As a Transforming Practitioner, I realize the importance of constantly changing and growing. In order to do this, I must take the time to reflect on my strategies and practices. When I began the education program two years ago, I thought that I was just going through the motions of getting my degree to be able to have my own classroom. As the completion of this undergraduate degree comes to a close, I have to say that I have completely changed my philosophy of teaching.
When I began my studies at Mercer, I thought that the role of the student was to learn. I felt that the best environment for learning was a teacher-directed classroom where the students stayed in their seats and listened to the teacher lecture. I considered the best assessment to be a written test and the curriculum set the structure for what was to be taught. From the personal experience I had, this seemed to be the best way to establish classroom management and also to reveal what the students had learned. I thought it was important to have periods of recess and student interaction but I was not aware of how to incorporate learning while doing these activities.
My entire philosophy about how to lead a classroom has changed over the past three years. I now believe that it is very important to have a student directed classroom. Through the courses I have taken at Mercer and the fieldwork experiences I have had, I have learned how to allow this to take place. I have become aware of how much the students can teach me about learning and I am also aware of the importance of student discovery. The students remember what they discover long after they remember what is lectured to them. I believe the role of the student is to be a discoverer. I know that an introduction has to occur for each lesson. After the introduction has taken place, the class should become a workshop for discovery. Sometimes the students should work together in small groups with the teacher becoming a collaborative partner with all the groups, and sometimes the students should work individually, using the teacher as a resource. There must be classroom rules and consequences when the rules are not followed. By allowing the students to create this set of rules, ownership to the class rules belongs to them.
In the four different fieldwork classes at Mercer, I have observed different uses of curriculum. In two of the classrooms, I witnessed the teachers using the textbook as the only source for the curriculum being taught. This was in sync with my Beginning Philosophy but did not coordinate with what I was being taught in my courses at Mercer. The students in these classes did well on the assessments, but often seemed to be off-task. In the other two classrooms, I was allowed to become a collaborative partner with the students in a standards-based classroom using the Georgia Performance Standards Framework for Mathematics and English Language Arts. I learned how to use Children’s Literature as a mentor text and interrelate Reading and all other subjects. I was given the opportunity to be creative with assessments and the students as well as the classroom teachers enjoyed it. I look forward to any opportunity to learn about creative assessments. This is one area that I feel is important in order to be successful as a teacher. Because I struggle with test anxiety, I realize that there are many students who struggle with this as well.
Reflection is always important to an educator. After a lesson is complete, a quick reflection over the lesson is necessary in order to make notes for what worked well and what did not work at all. Keeping an organized account of lessons with notes such as this will assist each year when writing lesson plans. When I was first introduced to the role of reflection, it was difficult for me. After many reflections written for Mercer, I feel very comfortable with the role of reflection. The reflection that I wrote about creating an instructional opportunity that would be appropriate for diverse learners, was very meaningful to me since I desire to work in a collaborative class with special education. This was written in my junior block and I was able to work with two collaborative classrooms after I wrote this reflection. This reflection helped me to see how important it is to use Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences when preparing a lesson plan for students. The reflection that I wrote about my Community Service Learning Project was meaningful to me because it made me aware of how important it is to work collaboratively with parents, students, and other school colleagues. Of all the reflections that I completed while at Mercer, the one that was the most meaningful to me was the Transforming Philosophy of Education. This reflection allowed me to take the time to reflect and see just how much I had learned while at Mercer, in addition to the field experiences, and how far I had come in my philosophy of education.
As I mentioned earlier, I plan on seeking professional learning that will assist in finding creative ways to assess students. I have enjoyed creative assessments that I have done with the students that I taught. Recently, I had an “Easter Egg Assessment” where the students had to find the eggs that were filled with vocabulary definitions that the students were instructed to study. Once they found the egg, the students read the definition and told one of the teachers what the vocabulary word fit the definition. The students were not anxious at all, we all enjoyed the assessment, and I was able to assess what the students had learned from the unit I taught. Earlier I taught the students a unit on the Colonial Period. I created a centers-based assessment by allowing the students to walk around to the five different centers set up from the Colonial Period. Each center had instructions for what the students were to do at that particular center. In groups of four, the students circulated for fifteen minutes at each center and participated in the activity and then answered four questions about facts dealing with that activity in the Colonial Period. Assessments such as these and others show how learning can be interrelated with assessment. When creating these assessments, I reflected on what the students should have learned from the unit I taught and created a rubric to assist with the assessments. Reflection is a vital part of learning and assessment.
As I seek to continue my education, whether formal or informal, I will always strive to reflect on the practices that worked well for the students and those practices that did not work well can be removed. By evaluating the effects of my choices and actions on others, I can continue to grow professionally. I have demonstrated that I value the opinions of my peers in the education field and I am constantly trying to learn ways to improve on my practices. I have reached out to professors here at Mercer and experienced teachers to ask for constructive criticism of my teaching practices. I will continue to do this as I develop my teaching career as well as seek many opportunities to be involved in Professional Learning Units.