Rebecca Burtwell

September 17, 2014

Teaching and Learning Statement
Theoretical Framework
During my time studying education at Wayne State University, I have had the
opportunity to learn about many different teaching styles and philosophies. I have been able to
develop my own philosophy that is based on constructivism-much like Jean Piaget. Jean
Piaget’s theory suggests that students construct knowledge out of their experiences and also
promotes active learning, or learning by doing. Along with that, constructivists believe that
students learn best when they are working with other students and adults (teachers). I have come
learn that when students learn using real-life situations and lessons they can relate to, they have
the most interest and therefore get the most out of the instruction that I am giving. This has a
greater impact on their overall education.
In order for me to be able to adapt to the constructivist theory in the classroom, I need to
be able to allow students to do hands-on learning. Currently in my student teaching classroom
the instruction for Language lesson is 100% scripted. This can make allowing students to “learn
by doing” slightly more challenging, but it is possible with the right amount of effort. In the
classroom we still are able to allow students to collaborate with each other doing full group
lessons and the students work with one another in small groups when the lesson requires them to
complete a worksheet or other activity. The students will spend the oral learning part of the
lesson on the carpet together with large group centered questions and answers as well as time for
the students to talk individually and with one another. Once that part of the lesson is complete
the students return to their desks where I see them assist each other and often times try to work
together to complete their individual worksheets or activities. This collaboration gives students

Rebecca Burtwell
September 17, 2014

the opportunity to work together and they can often get new ideas from each other. Since the
lessons are scripted, I am learning that it does take some effort to make the lessons more
interesting. Whether my future classroom will use scripted lessons, I do not know, but I do that
if they do or do not my goal will be to make lessons hands-on and interesting so that students get
the most out of the lesson.
Since the basis of this theory is to allow students to work together, having good
classroom management is very important. When students work with one another they tend to be
slightly on the louder side and sometimes can get carried away with the excitement of learning
new things. In the classroom we have several ways to get the students to get back to an
appropriate level by either shutting the lights down for a moment, having the students put their
heads down to re-group, or having the students put their hands up to re-focus.
There is a lot of formative assessment that I use which helps me know that the students
understand what is being taught. Since Constructivists rely heavily on observations, when the
students work as a whole group I can see which ones are responding to questions, as well as I am
able to call on the students who may not be as vocal during the group time and have them
respond individually. With the program that is used in my current classroom, there are
accompanying worksheets with all of the lessons, so I am also able to check each students work
the access their learning.
An Effective, Reflective Urban Educator
To me, being an effective, reflective urban educator means that I will be willing to
continuously reflect on my teaching, get feedback from administrators, and look to my students
to keep myself always evolving. Collaborating with other teachers is another way I plan to learn

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September 17, 2014

more about myself as a teacher and education. So often getting the input of others will make you
see something in a different way and it can be very beneficial. I know that in order for me to be
the best educator I can be, I will also need to accept constructive criticism when it is offered and
vow to never become complacent when it comes to teaching.
To assess myself as a teacher each day I like to look back on the day’s events and pick
out at least one specific example of a time that I helped a student during that day and reflect back
on how helping that student made me feel. A lot of times teaching can feel frustrating with the
politics surrounding the field. For me, just recalling one instance where I helped a student
understand something and really saw them learn, helps me remember why I love doing what I do
and how much I want to continue to work with children. One of my strengths that I feel I have is
that I very much remember what it was like to be a young student. Growing up I attended a
private Catholic school and the teachers were often older nuns, who were so strict they made the
classroom scary. I was afraid to answer questions for fear I would be wrong and then get in
trouble. I always make sure that students feel comfortable and have a risk-free learning approach
in the classroom. I like students to think that there are no wrong answers and that even if
something is a little off base, everything someone has to say is helpful and can help us learn.
Along with positive reflection, another way that I assess myself is to think of something I could
have done better that day. Everyone has areas they can work on and for me I have found that I
worry so much about getting everything done in the day that has been planned. My cooperating
teacher has helped me to understand that sometimes things do not go as planned and there are
only so many hours that we have with the students. If a particular part of a lesson takes longer
than expected, that is okay. There is always tomorrow to try to catch up on something that
perhaps was not able to be covered. I continue to learn that once I am in my own classroom

Rebecca Burtwell
September 17, 2014

things may not always follow the exact order I plan them to. Being flexible is one of the biggest
things I am going to take with me to my future classroom, as it will help in many areas.
Currently I have not had the opportunity to participate in much staff development, but I
was invited to attend a staff meeting the afternoon after the first day of school. I was introduced
to the whole staff and it was great how welcoming everyone was. They really made me feel like
I was one of the teachers as opposed to just temporary help. There were many topics discussed,
including how to allocate money received from Title 1 funding as well as day-to-day workings in
the school. It was very helpful to hear all of the plans the school has for the current and future
school years and I look forward to seeing some of the ideas come to light.
An Effective, Innovative Urban Educator
To be an effective, innovative educator it is important to adapt to fit the student’s needs.
I have already learned that students learn in many different ways. One student in my classroom
needs to sit without any distractions during work time. He cannot sit next to other students
because he loses his focus too quickly. He has a spot at the front table where he will go when it
is time to work and once he is finished he is able to sit with his peers again. In our classroom we
also use microphones to help the students hear instruction better. Especially in lower grades
there can be so many distractions for the students, and I have found that the microphone helps
keep the students engaged and listening.
Being creative is a huge part about being an innovative educator. Activities that use
manipulative engage the students so much more than activities that do not include manipulatives.
Each day during calendar time, we use counters to assist us with counting the days that we have
been in school. Just allowing different students to count out the days using the counters gets

Rebecca Burtwell
September 17, 2014

them so excited. The students all want their turn to be able to use them and are very engaged
when they get their turn or are watching others. I have found that it does not take extravagant
manipulatives to peek student’s interest. Anything hands-on will get them to understand the
lessons better. In the classroom we have manipulative kits to assist with learning letters. The
kits include small objects that start with the particular letter we are learning like stamps or
stickers.
Transitions between activities are another way that I try to use innovative strategies and
keep the students engaged. When it is time for the students to return to their desks from carpet
time I will have them do different actions to get to their desk. For example, if we are learning
about different objects in the classroom, such as a bookcase, each student needs to touch the
bookcase before they return to their seats. If we are learning about the number 4, each student
needs to jump up and down 4 times before returning to their seats. These types of things keeps
the learning fun, keeps the students moving, and has them always thinking while transitioning to
other activities.
An Effective, Urban Educator Who is Committed to Diversity
Diversity is such a huge part of education these days. Schools are true melting pots with
people of all different races, religions, cultures, classes, socioeconomic statuses, abilities, sexual
orientations, plus so many other differences. As an educator it is important to learn about
student’s backgrounds in order to provide them with the best education I can. As previously
mentioned, the classroom I am currently in has families of all different types. I think that it is
important for students and their families to know that my classroom is open and accepting to all
of student differences and that embracing those differences is a priority. A great way to get

Rebecca Burtwell
September 17, 2014

families involved is to be open to celebrating all the difference customs and holidays that
families celebrate. It gets the whole family involved and gives the students the opportunity to
share their family’s customs with their classmates.
Being informed is the best way to learn about the students, their families, and the
community. It will be important for me to do research to learn about how the community can
help build the curriculum. One way to work with the community, embrace diversity, and learn is
a through school buddy program. Students get paired with students from a higher grade and
work together on different projects. I have seen students work together on making cards or
writing letters for soldiers, or the elderly community. The students get exposed to so many
different types of people this way and it is a great learning experience for everyone involved.
Sending home a student information sheet is another great way to learn more about the families
and community too. I can find out with whom the students live, any special information I need
to know, or special events or holidays they celebrate. When these holidays or events occur I can
find different stories or information to share with the entire class so the students feel included
and others get to learn about different cultures.