The Emergence of a Master Teacher MATC Synthesis Paper

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MATC Program Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

Lindsey J. Howe A30792619 November 24, 2010

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 2 Introduction In an attempt to decide how I was going to synthesize my work during the Master’s program, I found myself continually hitting a wall. I knew what I wanted my point to be, but I was not quite sure how I wanted to explain it in a way that was articulate and creative. While reading through Paul Kurf’s helpful website about this process, I ran across the following helpful hint, “MATC students invariably [need to] figure out a variety of interesting ways to present themselves as professionals and graduate students in their portfolios, and how to communicate their goals and an important theme, thesis, or story to the reader.” I was struck by this thought because when I think of myself, I have a difficult time discerning between these two versions of myself. During my voyage through the MATC program, I never once saw myself at specific times as a teacher and then other times as a MATC student. On the contrary, I saw myself as a MATC student who also taught. I did not simply “go” to class at one time and then teach at another. Instead, I “went” to class and then took what I learned and taught my students. For that reason, I cannot distinctly separate myself into two beings. Soon, I will be a teacher with a Master’s, not a teacher and a person with her Master’s degree. Throughout the process of this program, I found that I was becoming so many things. I was becoming more confident, self-reliant, comfortable in my skin, and competent. As I explore the contents of each of my portfolio artifacts, I will prove that this journey has made me into a being that possesses each of these components. I have always been an emerging teacher, but now I am one that is a bit more of all of the above things than I was before I started the program. By no means am I saying, through the use of my essay title, that I am a master teacher. In contrast, I am trying to show that I am constantly emerging as a new teacher; I am always

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 3 moving through life with the attempt to become a master teacher. Simply getting my Master’s does not make me a master, but it has helped me to make it closer to that mark. What Does a Master Look Like? While I was a new Master’s student, I had the pleasure of enrolling in TE 807. One of the opening assignments for this class asked us to define our view of a good teacher. As we progressed through the class, we had the chance to tweak this view and meld it into a final project, which synthesized all that we had learned into a project (Artifact 2) that formed a clearer view of this question (what does a good teacher look like?). My answer to this question contained many different aspects. For one, I highlighted the point that teachers need to care, which is a point that I will most likely always believe. I attempted to prove this point with the following point: “For starters, teachers need to care enough to motivate all of their students. Teachers are often frustrated by their students‘ deficiencies. More often than not, these deficiencies are blamed on a lack of motivation or care in school. “Teachers rarely [reflect] on their own insufficient teacher preparation or lack of teaching skills” (Mastropieri, Scruggs, and Graetz, 2003, 104). With that in mind, it is our job to research ways to fix this growing problem” (Artifact 2 pg. 1). Aside from finding ways to motivate his/her students, a master teacher also does research into his/her craft. I was able to do this during my work on Artifact 1. For one, I was able to learn better techniques to teach this subject, something that a master teacher must be able to do. “Accomplished teachers have a rich understanding of the subject(s) they teach and appreciate how knowledge in their subject is created, organized, linked to other disciplines and applied to real-world settings” (What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do, 1989/2002, 3). Also

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 4 during my work on this project, I was introduced to new ways to perform teacher research. Through my advanced use of Michigan State’s library services, I became more equipped to perform future research, which would further move me toward my goal to become a master teacher. A master teacher also has confidence. Within Artifact 2, I explored this very fact. I discussed the fact that an accomplished teacher must move in the same progression of events (gain a knowledge of the subject-matter and then become more confident as a teacher). Confidence can come in so many forms. Within Artifact 2, I discussed that a good teacher has the confidence to believe that he/she can “impart [subject-area] knowledge effectively upon his/her students” (pg. 4). Other forms of confidence are ones that require the educator to interact with his/her colleagues to give input on major projects and school issues. Although I will discuss this artifact more fully later, Artifact 4 contains a great example of how a teacher can utilize his/her confidence to work with his/her colleagues. It is not until a teacher is fully confident with his/her craft that he/she can meaningfully participate in collaborative efforts to create lessons, curricula, and school educational frameworks. Lastly, a confident teacher has the guts (for lack of a better word) to admit when he/she could use help. After utilizing the help of others within his/her district, a master teacher then utilizes professional development opportunities. “Professional development today...means providing occasions for teachers to reflect critically on their practice and to fashion new knowledge and beliefs about content, pedagogy, and learners” (qtd. in Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin, 1995, 1). With that fact in mind, only the best teachers seek out such opportunities, knowing that they only serve to better their practice. Another great point that I made in Artifact 2 was that “Regardless of their confidence and skills, practicing teachers are begging for instructional practices that provide them with tools to

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 5 enhance learning outcomes for all students who are struggling...” (Vaughn, Kilnger, and Bryant, 2001, 66). This is where good teaching truly rears its head. I believe that a good teacher must seek out ways to create a classroom that functions smoothly; a place where all students feel like success is an option that is attainable” (pg. 4). In other words, master teachers are of the mindset that all students have the capacity to learn; it is up to us/them to make this fact become a reality within our/their classrooms. How Does One Become a Master? Not only is it important for a teacher to determine what a master teacher looks like, it is also important to actively pursue said endeavors. It is not enough to simply pinpoint my idea of a master teacher, I must also work hard to utilize the tools necessary to get to this point. For instance, I must be able to prove that I am moving in that direction. All of the artifacts that I have chosen to include have the ability to prove that I have been moving in this direction (a point that I will explore in the next part of this essay). As I stated earlier, a master teacher must have confidence, care about his/her students, and compile the necessary skills to impart the knowledge necessary to place his/her students into the real world. How does one do this? Often times, a teacher starts out with a less than full sense of self. I know that my first year of teaching was like walking into the lions’ den, my students being the lions, and every day being fearful that I would never have the skills to walk out “alive.” It was through many trial and error instances that I was able to move out of that mode of simple survival, and I felt more equipped to walk into a classroom with my head held high. I am not saying that my confidence level is at the level of a master teacher, but I also know that I currently stand in a better place than I did in 2006. I would not have gotten to this point, or been able to always be moving toward the target of a master teacher if I would not have allowed myself to be open to the things necessary to take those steps.

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 6 In my opinion, only a good teacher has the potential to take these steps. Ineffective teachers start out thinking that they are great and absolutely confident, when, in reality, they do not understand that we all have a lot to learn, and we all have our own growing to do. With that said, confidence can only be gained if someone is open to let the process take its course. Where can one acquire the care for his/her students, which he/she so desperately needs to be a master teacher? The answer comes in two parts. For one, a lot of the care that is necessary is innate. Although it is plausible that people can change, a lot of what has been instilled in a person, care being one example, tends to come from the process of growing up. For example, I feel that a genuine care for his/her students is present even before an individual decides to take the steps to becoming a teacher. I do not know how many times I have heard a teacher say, “I decided to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life.” It is not often that a teacher says, “I became a teacher to make a lot of money.” Care also comes from the exposure that a teacher has within his/her school. It is one thing to state that he/she wants to make a difference, but the true drive for this comes from the constant contact that a teacher has with his/her students and their individual needs. The above point leads into the final aspect that I feel a master teacher possesses. A student’s individual needs, and the care that a master teacher exudes, cannot be more clear then when such a teacher seeks out ways to most clearly and meaningfully impart the knowledge that each student needs to succeed in his/her class. A master teacher utilizes his/her becomes a master teacher by pinpointing the best ways to pull together such skills, so that no student falls through the cracks. In other words, “Once an individual has entered into the very difficult profession of teaching, he/she must continue to be devoted to his/her craft. If this does not occur, he/she will never be able to be considered a truly good teacher” (Artifact 2, pg. 9).

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 7 Where Am I in This Process? It would be very easy to make the statement that I have reached the status of a master teacher because I am on the verge of receiving my Master’s degree, but are the two synonymous with one another? My work to gain this great honor shows that I care, I am confident in myself so much that I spent the money to attain this goal, and I did the research needed to better serve my students. Isn’t that enough to prove that I am there? The answer to that question is a big, fat no. There are many individuals out there who have their Master’s degrees. This fact does not transfer into a persona that puts them into the category of a master of anything. A teacher, for example, should always be working toward that goal. Also, once a person is labeled a master of something, his/her work does not end; their growth process does not necessarily cease. With that said, where does my progress place me on this broad spectrum? I would still consider myself an emerging teacher. I have moved in the right direction. For instance, my work on Artifacts 1-5 has proven that I care, am confident, and have gained tools to impart the knowledge necessary to place my students into the real world, or at least the next higher grade. For example, my simple defining of what a good teacher looks like, in Artifact 2, shows that I am able to articulate my beliefs about such a complex subject. Also, after close examination of Artifact 1, I was happy to see that I have become more capable to perform the research necessary to better educate my students. Within this project, I researched better ways to help my students to write a personal narrative, which I stated earlier. I learned that it is beneficial to help them to learn the descriptive language necessary to more valuably articulate a narrative from their own lives. “The teacher should [know]: Students will not develop a repertoire of writing skills and forms unless we teach them” (McReynolds and Perry, 2006, 111) (quoted in Artifact 1). This new repertoire that I would give them would come from poems (a

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 8 great source for descriptive language). I performed similar, first-hand research during my work on Artifact 3. This project asked me to follow the learning of a single student within my English 9 class. I learned what it took to accurately gauge her deficiencies, while also researching ways to best help her to move in the right direction. In my quest to find ways to help this particular student, I learned that “A number of theories and studies support the notion that students are more motivated when the literacy activities they engage in are connected to their own lives and their cultural identities” (quoted in Gambrell, 2004, 197) (quoted in Artifact 3). With that knowledge in hand, I then was better able to create lessons that may not just help this student to succeed in my class, it may also help my other students to more thoroughly take to the subject-matter that I am attempting to introduce to them. Artifact 4 also helped me to learn skills to get through to my struggling students. Through collaboration with a fellow teacher, outside of my school district, I was able to create a series of lessons, which introduced a book to ELL students. Not only did this endeavor equip me with a repertoire of skills needed to reach this type of student, I also was able to collaborate with another emerging teacher; which is an aspect of teaching that I feel moves someone into the path of becoming a master teacher. My partner and I explored the best ways to reach these students. We pinpointed the skills that we wanted our students to gain (a very important part of making sure that a student is gaining the knowledge that he/she needs). Our content objectives included the following: • Students will be more prepared to delve into the book Seedfolks. • Students will understand the themes of the book before actually opening the pages. (Artifact 4, page 1)

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 9 As a part of this project, we learned a new aspect of lesson planning. We learned about the need to define language objectives in a lesson that is geared toward English Language Learners. Our language objectives included things like: • Students will be able to categorize their knowledge of vocabulary words found in Seedfolks. • Students will be able to discuss and predict the topics found in the book Seedfolks. (Artifact 4 , page 1) Defining these things helped us to see the importance of what we were going to be teaching our students, and we would be more capable of actually carrying-out such tasks in an effective manner. During this task, we also learned better ways to work with one another toward a common goal. For instance, we began a quest into a new technology; we used Skype to communicate with one another (a tool that I can take into my school and possibly use for other purposes). My work on this project has moved me toward the role of a master teacher because I have more skills that ready me, if I choose to use them, for the new teaching experiences that I will encounter throughout my career. Through my work on Artifact 5, I was able to show the confidence that I have as a teacher. I also was able to advocate for the most important beings within a school, my students. This artifact is a rationale, which I provided to my school’s superintendent, that served the purpose of trying to persuade him to equip me with a personal projector in my classroom. My efforts to obtain such a tool proves that I am emerging as a master teacher because only confident and skilled individuals, in my opinion, have the skills and guts to approach an administrator to attempt to obtain a tool that is proven, if used correctly, to aid in a teacher’s lessons. Phrases such as,

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 10 “During this day in age, technology plays a tremendous role in the high school classroom. From computers to TVs, and even iPods, technology is becoming a staple in the meaningful education of today’s children. With that said, it is important that Brown City utilizes the technology available out there. This use will not just aid in the education of students, but also will make new teaching tools readily available to our twenty-first century teachers” (pg. 1). helped me to prove to my superintendent that I was competent enough in what needed to be done to better serve my students. It was my confidence in my knowledge of my craft, and the care that I have for my students’ learning that, in my opinion, moved my superintendent to grant me this request. Also, I believe that my work during this Master’s program helped me to feel more competent to request such a lofty tool. What Is Left? As was stated earlier, the process of becoming a master teacher is always one that a person, who cares to attain this role, is working toward. Over the past four and a half years, I feel that I have been moving in the right direction. I have shown, through the use of the artifacts that I have chosen, that I know what it looks like to be such a teacher, and I know what it takes to become such a teacher. Even so, I have not yet reached this goal. There are many other artifacts where the above stated have come from. Despite this fact, there are many things that I still need to accomplish. Simply defining what a good teacher looks like (Artifact 2), collaborating with one colleague (Artifact 4), requesting one piece of technology (Artifact 5), or performing a few research projects (Artifacts 1 and 3) cannot help me to call myself a master. It takes years of performing such tasks to help me to feel as though I have accomplished the goals that I have set for myself. I want these tasks to become second-nature for me; I want to feel uber-confident,

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 11 care, without any sense of questioning, about my students, and know that I have a strong grip on the subject-matter that I am teaching. It is not until this occurs that I will be able to refer to myself as a master. Until then, I will still refer to myself as an emerging teacher. It may even be so that I will always consider myself an emerging teacher because we are always growing, changing, and molding ourselves into something that fully benefits out students, school, district, and the profession. My point is that a person can compile all of the artifacts in the world, but he/she will always have more work to do; there will always be more things that a master teacher can do to improve upon his/her profession. To that I say, good luck to myself and all of those other brave, emerging teachers.

The Emergence of a Master Teacher 12

References Darling-Hammond, L., & McLaughlin, M. W. (1995). Policies that support professional development in an era of reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 76(8). Gambrell, L. (2004). Literacy Motivation: Implications for Urban Classrooms. Teaching All the Children. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Mastropieri, M.A., Scruggs, T.E., & Graetz, J. (2003). Reading Comprehension for Secondary Students. Learning Disability Quarterly, 26. McReynolds, Velvet and Tonya Perry. (2006). Teaching Poetry From the Inside Out. English Journal, 96(1). What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (1998/2002).

Vaughn, S., Klinger, J. K., & Bryant, D. P. (2001). Collaborative strategic reading as a means to enhance peer-mediated instruction for reading comprehension and contentarea learning. Remedial and Special Education, 22(2).

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