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I once believed that a quiet classroom, with a teacher dishing out knowledge to the hungry masses was ideal

and I strove for that as a substitute teacher. I know now these types of classrooms are dead; a place where some students go through the motions and nothing more and move from grade level to grade level without really learning. Regardless of what the test scores show, the teacher and school have failed to teach. I believe that students benefit and learn important social skills from interaction and collaboration with their peers. They can also gain confidence that they have something to contribute. In my planning and teaching, I have had students work in heterogeneous groups and work together to complete tasks or solve problems. Students brainstormed ideas, filled in graphic organizers, and proposed plans together. My goal as a teacher is to create an environment where mistakes are accepted as an opportunity to learn why. From the first day I want to emphasize and nourish the idea that mistakes are part of learning; that real learning can only be acquired through failure and discovery. I believe classrooms and schools should be places for students to feel confident, happy, and safe. I want students to know that their thoughts are valued and I will encourage them to question and share their ideas. My presence outside the classroom was important to me and my students as an opportunity to talk about non-academic topics and get to know each other. I learned about students’ interests, family life, and just simple, everyday happenings. This helped me in my planning and allowed me to tool lessons to better engage the class. The richness of the material in the classroom will play, and has played, an important role in my teaching. Bringing in multiple resources, newspaper articles, fiction, non-fiction, otherside-of-the-coin accounts, picture books, maps, personal anecdotes, was one way I enriched and broadened the content matter. I am very passionate about Social Studies and believe it is too important of a subject to be push to the side. In my student teaching classrooms I included Social Studies wherever and whenever I could; even bringing up current events or a holiday’s historical or cultural significance during the morning announcements. One idea I will utilize, is analyzing the same topic from multiple perspectives; primary and secondary sources will be used along with recollections from authors with historically differing social statuses. I want students to see both sides and be critical of the information used in each case. I am also going to take up Howard Zinn’s (2000) call and look for the unnoticed heroes in the community as well as the unremembered heroes of the past. The stories and knowledge people from the local area share will represent living social studies and contribute to the students’ learning as well as raise awareness of and value to their local community. I am a believer in the arts, which have also gone by the wayside, and the wonderful benefits that come with them. Plays, paintings, poems, stories are opportunities for students to explore and show their creative knowledge and deepen their understanding of the core content. During my time in a kindergarten class, I collaborated with my master teacher and picked out some “action vocabulary” from Jan Brett’s The Umbrella (2004). The students had an opportunity to act out the action words like squabble (a class favorite), pounce, prowl, and fling while performing the story. Their knowledge of the story, vocabulary, and character traits deepened. In the same class, a drawing project acted as an assessment on student knowledge of the characteristics of insects. Students had to draw an insect that had three body parts and six legs; students’ misunderstandings, or understandings, popped out in crayoned details. Social skills and expectations had their place in these lessons, through sharing of materials and being respectful listeners and peers. Equity in the classroom isn’t all students having the same books, pencils, or desks but students having the same opportunities and access. Knowing my students will help me in

knowing their needs, abilities, and prior knowledge. With this information I will be better equipped to serve and support the students who need the extra care. My classroom will be filled with active and substantial hope. This hope won’t be based on propped up heroes, outdated dreams, or giftwrapped martyrs (Duncan-Andrade, 2009). This hope will go hand in hand with a classroom that isn’t colorblind or closed but colorwise and open. Ignoring the differences in the classroom is detrimental. I am going to address the differences by talking openly and discussing subjects that may be difficult or become hurtful to others. I don’t want to forget that young students talk about things without full understanding and can cause pain. I look back and wish an adult would have helped me understand the true meaning of some words or phrases I used out of ignorance. As Brown and others (2005) state, if the differences in society aren’t discussed or approached, they are dismissed. I want to model teaching without any predetermined ideas and allow students to become themselves and appreciate the individuality of those around them. Overall, I want the classroom to reflect the world outside and for students to treat differences and diversity with respect and acceptance Despite growing up in a time of technological advancement, I would call myself low tech and more mechanical than technical. I like the hands-on approach to problem solving where manipulatives and time for trial and error are given. These exploratory, experiential characteristics have shown in my approach to teaching. But the global shift to digital and technical resources cannot be denied. Schools and classrooms are becoming more technological and the access to technology is becoming more universal. Many elementary school students have never known a world without the internet or cell phones and are technological “natives”. Although I shied away from technology early on, through coursework and classroom experience, I have been exposed to a world of resources available to students and teachers. I see the benefits in the programs and applications. Not only do they save time in some cases but offer students another approach and opportunity to learn and develop. Information, both local and foreign, is accessible and increases the avenues a student can take to deepen their learning. It is undeniable, the power of showing students a vivid picture or short clip of a rainforest stream, multiple pictures of animals while listening to their wild calls, or even showing the information in an interactive presentation. With that said, I will not use technology just to use technology. Students working on computers can become disconnected from the classroom and social learning opportunities are lost. I will include technology in my classroom as a supplement and enhancer to the content information. I want students to work as groups on physical posters and write reports in longhand before typing a final draft. I believe there is benefit in seeing a project come together through a series of stages. Students will still see me write on the board, erase with my hand, draw arrows, doodle little images, but also use technology like document cameras, smart boards, and utilize a class website for the uploading of information and communication. I will collaborate with my colleagues in my grade level, at my school site, and in the larger community of workshops, conferences, and committees. The amount of information that can be found at conferences, especially outside the sessions talking with the educators from different schools and districts, is immense. I will work with parents, teachers, specialists, and the student in order to make sure their best interest is forefront all the time. Due to my passion for Social Studies and Social Science, I will use the opportunities and resources through the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) to help me develop professionally. Students are, and will always be, the focus of my classroom. The cookie cutter will not be present or used. I want my students to be individuals and revolutionaries of change, long after they have moved on from my classroom.

Brown, M.K., Carnoy, M., Currie, E., Duster, T., Oppenheimer, D.B., Schultz, M.M., Wellman, D. (2005). Whitewashing race: The myth of a color-blind society. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 223-251 Duncan-Andrade, J. R. (2009). Note to educators: Hope required when growing roses in concrete. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2), 181-194. Zinn, H. (2000, Fall) Unsung heroes. Rethinking Schools 15 (1).