Jun 12

Instructional Practices

In the medical field, there is a team of various professionals involved in any surgical procedure performed on a patient. There are surgeons, doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists directly involved in the procedure, but there are also other members of the team involved in the important preparation but lesser known and acknowledged duties of the procedures. They need bedside caregivers and transport teams to assist the patient with routine preparation schedules. There are even other members of the team to assist as well when the front line team has difficulties or complications. They all collaborate with one other to make the patient’s personally inconvenient hospital visit as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Professionals in other fields have similar teams in which each member has a specific role and duty to perform, and they collaborate with one other to reach desired outcomes. Educators are no exception to the collaborative efforts. There is a team of administrators, lead teachers, assistant teachers, student leaders, parents, and students themselves who are all involved in the educational process and success of students of all ages and developmental levels. Each one of the members of the team is a learner and has the responsibility to gain knowledge and understanding in the learning process.

The teacher’s job is to model learning to her students. “Learning and leading are firmly linked” (Lambert, 54). Teachers are intense learners. When teachers model learning, their students begin to see the value of learning and the value of the content. Many students often see assignments and homework as busy work with no value or lasting impact to meet future needs and goals; therefore, teachers must learn along with their students to allow students to see the importance and application of the material. They must become teacher facilitators where they learn along side their students. When teachers engage students as leaders for other learners in the class, they become a team of learners working together. They form partnerships, and students feel a sense of ownership in their educational experiences. “A student leader is one who contributes to the world around her and understands her role in the community” (Lambert, 56). By employing student leaders, teachers share their roles and are able to meet more learner needs in the class.

By serving as class facilitators and partners in the learning process, teachers can incorporate various methods and techniques for students. They can observe student interests and how students learn best as well as areas for improvement and additional practice. Learners learn on different levels, with different styles, and through different techniques. Student learners allow teachers to meet the needs of the different learning styles. “To promote the success of all students, teachers must look at them as individuals and not as a group of thirty” (Beazley, 2013). Teachers are unable to write lesson plans to meet the learning needs of a large class of students. They must individualize their lesson plans to include focus areas for individual students. Some students may require remedial work in some content areas while other students may need to be challenged above the level of the class as a whole. Some students learn best through print material and grasp concepts through reading assignments while others require writing assignments or hands-on tactical approaches to learning. Each student deserves to be given fair amounts of learning methods and efforts. Teachers must remember that fair and equal are not the same (Falen, J, personal communication, January 2013). Fair is when students are given adequate chances to learn the material on their own levels. One student may grasp a concept on the first attempt, but another student may require multiple attempts and multiple methods. Fair is giving that student as many attempts needed.

On the pre-kindergarten level, students often require multiple approaches and methods to learning. The classrooms are arranged to accommodate these different learning styles and approaches to learning. There are learning centers in each classroom. Students begin the morning routine with circle time where they gather on the big carpet in the center of the room. They begin by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and then singing familiar songs. One song helps the students learn the sounds of the alphabet and phonics. Since many of the students respond well to letter sounds with this song, this approach is individualization for students to learn the sounds of the letters in their names. They learn to spell their names. They learn other words that begin with the same letter as their names. Relating the letters of the alphabet to their own names allows students to place some meaning to learning phonics. They first recognize the letters of their own names, and then they can learn to recognize all letters on flash cards. However, not all students respond as well to group sessions of learning on the carpet. Teachers and classroom facilitators must plan alternate methods for teaching the same concepts to meet the interests and styles of multiple students.

Some students are interested in and need movement activities. After the morning routine in circle time, students choose learning centers in the classroom where they are free to choose the blocks center, art center, math center, housekeeping center, or music center. The art center is a teacher-directed center where students can use paint to write letters of the alphabet. For those students who did not respond as well to the circle time phonics activity, they can paint letters of the alphabet. Teachers will feature one letter per week so students have five days to master one letter. They learn the shape of the letter. They learn the sound of the letter and objects that begin with the letter. They glue objects on the paper with the correct letter. Once again, group sessions and art are not always the best approaches to learning for some students. There must be a variety of learning techniques available for students.

Another learning technique and approach at the pre-kindergarten level is through the active block center. Blocks and cars often appeal to active, high-energy students. In this learning center, students will learn as much about letter sounds and phonics as the students who prefer the circle time session. They will construct letters using blocks and make that the roadway to drive the cars. They will construct letters using their own bodies on the floor. They will learn words that begin with different letters by having examples of the featured letter in that learning center for the week.

The teacher will know her different learning approaches are successful when she observes and assesses her students. One of the best assessments is observation. Students will exhibit their understanding of letter sounds and recognition as they learn through play and daily interactions with peers and recall information presented to them. Although young pre-kindergarten students do not respond well to direct questioning assessments, they show their knowledge and understanding through acting out lessons and topics. Student success happens when students take ownership of their own learning. The teacher knows her students understand and have accomplished the learning material and concepts when they speak it back to her and to classmates. Students will begin to teach and lead others in the class. Some students who have yet to grasp the material will learn from those lead students. It becomes a collaborative approach where all students learn from one another. Teachers will be successful in their approaches to learning “when they are intuitive about the needs of their students” (Welsetead, 2013).

Lambert, L. (2003). Leadership Capacity for Lasting School Improvement. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Beazley, J. (2013). Messages from the Field. Leadership in Education Administration. Minneapolis: Capella University.

Welsetead, C. (2013). Messages from the Field. Leadership in Education Administration. Minneapolis: Capella University

Jun 09

Professional Development Investment

Professional development is essential to a teacher’s growth in her chosen field. Since a teacher is an intense learner, one positive method of professional development is to obtain and learn from a coach or a mentor. “Instructional coaching, which by design, directly helps teachers use instructional strategies” (Driscoll, 40-44). A coach is available to learn alongside a teacher allowing each educator the benefits of continuing the learning process. This coaching process works as a collaborative tool for a teacher to play an important role on the team and view different perspectives to determine if she has made rational, logical, and professional choices. Teachers view situations differently at times and are able to share their own perspectives and thoughts to assist in making decisions for the benefit of the students. It is imperative for a teacher to collaborate with her teammates and colleagues so they arrive at decisions based on a group effort and not solely on one person’s ideas, thoughts, and feelings. “Coaches can be tremendous resources in helping teachers sharpen their listening and observing skills in such situations” (Driscoll, 40-44).

Professional development comes from training sessions and conferences as well. A teacher must attend annual training sessions to exercise her intense learning skills and enhance her knowledge in the field. Many school districts, coalitions, and educational organizations offer and require continuing education classes each year. A teacher must participate and fulfill these training hours to remain certified and qualified, and in some cases, even employed. Many employers that require training sessions provide the required training hours as part of their employee benefits during the school year. Professional development training sessions come in the form of in-service programs that schools and employers offer to their teaching staff. The school may close periodically during the school year to accommodate these sessions as a benefit to the teachers. The districts or coalitions provide current information relevant to classroom teaching standards and practices to assist the teacher in her planning and activity requirements needed to teach content areas. District administrators must focus on a teacher’s needs in the classroom and develop quality training sessions of interest. A teacher must participate in conferences where other teaching professionals learn together and strengthen their teaching skills and knowledge.

In the current media world, professional development comes in the form of the Internet and social media tools. One inexpensive method of gaining important knowledge and further understand in the educational field is through the many modes of social media. A teacher can follow other teaching professionals on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Sulia as well as websites and blogs. She can follow one professional or organization which leads her to follow another professional until she has built up a portfolio of followers and colleagues with whom to collaborate and practice her intense learning skills. A teacher can build a repertoire of fellow learning professionals by following RSS feeds and commenting on websites and blogs. She opens up her possibilities and opportunities of educational professional development to include a wide-range of colleagues far and near. Her perspectives are far greater through this web of knowledge and connection.

Driscoll, M. J. (2008). Embracing coaching as professional development. Principal Leadership, 9(2), 40-44. Retrieved from             http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/235000000?accountid=27 965

Jun 08

Collaboration is Key

Introduction

Collaboration is an essential element to teaching, learning, and school success for all stakeholders involved in the school on all levels and in all areas. “Regularly scheduled teacher collaboration positively affects teacher instructional practices by impacting teacher learning, student learning and by creating and sustaining a culture of shared learning” (Lanich, 2009). Collaboration creates a team approach in which teachers must work together to create positive learning experiences for students by gaining information, knowledge, and feedback from education partners as well as students. Teachers must involve students in the planning process to include their interests and learning styles. When students are interested in lesson topics and ideas, they are motivated to participate and achieve desired learning outcomes and goals. Creating a team approach allows teachers to encourage problem solving skills and disciplines and increases student motivation and ownership of the classroom problem. Collaborative efforts allow students to share different perceptions of the problem (Wenyi, 2008). All persons involved in the teaching and learning process must collaborate with one another for the full perspective of classroom tasks. Teachers, students, administrators, and parents play important roles in student and school success.

Collaborating with Stakeholders

Lead classroom teachers at the pre-kindergarten level must collaborate with other teachers, students, parents, and administrators to achieve learning success and student progress. Teachers must consult their students in the class on levels and areas of interest. If pre-kindergarten students are interested in sports and athletics, teachers can plan a theme around a particular sport or activity. A sports theme would allow parents to be involved in the planning and presentation portion of the lesson plans by providing their expertise and experiences in games with their children. Administrators would be involved in the planning process as well by inviting and involving community coaches to visit the school, thus adding another stakeholder as a collaborator. “Who should decide if a ministry focus is discontinued” (Adrianna V., personal communication, May 13, 2013)? Deciding to discontinue areas of study must be group decisions and collaborative efforts and not quickly decided. These choices must receive multiple times of study by multiple stakeholders to weigh the positive and negative reasons for the programs.

Stakeholders

The stakeholders of an early childhood learning environment consist of students, teachers, administrators, and parents as well as the church staff if it is a faith-based early learning center. The primary responsibility falls on the classroom teacher to plan and prepare lessons for students in the class; however, she must plan lessons based upon student interests to ensure motivation for participation. She must plan her lessons to meet the learning standards set by the district that coordinates with students and parents regarding developmental levels. School administrators must collaborate with district personnel on the age-appropriate standards for early childhood students.

Effectiveness of Collaboration Efforts

District personnel must maintain close communication with school administrators and classroom teachers who work with students on a daily basis to determine learning standards. Classroom teachers are the first educational professionals to observe regular student needs, accomplishments, and achievements. They know how young students develop and at what ages they are able to accomplish developmental goals. When district leaders and curriculum developers are too far removed from the reality of student needs and classroom environments, they have unhealthy views of child development; therefore, do not assign the proper standards to the correct age level.

Improving Collaboration Efforts

To improve collaboration efforts between district leaders and school personnel, the district must form a team for school success to study student needs and child development. They must include classroom teachers, school administrators, and parents with children from the area schools, community and business leaders, and even student leaders themselves. The collaborative team can study student needs, interests, and levels of development on a continuous basis to maintain an understanding over a period of time. Society and culture changes quickly and student interests change with time. Learning standards and child development must be evaluated and assessed often to determine teaching areas in schools and classrooms.

Collaboration to Promote Student Success

Students can be successful in school and in life skills when all stakeholders collaborate with one another to create learning environments that promote student success. When stakeholders work together as a team with student interests in mind, they easily remember teaching purposes and philosophies. When stakeholders begin competing with one another, they lose the focus of education and student learning. They must remember the reasons for teaching and work together to promote student learning and development to lead to lifelong learning and success.

Lanich, Laurene A.. University of Northern Iowa, ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2009. 3392895.

Ho, Wenyi. The Pennsylvania State University, ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2008. 3325922.

May 05

Tree cookies on the playground

Playgrounds are a lot of fun with nature items. Preschool students enjoy jumping on these tree cookies. They are parts of an old tree cut up into smaller pieces. We anchored them into the ground so they are sturdy.

This is great for gross motor activities and hopping or stepping from one tree cookie to the next. The students were very creative as well by adding large waffle blocks to make the line longer.IMG_1728

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Apr 16

Preschool students offer Help for Humpty Dumpty

Preschool students read and studied the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, recently. After reading this story, they thought of ways to help him. The teacher created a bulletin board with pictures and quotes from the students of their responses on how to help.

One student said, put tape around him. Another student said, put a bean bag around him.

This activity brought out the creative minds and thoughts of the preschool students. All good ideas to protect Humpty Dumpty from his fall.

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Apr 16

Skype reading in preschool

Technology is an important interest in the lives of young students. These pre-k students enjoyed a visit from 6th graders in Wisconsin via Skype. The 6th graders read two books to the pre-k students: Caps for Sale and Make Way for Ducklings.  We chose those particular books because both classes had copies of the books and the pre-k students could see the pictures and follow along easily on their side of the computer.

The students loved this experience. It was something different and a highlight of their afternoon at school.

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