Monday, May 7, 2012

First Educational Chat: #ELLChat

My first Educational Chat was quite an experience. I participated in the #ELLCHAT, which took place on April 30, 2012. The topic was on getting English Language Learners to think critically. There was a lot of discussion on Bloom's Taxonomy and how asking higher order thinking questions is key to getting ELLs to think critically. The chat was very slow paced compared to other chats that I have heard other people participate in. Often times, I would try to contribute to the conversation, however, with very little experience on teaching ELLs, I found it difficult. There were many experts joining in on the conversation and they were helpful in giving us beginners, such as myself, strategies to utilize in the classroom. Overall, I believe the educational chats are beneficial in so many ways. I find myself utilizing this helpful tool more often to assist me in the classroom.

Teaching Credential: Hope for the Future

I am excited to announce that I have already applied for my credential. I am extremely excited to start on the job hunt. I am looking forward to that first day of school when I have my own classroom. Having conversations with the teachers I have met so far just makes me even more excited to see what the future has in store for me. One of my cooperating teachers gave me words of wisdom about the teaching profession that just resonated with me, which I know most have probably heard before. She said, "Teaching is a craft." Immediately, I thought of craft as in craft in arts. I can see why teaching is like art, however, it did not connect with me. Not knowing what she meant by this, I searched  the phrase using Google and came across one teacher's website that could not have explained it any better. The "craft" metaphor likens teaching to a potter working at the wheel with clay. Through the master craftsman's sense of "feel," the potter knows whether to add more water or clay, precisely when the object is nearing completion and what additional work is yet required, or whether to recognize that this particular object is a failure and that it's time to start over. This metaphor also likens teaching to a chef de cuisine, a person who is able to transform ordinary groceries and kitchen staples into a feast. Gazing upon the ingredients, a chef de cuisine organizes a menu, works with the groceries and kitchen staples, andin what appears to be a seamless transition from raw materials to six-coursespresents a feast that is as dazzling for the eye to behold as it is for the palate to savor. Not to be overlooked, however, is how in the middle of the process a chef de cuisine oftentimes will make subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle adjustments to the ingredients as environmental conditions intervene and threaten to turn one's first course, entree, or dessert into a disaster. Like these craftsmen, good teachers also have a "feel" about what they need to do if they are to translate their pedagogical intentions and plans into positive learning outcomes. The basic problem student teachers encounter, however, is that good teacherslike master craftsmenhave the "feel" down cold and are able to anticipate where matters are headed before they conspire to destroy one's work. Good teachers attend to cues in the classroom environment. For example, if a lesson is progressing well, good teachers continue along the pathway charted. But, when good teachers intuit that something in the classroom environment has the potential to derail instruction and learning, these teachers adjust accordingly so as to keep instruction and learning securely on track. My teaching craft is a working progress. It needs plenty of more work. The more experience I will gain with teaching, the more things I am able to add to my craft.

Last Semester in the Program

Just a little over a month left in the program and I am excited to see where my credential will take me. I had thoughts of teaching out of state considering how difficult it might be to look for a job here in Southern California. One of the teachers at Valley High School gave me useful advice on the job hunt. This teacher told me to find a job within the district in which I went to school. Word has it that people have more luck finding a job where they went to school. The Oceanside Unified School District will be my starting point and then I will eventually expand to other local school districts. It would be such an honor and privilege to end up teaching at El Camino High School, which is the high school that I graduated from. It would be exciting to meet up with all the amazing teachers that I have had in the past and who have been an inspiration to me. I guess it all depends what the future holds as many would say.

Life During the Program

During one of the orientations to the credential program, I remember one of the coordinatorscommenting on how "rigorous" the single subject program will be. I took this comment lightly because I felt I was already prepared of what was yet to come. I thought long and hard about the determination and motivation it took to get my degrees. So, I thought the program can't possibly be as bad. During the first week of introductions, one of my professors gave us an assignment in which we were given a template to schedule our daily routines. We had to schedule for study time, family time and personal time. Again, I did not think the program could be as bad. I truly was optimistic during the first few weeks of course work. As I got into the groove of things, I discovered what "rigorous" mean.When I look back to that day in September to the time now, I think about the sacrifices I had to make to get me to this point. Many people who were in the program last semester did not make it to this semester and I have even witnessed some in tears due to the strain that the program has placed on their families. My family has even mentioned to me that they hardly see me anymore and that I am always studying. Of course, they took it personal and sometimes I would not even have time to even explain to them why. I do not even have time to do the things I am use to doing such as read the newspaper or enjoy reading a good book. This semester is much more different. I am trying not to work as hard and I have made effort to be with my family as much as I can. The end of the program is near and part of my success I definitely owe to my family. They have been caring, supportive and understanding throughout this process and they are the reason why I made it this far with the program.

TPA: Teacher Performance Assessment

Completing the last task of the TPA was such a relief for me and I am sure it was for others as well. Throughout the program, the TPA was definitely a challenge for me. It was something that I dreaded each time the due dates were approaching because it was extremely lengthy, detailed and repetitive. Each TPA that I have submitted numbered to almost forty seven pages. In sum, for the TPA alone, I have written over two hundred pages of responses. I am sure others have written that much, possibly more, as well. I have mixed feelings about the TPA. Although the work was excruciating at times, the TPA definitely helped me with differentiation strategies and also allowed me to think more critically on how to plan instruction for a class with different types of learning needs. The repetition of the TPA taught me how important and crucial detail is and I am just so relieved that the TPAs are over and done with.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Professional Learning Committee

My first experience with a Professional Learning Committee meeting took place at Oceanside High School. Every Monday at 7:00am the teachers meet up with their departments and discuss the progress of each teacher’s class as well as discuss goals. From time to time, the assistant principal or the principal will visit these meetings and offer assistance if need be. The Professional Learning Committee meetings at Valley High School occur every first Thursday of the month during first period, which lasts for 53 minutes. The students do not come to school until second period. All the teachers meet in the lounge and review a list of students who either deserve or does not deserve the opportunity to stay at Valley High School as a fifth year student. The meeting is facilitated by the principal who calls out each name from a list and each Connections teacher either says “yes” for the student to resume as a student at Valley High School or “no” for the student to continue their education at adult education. The Connections teachers of course have to give reason behind their decision and sometimes there would be debates coming from different teachers who have had the student.  These experiences that I have gained from both high schools gave me insight as to how the professional learning committees are facilitated. I am looking forward to the meetings that I will encounter in the near future as I begin my career as an English teacher.