Standard #5: Learning Environment

The learning environment of my student teaching classroom is really different from a traditional classroom. We allow time to eat breakfast, express our emotions and where we are at in the week, and provide a place to calm down.

Students come in knowing that respect goes both ways, and that if they need something that my mentor teacher or I will get it for them. The students who have had my mentor teacher for a couple years check in every morning with her just to let her know if something is going on that might throw them off that week, or make them unable to finish something, and then they work out a plan for what to do with that information, and how to go about finishing things at a later date. My mentor teacher really shows what it is like to care for your students, school, and make her classroom a home for students who need it to be just that.

Because of this respect that she has built with her students transitions in the classroom go over easily and calmly. She walks around the classroom to monitor behavior, so that she is not calling out a student in front of the class, but instead correcting the behavior with the student individually.

The way that she runs her lesson is the same every day, which helps students understand that she will be a consistent part in their day. She starts off my giving the classroom expectations, and then moves into I do/you do/we do instruction to help guide the learns to the learning target without throwing them into the deep end. Due to this tightly locked in form of consistency, there are little to no behavioral problems in our classroom unless it is manifested from a student with a behavioral background receiving SDI in emotional and behavioral abilities.

I plan to carry this very same way of running a classroom with my own because I see that it works, and I see that the students benefit the most from these learning environments.

Standard #3: Differentiation

Over the time that I have been at my student teaching placement, I have learned about the importance of differentiation through my mentor teacher. Differentiation is a driving force in the classroom and role that she is in.

She gets to know every student on a personal level and uses the knowledge that she acquires from her interactions with her students to help build how she teaches them skills and strategies. My mentor also has her instruction very IEP goal driven to make sure that her students are meeting their IEP goals as the year progresses. Then during the IEP process makes sure to include information that informs the parents of the character of their student and what qualities they possess that she has seen first hand.

Then when it comes to her flexibility and responsiveness in lesson adjustments, I think that she is a professional. We often have to leave our lesson plans due to certain students needing extra support throughout the day that she provides. Our classroom is currently the home room for any student who needs to deescalate. She always has a classroom plan for if one of these situations arise. She also makes herself aware of the high flyers in the school, students who are on administrative radar due to extreme circumstances, so that she can be alert and aware of what to do if one of those students becomes a danger or an issue, and follows the plan put into place for that student.

Next year, I plan to take the strategies that my mentor teacher has taught me and use them in my own classroom. I will make sure to get to know all of my students to best support and represent them as individuals. I will also, make sure that I always have a lesson plan B just in case I come into a situation where I am in need of ditching a lesson. My mentor teacher has taught me how to differentiate to my best ability, and plan to use that information to guide myself as a future educator.

Standard #2: Instruction

From my observations, my mentor teacher really pushes to make sure that she is providing the best instruction for her students. The two main ways that my mentor provides this instruction is through our common core aligned math book, and through differentiated instruction. Because our math book is based off of the common core standards, it is research based, and is providing the source of our instruction. Then by using differentiated instruction, my teacher meets all of the needs of her students by providing access the the content material as based off of IEP needs.

Then she uses strategies like turn and talk, and teach your neighbor how to, to teach discussions with peers around given topics, and to ask each other questions. Both strategies help students independence and self help skills. I think that this is a very useful lesson to teach students so that they are seeking help through other peers, which is what they also would be doing in a workplace setting.

To engage students with learning she uses examples that are wrapped around the students lives. By doing this she is communicating to the students that they actually can use a skill in their lives outside of school. I am working on practicing this with the students, but it is currently a challenge with my math classes because we are in the middle of learning geometry, and it is hard to conceptualize geometry when you are still trying to grasp the vocabulary. However, in the future I might try to have students think about geometry conceptually through art, and the lines associated with art to teach internal and external angles because my students are very into different types of art at the moment.

My mentor teacher also reflects on our teaching with me at the end of each day; be that through comments from students, or things that we both noticed. This time of day is so beneficial to me, and I have gained a new found confidence in my teaching abilities because of the wonderful feedback that I have received from my mentor teacher. For example, today I tackled a very difficult lesson on stereotypes and name calling, and right when our planning period hit we discussed how it went; where I got feedback on how I really handled all of the students answers very well, and that I paced as well as I could for that lesson. Then I got feedback on how I could have given some more examples before moving students on to help the students grasp the question a little better. My mentor teacher has also given me feedback on how I deescalate students very well, and always come at things with a very level head. However, one thing that we are really finding that I struggle with getting to is relating the content to students cultural backgrounds because of class time, and we have drafted a plan to start cultural lessons in the content areas on Fridays to help students be more engaged with the content, and so they feel represented. I will take all of the information that my mentor teacher has given me into my classroom next year, and will make sure to keep it in mind when completing my professional growth plan.

 

Standard #1: Expectations

In my observations, I have found that my teacher makes her classroom expectations very clear, so students do not have a chance to say they do not know the expectations. She even keeps up on research to back the expectations that she has for her classroom and to demonstrate her knowledge of content and pedagogy. My mentor also has high expectations for her students because of research backing that students feel more accomplished when they reach high expectations rather than low expectations. When giving examples of why she is having students reach expectations throughout the year, she also relates why the expectation is important to the student to have and hold up to as it relates to their lives; which recognizes the value and interests of students, and applies it to the learning of expectations.

When it comes to communicating my teacher excels in this subject. Whether it comes to expressing what the learning goal is, or telling students where they are at; my mentor teacher always is in constant communication with her students to always have them informed on their progress in their learning journey. With her math classes she communicates the progression through the math series, so students and parents can see how concepts are building on one another.

On top of all these skills my mentor teacher  has mastered, she also follows the expectations that come with IEPs, FBAs, and BIPs. She always collects the data needed to make sure that the documents have been accurately completed to her best ability. My mentor also keeps contact with the families 24/7, and bends over backward constantly to all of them. I think what I have learned most from this part of my teacher is to also set high expectations for myself, so that I can be the best educator that I can be.

I have also learned that communication is key to making sure that you are being an excellent educator because without communication you cannot get very far. Your student get lost. Administration can become worried and confused about what is actually going on in your classroom. Families also can feel left out of their students education. Finally, I have learned that expectations are the driving force in the classroom, and without them not much would get accomplished because nothing would be expected.

Bread and Butter of Special Education

Standard #5: Learning Environment

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

1) Creating an environment of respect and rapport.

2) Managing classroom procedures through transitions.

3) Managing classroom procedures through performance of no instructional duties.

4) Managing student behavior by establishing expectations.

5) Managing student behavior by monitoring.

This standard has to be the most important for me as a special education teacher because learning environment is what I as the special education teacher am trying to figure out for each student that I work with. I can do this for every student due to the fact that I teach individual instruction, and can alter the learning environment to be different for each one of my students. I also need to have an environment where my students feel respected, or nothing will get done in the class. Not to mention, having mutual respect in the classroom is a personal goal for myself in the teaching setting.

When it comes to special education, transitions are also a huge factor within our classroom, and the student’s daily schedule, so this is another part of the environment that I have to keep in mind when setting up my classroom, and getting my students ready for what they should be expecting in the upcoming year. This also relies on me setting up expectations with in my classroom that state that transitions will happen at specific times, and that the students will be told when these times are. Thus, helping myself in managing classroom procedures, which can lead to my students doing what they are supposed to do when given no instruction because they know that I will inform them when they need to do something else.

Finally, managing behavior is the main concern of my EBD classrooms, these classes are focused on having students self monitor their behavior, so that they can learn how to control their emotions better.

What I have learned from my student teaching is that the learning environment really a deal breaker when it comes to having a functional classroom. Then when you have a functional classroom, like my mentor teacher does you can really focus on hitting the students individual needs, because they are engaged with the learning.

Technology in the Classroom: Let’s Be Real Microsoft Word is a Thing

Standard #3
Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.
  •  Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
  •  Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Lesson Adjustment
  •  Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Persisting to Support Students

The topic of technology in  the classroom has been a topic that I love discussing with others. Being that I was a student who did not get why my education was not growing educationally up with the technology that was being used at the time I really think that students need to be introduced to technology and all of the wonderful things that it can do sooner rather than later. Students need to be comfortable with typing before they reach middle school, because they need to be proficient for when they reach college. I think that it is sad that I really did not type a paper until I reached high school and took over 3 hours to type a 5 paragraph essay because my typing skills where so low. Also if you look at today’s world technology is everywhere, and our students are all using it, so why not use the technology that they use to get them to access information using a tool that they can use outside of the classroom.This also helps teachers step into the students’ world, instead of the students having to step into the teacher’s world.

In my student teaching this quarter, I have seen the wonderful use of technology at the middle school level. My school even uses an app that can be accessed on any device to have the ability to access all of their school work in one location. Then when it comes to writing all of the students have access to iPads in their language arts classes to write their essays. My mentor teacher has even been collecting data on how the student’s words typed per minute has almost doubled, and one of our students who started the year not even knowing how to place his fingers properly on a key board, to now typing properly and can finish typing a paragraph in one class period. By what I have seen in my student teaching I think that the more that we let technology into the classroom the more students we will access, and the more students will achieve. Because honestly in 2016 we really should be acknowledging that Microsoft Word is a thing that we can and should be using. There are also many other sources for adding technology into the classroom by doing surveys, screen shares, and student taught discussion.

Remember What it was like to Learn

Standard #4: Content Knowledge

  • The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.
    • Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy
    • Setting Instructional Outcomes
    • Designing Coherent Instruction in the Area of Learning Activities
    • Designing Coherent Instruction in the Area of Lesson and Unit Structure

What this standard means to me is that when I am teaching I need to remember what it was like to be a learner, so that when I make my lesson plans I am keeping in mind strategies that will help my students access content. I know that I know the content, but  I need to know how to teach my students the content using academic language, and the right type of pedagogy, so that students understand the content. When planning the lesson I also need to keep in mind that I should have expected outcomes from my instruction, so I can create learning objectives for my lessons. By having learning objectives I can share with my students the reasoning behind what they are going to learn in the lesson provided on that objective. By doing this I am adding consistency throughout the lesson, learning activities, and unit structure being that I have objectives that rule how the lesson, learning activities, and unit structure are put together to meet the learning objectives. In the classroom that I am in right now I have seen how this works very effectively, due to the consistency throughout all of the learning process.

To take this concept a step further to keep the learner in mind, I would also incorporate reading and writing strategies in mind when creating the lesson plan to provide students strategies to reach the learning objective in a more effective way for them. For example, in the classroom that I am in right now 1st period is a pre-algebra class, when we start this class we put the learning objective on the board and the students walk in task is to write down what they think the lesson objective means. This measures reading wise if they understand  what will be expected of them by the end of the lesson. then after the lesson is given, the students will write a written response to the learning objective in their own words, so that they can show what they learned through explaining what they did. This is a writing strategy that helps the student in my class express what they learned in their own words. This also allows for student voice to be heard when the teacher does notebook checks during the week to see if anyone is struggling with learning the learning objectives. This is another way to keep the learner in mind when giving instruction.

Overall, I will use my class as a whole to make sure that I am giving them the information that they need to succeed, whether that be through fancy lesson plans, or through using my knowledge about the students to make a lesson plan that is geared toward them in an inviting way that helps engage learners to my content. I will also keep in mind the strategies that helped me as a learner to help my students access those strategies, so that they too can be successful learners.

One way that I have really seen this shine through is my teacher does journals with all of her students, so that she knows what is going on in their lives, so that she can engage them on an emotional level to the content at hand. Something that I have learned from this is that you need to have that emotional connection with the students to make a lesson plan meaningful and have the students engaged. I also have learned that this is a valuable way to check for understanding with students where they do not feel judged by the whole class.

Thanks for reading!