The position I choose to discuss on the rubric is Experience Learning with Individual summation.
I grew up studying in a private school where learning was completely structured and my teachers controlled everything. I remember being scared of my teachers and was focused solely on acing all my written tests every quarter. In class, we were only allowed to speak when our teacher asked us a question. I thought this was normal until I got exposed to more flexible learning formats in my college years where our professors were facilitators and we were encouraged to be creative and were allowed to discuss our thoughts and work collaboratively . More so, when I started working in international schools , my perspective on instructional formats have become very flexible. I see the importance in letting the students experience the learning process and then drawing their own conclusions about meaning in the end.
In my own classroom, I try my best to make my instruction flexible. One example I have is with a Science lesson I taught my second graders 2 days ago. The topic was on the Sense of Smell . The objective was for them to be able to understand the process of how the nose sends messages to the brain so we can smell. I started off by first letting the students inquire about the sense of smell by asking questions and giving hypothesis. Then, I broke them into groups of 4 and gave them bits of information to research on about the sense of smell . Each group had 2 questions they had to answer in discussion format. Afterwards, they did an experiment where the children were able to gather more information about their inquiry by observation. After the experiment , I set up 2 learning stations – drama , where each member of the group had a role in the smelling process and they had to act it out in different scenarios ; and art , where students had to create a model of the process with clay . Both stations had discussion questions that the group had to talk about at the end . To sum up the activity , I asked my students to write what they have learned about the smelling process in their Science journals and we shared our scientific thoughts to each other.
Being able to create lessons in a flexible way is one of the things I value most as a teacher and a parent in my school.
Acceptance of Diversity
I consider myself to be an advocate of the position Teacher accepts student adversity which is on the flexible side of the scale.
When I was in elementary, I had 45 classmates every year and my teachers would assign class numbers to everyone – those numbers became our names for the rest of the school year. If you were a star student- chances are, your teachers would remember your first name. Reflecting upon it, I realize that in a class of 45 , we obviously had different learning styles and we were a pretty diverse group . In a traditional setup though, it’s either you sink or swim – we were not differentiated at all . We all had to do everything at the same time in the same way . I clearly remember one of my Math teachers scoring one of my tests wrong because even though I got the correct answer, I did not use the same method she taught us in class. I also recall a time when my brother was recommended to transfer schools because he had hyperactivity attention problems and the teachers cannot accommodate his learning style.
In my classroom, I try my best to embrace student diversity. Each year I get a new set of students – all with different skills and styles to bring on the table. This year , I have made provisions for several students with learning and attention difficulties. Early in the year I noticed one of my students having difficulty focusing on writing tasks – even though she can state her ideas out loud , she cannot sit still and write them down on paper. One accommodation I did for her was to record her voice and make her do an audio learning log. Another thing I found out that works for her too is putting a timer on her desk whenever there’s a writing task , I set the timer on a certain number of minutes and challenge her to beat the time - and she does – every time. When she comes to me with a big smile on her face – beaming with pride , I am reminded of how I love my job and how I’m lucky to be given an opportunity everyday to make my students feel special and unique in their own way.
2. 15 Dimensions of Schooling
I choose to be flexible on these 5 aspects of schooling :
In my classroom, I would say that my motivational technique is mostly intrinsic- I allow students to decide to conform. At the beginning of the school year , I usually introduce the concept of making good choices with my second graders . I try to motivate them by letting them set weekly goals for themselves. They also get recognized when they meet their goals or when they are caught doing something positive. During learning activities, I strive to motivate my students by giving them a chance to inquire about our topic, thus , stimulating curiouosity throughout the block. Another thing we do mostly in lower school is give our students free choices on how they will learn a certain topic and which area they would like to learn first . This , I believe, motivates our students to participate in the lesson without having to always anticipate extrinsic rewards to be able to accomplish something.
I personally think that administrators play a tremendous role on the performance of teachers. In the past 6 years, I have worked with 2 different elementary principals who both had opposite leadership styles.
The first principal I had was very controlling in a sense that she liked to make decisions unilaterally. She scarcely communicated with us teachers- she always got our names mixed up , and for the most part, she rarely made an effort to go in our classrooms and get to know the students. With the staff, she ruled with intimidation. With the students, she served as the prefect who watched over detention. In response, teachers did not feel any sense of motivation or encouragement in her leadership , therefore there was a lack of solidarity in the team. Students sensed a certain coldness in the atmosphere and it just didn’t feel right. She left after 2 years.
Then came my current principal who is proactive and includes teachers in most of her decision making. She communicates with us, teachers in a very encouraging way and makes us feel confident about our craft. She’s great with our students- she learned all of their names in the first month of school. Students love her and interact with her all the time. This kind of leadership transcended into good teacher-student relationships and a harmonious atmosphere among colleagues.
I believe that great leadership bring out the best in people and I am fortunate to have a great principal who encourages teachers to shine .
For classroom space, I believe in Multipurpose spaces or centers for different learning stations. Kids being able to interact with each other in different areas of the room is my primary concern . I divide my tables in groups of 4 to give way for small group discussions. I also have a class library, meeting area, Science and Math corner, a conference kidney table to hold meetings with students, and a decent space for our Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop to take place. Movement in the classroom is sometimes left to the discretion of the students – such as getting supplies and bathroom breaks . I do have certain rules about pencil sharpening (only during recess) and also drinking water (they all have water bottles that they fill before entering the room).
Another aspect I really like to be flexible about is classroom ownership . Just this year, I have decided to remove my huge teacher’s table and replace it with a small desk – just big enough to sit my Imac and a bookshelf to store my personal books and materials. My corner now looks more of an open office space that hopefully sends a warm and welcoming message to the students that we share our classroom space. We also have pictures of our class framed around the room and also student works posted to promote ownership.
When I look at a school , I look at staffing teachers with 2 or more subject specialties as a more flexible patterns for staffing. In the elementary level , self-contained classrooms need teachers who are capable of teaching the core subjects as opposed to traditional schools where teachers are solitary subject specialist. I am also in favor of teachers working collaboratively.
Having been a student in a private, local school growing up, I notice the difference in staffing partners and its’ effects on students. I had 10 different teachers and it was difficult for me to view what I was learning in a holistic way since we had different classes everyday that were not linked to each other. Now, in my self contained class, my students are able to connect and make more meaning of their learning because they are able to integrate other subjects in their curriculum.
Use of Learning Materials
For the use of learning materials, I would say that I lean more on the flexible side. Being a second grade teacher, multisensory stimulation for my students is important. In our school, there would be materials ranging from Science Foss kits that are used in group experiments to Math manipulative in different classrooms. We also use a variety of textbooks as well as technology devices to aid instruction. For example, we use programs like Reading A-Z to provide students with e-books to read at their level. We also use Keynote presentations, videos, and blogs, video books to teach a lesson. . Basically, all objects you can find around the classroom are perceived as materials and I think that as teachers, we should all try to upgrade our current teaching practices to make our materials more engaging for the learners.