Student Teaching Reflection 1

Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

It is essential that schools cultivate a community of trust and respect so all students feel welcomed and supported throughout the school day. In every classroom, teachers incorporate research-based teaching methods to promote a supportive learning community where students needs are acknowledged and fulfilled. Students frequently participate in a cooperative learning environment. Cooperative learning helps students figure out how to work together, support each other’s learning, and reflect on their individual learning (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 32). Teachers who incorporate cooperative learning are also fostering a supportive learning environment. Beesley & Aptorp’s research concluded that additional benefits of cooperative learning include increased academic and socioemotional achievement, higher self-esteem, and decreased feelings of isolation in school (as cited in Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 46).

Before beginning my student teaching experience, I had not considered how cooperative learning operates in a Kindergarten classroom. I also had not thought about how the basic skills needed during cooperative learning also help a teacher ensure students feel like a significant member of the classroom. I quickly discovered there are a few unique qualities about Kindergarten. Kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student, how to participate in academic activities, and how to engage in social interactions. The foundation of cooperative learning is built during Kindergarten as students focus on fundamental life skills like respect, sharing, being kind, and helping others.

As displayed in the picture on the left, my mentor teacher incorporates social skills as part of the students’ learning goals. These skills support a positive classroom culture. Learning social skills helps students’ transition throughout the school day, interact with their peers, and provide assistance to each other during lessons. There is a constant reminder that everyone should practice kindness, caring, and sharing. This focus helps students remember how to cooperate with each other as they line up for recess or inquire about each other’s work. Eventually these skills will aid students as they participate in cooperative learning activities.

Throughout the next few months, a teaching goal of mine is to incorporate more cooperative learning opportunities in addition to social skills learning goals. I think more group-oriented learning tasks will be a great time for students to discover how their developing social skills are utilized during academic activities. A stronger learning environment will be built as students gain confidence working with each other.

Reference

Dean, C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Autumn Field Experience Reflection

Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

Teaching goes beyond helping students acquire knowledge and skills. Teachers also use their professional judgment to assess students’ emotional and physical health. These two factors often influence a student’s ability to learn, their confidence, and their sense of security. Creating a community of trust includes the teacher building relationships with students by learning about their interests and personalities.

evidence2
Figure 1 – Washington State DSHS Guide

Figure 1 is a reminder that child abuse and neglect can occur within any group of people. A child’s safety and well-being is a basic human right, so reports made to CPS help ensure children live in safe environments. In 2006, over 78,000 CPS reports were made in Washington. CPS conducted a further investigation in just under less than half of those reports.

Child abuse and neglect is difficult for teachers to think about, yet it is critical to be aware of abuse signs and know how to talk with students if the issue arises. Teachers should regularly review their school district’s policy on reporting child abuse and neglect. In the event reporting is necessary, it is best to be prepared about the appropriate resources and procedures.

At the beginning of the school year, my mentor teacher had made about five CPS reports concerning child abuse and neglect during her eight years of teaching. I visited her class in mid-November and she was preparing to make her third CPS report this school year. In two of the situations this year, the children reported an issue to her that caused concern to find out more information. In the third situation she observed a drastic change in the child’s personality and mood. She has reported physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. The protocol at her elementary school is that the student talks with the school counselor after a potential issue is discovered. By the end of the school day, the teacher and the school counselor notify the principal that a report will be made. The school counselor is generally present when the teacher calls CPS.

While is it distressing my mentor teacher has already made three CPS reports this year, I think it is because her students feel truly comfortable in her classroom. They know she cares about them, which is why they trust her with sensitive information about their personal lives. She allows them the opportunity to express themselves and share stories. She has so many high need students that I think she should try to schedule a regular time for quick check-ins to ensure she is meeting with everyone. There is a 10-minute block when students return from recess before going to either P.E. or music. It has been challenging for her to use that time academically, so that might be an opportunity to meet with students individually.

Teachers start building the classroom’s learning environment beginning with their first interaction with students. The teacher-student relationship is essential for earning students trust and motivating them to excel academically. The school community balances academic growth as well as emotional and physical development.

Reference

Washington State Department of Health and Social Services – Children’s Administration. (2010). Protecting the abused and neglected child – A guide for recognizing and reporting child abuse (DSHS – 22-163).

 

EDU 6644: Reflection

Module 3’s primary focus was on how general education teachers can support students with learning disabilities and special needs. I selected this module for my reflection because it is an overview of what I need to know as general educational teacher. A portion of my discussion post is presented in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1
There are several factors that influence how a teacher can proactively support students with special needs. First, teachers should have a solid understanding of the range of disabilities, disorders, and unique special needs that will require extra attention in meeting a student’s behavioral, social, physical and/or academic need. Every year general education teachers will assist students with special needs. Lewis & Doorlag (2011) state that about 75% of students who have a mild learning need can receive accommodation in a general education classroom. The more knowledge teachers have about different types of special education needs, the more likely teachers will be comfortable relying on their skills while working with all students.

An essential fact for general education teachers to learn about exceptional learners is that about 75% of students with a mild learning need can be accommodated in the general education environment. I think that when teachers learn this information, it diminishes the misconception that all students with a special need require intense intervention. In practice, I can show other general education teachers we have the ability to provide accommodations. I want others to feel empowered that we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to help students with a mild learning need. There are many benefits when teachers provide support for student with special needs by modifying lessons or differentiating instruction. The student’s day is not disrupted by having to leave the classroom for special instruction. Another benefit is that special education teachers can devote their time with students who do need individual assistance.

In Figure 1, I also discuss how a teacher becomes more comfortable relying on his or her skills after attaining more knowledge about working with exceptional learners. I mention something similar nearly every week because one of my concerns has been how will I be confident in applying my knowledge and skills while working with students with special needs? I value the academic focus on learning about the range of students’ needs, but I know the application of that knowledge can be challenging. After my observational hours, I realize confidence will happen overtime. This is a situation where I need to worry less and instead look for opportunities where I gain experience and apply my knowledge. As I experience working with a range of students I will learn what accommodations produce the best results.

This course has helped me learn about identifying and working with students with special needs. I anticipate many challenges and learning opportunities in the future. With education, reflection and teaching experiences, my ability to support exceptional learners will continue to grow.

EDU 6989 Observation Reflection

In May 2016, I spent 42 hours observing teachers and students at Endeavour Elementary School in Issaquah, Washington. I primarily observed a first grade classroom. The first grade teacher also arranged opportunities for me to observe in second, third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms. I was very appreciative for the additional observation experiences because I saw how instruction, curriculum, and collaborative learning changed in conjunction with different grades. Anyone who spends time at Endeavour will quickly observe that key values in the school are respect, teamwork, citizenship, and personal growth. These values apply to the students as well as the administrative staff, teachers, and volunteers. Everyone is responsible for helping ensure the school is a safe, welcoming, engaging environment so students are focused on learning and achieving their academic and personal goals. Values are promoted on posters in the hallways, on signs in the classrooms, through classroom expectations, and in how everyone communicates with each other.

Two areas I focused on during my observations were classroom management and assisting students with special needs. Since the observation occurred near the end of the school year, classroom management and organization were already a polished process. Students knew what their teacher expected from them and what management cues their teacher used. One universal cue was a hand gesture students used to indicate they wanted to go to the restroom. In the first grade classroom, the primary focus teaching students to line up quietly to prepare to walk in a silent line to recess, lunch, P.E., art, or music. In second, third, and fourth grade, every student was assigned a classroom duty. These jobs helped the classroom remain a safe, productive learning environment for students while reminding them they are responsible for helping take care of the school. Each teacher had their own system about how to assign tasks to students on a rotating based. It appeared every student took pride in their assigned task and they did not want to leave the room for the day until their job was completed. Designating classroom duties assisted in the organization of the room since jobs included responsibilities such as turning on and off computers every day, handing out papers, collecting assignments, and cleaning the desks.

Most students demonstrated very respectful behavior and self-control. Teachers practiced different age appropriate solutions for student misbehavior. In the first grade class, students were seated on the floor for a lesson when two boys started badgering another boy, B. B asked his classmates to stop bothering him. A fourth boy even tried to tell the instigators they were not following class rules. Once it was obvious this issue was not going to be solved among the students, the teacher stopped mid-lesson to remind everyone of the class rules. The consequence for the two boys who were not following classroom rules was to verbally apologize and to write an “I’m sorry” note to B. The teacher also praised the boy who tried to help, explaining that it is important to help your friends. In the third grade classroom, the teacher privately talked to a few students in the hallway since bullying-type behavior had recently developed and seemed to be escalating. Each student was talked to individually for a few minutes. The teacher taking the time to have one-on-one conversations indicated her respect for students as individuals and provided students the opportunity to engage in a conversation with their teacher. Both teachers demonstrated how a response to misbehavior changes depending on the action and age.

Supporting exceptional learners is a priority for teachers, school administers, and specialists. It is a collaborative effort among the staff to ensure students with behavioral, intellectual, physical, attentive, and/or social issues receive an education that aligns with their needs. Depending on the individual’s need, students might work with a specialist for one-on-one help or spend a portion of their school day in the resource room while also receiving specific academic and verbal instruction from their general education teacher.

I focused on observing how general education teachers differentiated instruction and learning activities for students with special needs. In one class students were working on learning their multiplication facts. First, this activity recognized that all students learn at different rates. Students had to correctly answer a set of multiplication facts before progressing to the next set. The teacher added an extra support to this activity for L, a student with a learning disability. L learned the same material as her classmates, but focused on learning half as many multiplication facts in one set at a time. This differentiated instruction recognized L is capable of learning the multiplication facts. Chunking the information into smaller sets made the activity more attainable for L. I also observed the techniques a second grade teacher used when she assisted two students with special behavior needs. A strategy she used with both students was to create a self-monitoring behavior chart that the students used every day. She tracked their behavior too, but believed that the charts helped them stay focused on positive classroom behavior and interactions. It was enlightening for me to observe how the teachers managed the learning and behavioral needs of students with distinctive needs.

Endeavour offers programs to support highly capable students. For students in Kindergarten through second grade, there is a qualification process to participate in the Primary Enrichment Program (PEP). Students in third, fourth, and fifth grade have two options available. Mind Education Right Left Integration (MERLIN) is a program all students in the district can participate in after a nomination and evaluation process. Endeavour is one of the two elementary schools in Issaquah that hosts the MERLIN classrooms. MERLIN classes have high expectations and challenge students through higher level thinking instruction and independent work (Highly Capable Program, 2016). Highly capable third, fourth, and fifth graders may also qualify for Special Approach to Gifted Education (SAGE), which is a program that enhances the learning experience for students placed in the general education classroom (Highly Capable Program, 2016). PEP, MERLIN, and SAGE reflect Issaquah School District’s commitment to providing highly capable students options that appropriately align with their learning needs.

Student’s academic learning and personal growth are very important at Endeavour. Achievement is guided through direct instruction, applied learning experiences, and student’s exploration into individual interests. Student inquiry and questioning is encouraged as a primary method of learning and understanding. Nearly all direct instruction lessons included a review about students’ background knowledge, especially during math and science. Students were often instructed to incorporate critical thinking skills throughout all subjects. This technique was always used after silent reading ended. All the teachers asked for student volunteers to talk about what they had read, if they had any predictions about what was going to happen next, and if they had any lingering questions.

Teachers also emphasized that students should read stories that matched their reading level. The third grade teacher reminded her students of the 5-Finger Rule during reading time. This strategy helps a student determine how challenging the book is based on how many words they understand on a random page. Students begin reading a page in the middle of a new book and for every word they do not know on that page, they put up a finger. A book is “just right” if they have two or three fingers up by the end of the page (Mascott, 2013). I talked with a fourth grade student about he was reading. It was quickly apparent the story was just above his reading comprehension level. I mentioned this interaction with the teacher. She said that he likes to challenge himself, but she would talk with him and recommend he change books.

Student’s safety within the school and at home is critical. If school personnel have any concerns about a child’s well-being, it is recommended to immediately review the district’s regulation manual to ensure the proper action is followed. Pursuant to the regulations, if an employee believes there is a reasonable cause to suspect child neglect or abuse, the situation must be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency as soon as possible and no later than 48 hours after reasonable cause was suspected (Regulations, 2012). The policy also states the report should made in the presence of the school principal when possible (Regulations, 2012). The recommendation to review the policy every time a situation arises is an essential process because students’ safety is an issue that should be handled correctly and efficiently.

Observation was an extremely valuable experience. I witnessed how professionals supported students with diverse needs and personalities, as well as how they collaborated with their colleagues. I was inspired watching how excellent teachers incorporated various instructional methods into the curriculum while maintaining the students inquiry and learning as the priority. I am beyond grateful that the teachers and students at Endeavour welcomed me into their community and look forward to returning to observe preparation for beginning of next school year.

References

Issaquah School District. (2016). Highly capable (gifted) programs overview. Retrieved from: http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/academics/programs/gifted

Mascot, A. (2013). Help kids to p.i.c.k. the right books. Retrieved from: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/blogs/scholastic-parents-raise-reader/help-kids-to-pick-right-books

Issaquah School District. (2012. Regulations: Child abuse, neglect, and exploitation prevention-3421. Retrieved from: http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/docs/default-source/district/regulations-manual/3000/3421p-child-abuse-neglect-and-exploitation.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Inclusion of Students with Special Needs

American federal laws and society values have contributed to an increase in students with special needs working alongside their peers in general education classrooms. When students with special needs are included in the general education classroom, all students learn that everyone has special abilities and some people need more help than others. I think inclusion of students who receive special education services leads to a more accepting school culture and other students strive to assist anyone who needs help. After reading more about this topic, it is evident some people worry about accommodations being fair for everyone and whether or not inclusion is beneficial.

Byrnes (2008) explains that an accommodation is a modification to an activity or setting to remove the barrier preventing the person with a disability from achievement and access. Byrnes analyzes how appropriate adjustments do not make an assignment or lesson easier for students, but rather provides equal access that other students experience in a learning environment (Evans, 2008, p. 319). I thought Byrnes provided thorough support for accommodating students with special needs since the purpose to them when it is needed and does not interfere with what is being tested.

Kauffman, McGee, and Brigham (2008) argue that inclusion often prevents students with disabilities from being properly challenged or enabling the students to rely on the accommodations. Further, there is concern over whether students with special needs are receiving an appropriate education that aligns with their disability (Evans, 2008, p. 329). I think these are valid arguments, but instead of implying all students with special needs should not be included, it is better to remind teachers to think about individual student’s situations. Making generalizations about how special education inclusion is applied erroneously across the country adds to any negative connotation. It is also ignoring the school’s that have implemented a good approach. People who oppose the inclusion should ask successful schools about their program to learn what is recommended to ensure all students are being properly assessed and accommodated.

I think it is often difficult for people who have not needed an accommodation in life to understand that the purpose is to make the task equitable, not easier. I support the inclusion of students with special needs working in the general education classroom when the resource team makes that recommendation. I think when children work with a diversity of students then it is an opportunity for life lessons that might not occur otherwise. As long as everyone is achieving what they are capable of doing, the inclusion of students with disabilities should not be considered a distraction in the general education classroom. Instead, inclusion should be viewed as an asset because everyone is learning material and lessons they might not have been exposed to in another environment.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Instructional Strategies Meta-Reflection

Throughout this course the readings, lectures, and reflections have reviewed teaching techniques educators practice in the classroom. These strategies are grouped together in broader models, so teachers have the opportunity to learn and assess how to apply the instructional approaches. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) categorize the four main models as: 1) the information-processing family; 2) the social family; 3) the personal family; and 4) the behavioral systems family.

Information-processing models are important because people strive to make sense of information by organizing their knowledge, applying critical thinking skills, and attempting to solve problems (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015, p. 10). The scientific inquiry approach is a natural instructional strategy for me to include in my classroom.The_Scientific_Method_as_an_Ongoing_Process.svg This approach primarily focuses on science-related lessons, but I think it should be used in many different subjects. Advantages of this approach include that it allows students to experience hands-on practice and teachers are encouraged to seek “cross-cutting”concepts to identify content that is similar to other subjects (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015, p. 72).The steps are also applicable for students when they try to solve problems outside of school. Additionally, I hope that the more practice students have using the scientific inquiry process will further benefit them in their future Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics endeavors.

Social model strategies promote a positive cooperative learning environment in which students interact during supportive learning activities (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015, p. 12). Creating and consistently using a cooperative learning approach is very important to me when I begin teaching. The world has advanced to a global society and successful interactions requires the ability to work with people of different cultures, beliefs, and values. Cooperative learning activities should incorporate elements of positive interdependence so students can reflect on how everyone’s effort is significant and individual accountability so students recognize how their individual contribution impacted the group (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 37). Cooperative learning activities also keep students actively thinking and they learn how to communicate their understanding and knowledge with others.

The strategies discussed in personal and behavioral systems families are crucial as well, although I think of those approaches more often at an independent, personalized level for students. Information-processing and social models requires more planning at a broader classroom approach. I look forward to discovering more about these models, instructional techniques, and experiencing how students respond to certain strategies.

References:

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., & Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.