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Mara Brandli AC 636: A Vision of Teaching Summer 2013 Reflective Narrative One of my high school teachers recently told

me, There is nothing more gratifying than helping others see and do things they never realized that they could. Connecting with my former teachers insight, my developing mission as an educator is to help individuals see their potential so that they can craft a meaningful life. As an educator at Carmen High School of Science and Technology and a graduate student in Alverno Colleges Licensure to Masters program, I believe that all of my accomplishments to date have resulted from my ability to plan, to teach, and to assess content in a context that is relevant to each students life. Planning The logic of planning is a beautiful paradox: Begin with the end. My ideas about planning stem from Wiggins and McTighes Understanding by Design. I start by planning according to the Common Core Standards that I want my students to master. Then, I consider the Six Facets of Understanding - Explanation, Interpretation, Application, Perspective, Empathy, and Self-Knowledge - as I create an assessment. All of these facets, like the content standards, are important in, as well as beyond, the classroom. Along with standards and assessment, I also value considering the reality component during the planning process. The reality component is the students present life circumstance and its formative influence on each individuals disposition and knowledge. I whole-heartedly believe that education must be made relevant to life outside of the classroom. In fact, I told my students on their first day of class (also my first day as a high school teacher) that they should let me know the day that our classs curriculum seems pointless to them. To create a relevant learning experience, I gather knowledge both directly and indirectly about the topics that interest my students. Directly, I gather knowledge of my students through the relationships that I build. One of my first major accomplishments as an Alverno student was the Take a Learner to Lunch interview and paper. The student that I interviewed had been a student of mine during a summer course before the interview. Because of the relationship that I built with this student, I felt confident that he would be comfortable answering questions about his experiences with education, his learning style, and how his life outside of school contributes to learning for him. The questions that I created for the interview remained with me as I continued to build relationships with other students. I regularly ask my students about the types of music that they listen to as well as their family or work commitments outside of school. As members of a larger community, students are influenced by many environments and forces. Urie Brofenbrenner got it right when he said that all learners exist in multiple environments. While I am only one person in one of many environments, my knowledge of the environments that my students are exposed to should, and

certainly does, inform my processes of planning. Moreover, Ruby Paynes A Framework for Understanding Poverty has also been a key component in my approach to understanding the forces that influence what students know and how they know it. Most of my students are confronted by an environment marred by the effects of urban poverty: Absent parents, exposure to gang violence, minimum-wage paying jobs, drug abuse, and gender inequality. While I know that my responsibilities as an educator are not the same as those of a licensed school social worker, I also know that when my students know that I care about their day-to-day reality, a great amount of rapport and respect begins to grow. Without this respect from students, a teacher faces obstacles that can stymie true learning. I have to take my students reality into account when I plan. Taking influences that are external to the classroom into account, I am following Wisconsin Teacher Standard #2 (Teachers know how students grow) in that I am supporting students intellectual, social, and personal growth. I also gather knowledge indirectly through observation. I see and hear students interact with each other in the classroom, in the hallways, or at nonacademic events like service projects or sporting games. These academic and social interactions provide me with knowledge about how students approach life. This knowledge shows me what my students know, what they can do, and what they are learning to do with communication. As an English Language Arts teacher, I specifically observe how students speak and listen. Even if my awareness towards the importance of environments and external forces is natural to my process of planning, my classes and professors at Alverno have consistently supported and reinforced the importance of these understandings through the programs holistic approach to teacher preparation. Conceptualization is hard at work when I speak of the importance of growing my knowledge about students beyond the classroom; following the abilitys concept, I plan with an understanding of human development that recognizes the role that environments and forces plays in a students process of learning. Moreover, I demonstrate understanding of Diagnosis when I interpret indirect observations of communication between students. Finally, I coordinate resources within the school as well as the greater Milwaukee community to support student learning, therefore demonstrating understanding of Coordination. If I believe an assessment for learning gives me evidence that a student needs more resources to foster learning, I know that I need to speak with the school social worker in the case that the student might need to engage in the RTI process. There are also technology and media resources that I coordinate to cultivate effective learning environments. Knowing about these resources demonstrates Wisconsin Teacher Standard #10: Teachers are connected with other teachers and the community. Instructing and Engaging Students in Learning At the heart of my vision of instructing and engaging students in learning is a belief in the power of joyful energy, changing and differentiated activities, student-led learning, and the class pulse. I meet my students outside of my classroom door to greet them with a smile and a handshake before they enter the classroom. I want students to know that they are welcome in my classroom. I also want students to know that I recognize their individuality, and by greeting

students at the door, I connect with individuals. My classroom culture values peaceful language and professional interactions among all members in the classroom at any given time; the classroom is not a place for social diatribes between maturing adolescents. Here I uphold Integrative Interaction. Most people want to learn in a safe and positive environment. By maintaining this type of engaging environment, classroom management occurs naturally. Engaging and positive instruction motivates students and follows Wisconsin Teacher Standard #5: Teachers know how to manage a classroom. In addition, learning tasks that incorporate all of Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligences actively engage students. I make sure to mix up instruction by incorporating activities for all types of learners. Sometimes we role play, sometimes we watch movie clips, sometimes we go outside to be in nature. This approach demonstrates Wisconsin Teacher Standard #7: Teachers are able to plan different kinds of lessons. By building on student responses, learning becomes student-led. A Problem-Based Learning unit allows for this type of learning. A recent accomplishment is a PBL unit featuring Rebecca Skloots The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that I created with three other graduate students. A PBL unit gives students a subtle amount of structure in instruction which lends enough freedom for student responses to direct learning based on their ideas and discoveries. Taking the classs pulse means reading (diagnosing) how students respond to instruction and then reflecting on that evidence. By reflecting on evidence, I am practicing Wisconsin Teacher Standard #9: Teachers are able to evaluate themselves. My vision of teaching thrives off of students reactions to instruction. The ideal pulse looks and sounds like students who are self-directed and engaged learners who coexist in a positive community of learners. I hope that students who become self-directed, engaged, and community learners will transfer those human interaction skills into their adult life beyond my classroom. Learning about students personal, cultural, and community assets often allows me to understand why students respond in certain ways to lessons. For example, most of my students identify with a Latino background. I take the pulse of the overall importance of that background and try to incorporate its importance into the classroom. If, for example, I am instructing on how to read for main ideas in an informational text, I could select a scholarly article about immigration reform. In my DDP, there is a teaching clip that shows a mini lesson that I taught about infinitives in grammar. Knowing that many of my students speak Spanish, I compared the infinitive in English to an infinitive verb in Spanish. Assessing Student Learning Assessing student learning is the area that my attention has gravitated towards this semester at Alverno. In both classes that I am currently enrolled in (LTM 622 and 632), my professors have advocated for performance assessments that assess the students ability to transfer knowledge in the students preferred learning modality. Again, I use Wiggins and McTighes 6 Facets of Understanding to inform the types of questions on assessments. I think that the most meaningful type of feedback occurs when the student him/herself evaluates work. During writing workshops, I will have a conference with a student about a piece of written work that is in the early stages of the writing process. Empowered, the student holds

the editing pen and makes changes with my guidance. I have observed students, who I guided through the editing process, fearlessly guide peers through the editing and drafting processes. This is a major, albeit unexpected, accomplishment. This type of student-led instruction is evidence of what students know and are able to do. This is an informal assessment that I observe, however it tells me about how to plan next steps in instruction and how to differentiate instruction based on the level of application that students are at during a given point in a unit. For a second or third final draft of a paper, I will write comments on the paper. Time permitting, I again prefer to conference with students and orally explain my commentary. Finally, to identify evidence and explain students use of academic language that demonstrates their development of content understanding, I most frequently create assessments that ask students to demonstrate knowledge through either writing or speaking skills. I value writing as a form of assessment because it gives students the opportunity to tell me what they know. Speaking requires understanding and confidence; therefore, it is a sound form of assessment that shows a students understanding of content and development of character. My overall understanding of assessment most closely demonstrates application of Communication. Depending of the assessments purpose and place in a unit, I use oral and written modes of communication to reinforce the learning process.
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