the skills necessary, including the rules or principles, and the application of both in various situations. Tomlinson has attempted to give us all those pieces in order to mentor teachers to a higher level and attempt to create the ‘magic’ that we see when we watch Magic Johnson play basketball or hear Celine Dion sing “Ave Maria”. Viewing it from this perspective encourages me to press forward in mentoring the struggling new student teacher I have been helping this semester, or the older tenured teacher that is resistant to change; both have skills that can be added to, refined and applied in new ways. As a leader, I am learning to coach and assist in that process. The last two products are helpful organizational tools. The research journal continues to be a storage unit for assignments, products and resources that I will continually refer to as I move into a principal assignment. The principal calendar is another useful tool that I will refer to often. I need to start adding to that list with my own items that I see will be important to remember, such as doing a walk about (noting what I want to look for), or sending out regular ‘to be noticed’ emails or encouraging thank you notes. These products, theories, readings, and reflections seem to be enlarging my world. My scope of what is going on in the building, among staff and students, and district wide is broadening daily and I’m feeling more comfortable with the idea of being a principal the closer that time draws near.