Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How has Teaching Changed?

I was recently asked by a mentor, friend, and current doctoral student to tell how teaching has changed over the past decade. This is what I wrote to her.

“I have been teaching 15 years, and there have definitely been changes. When I began teaching, we were taught the whole language approach. A few years later, I attended ARI training, and my approach to reading changed. Before, I was the leader, now I am a facilitator. Previously, I taught everything whole group, and instruction has now changed to small groups. The teacher has become much more of a facilitator (if instruction is done correctly).

Effective instruction is now data driven where previously it was based solely on teacher observation and weekly test grades. Data driven instruction is definitely the better method.

Although, language arts and math instruction has become better quality with the introduction of ARI, AMSTI, and data driven instruction, I feel we still lack in quality science and social studies instruction. Although we have the tools to use (equipment and teaching strategies), time has become a major factor. Standardized testing has greatly influenced this. I mentioned data driven instruction being the best. However, standardized testing is not always. It is a good starting point, but regular progress monitoring is most effective.

Long story short, I feel as if I am a much more effective teacher now than I was years ago. I feel I have received quality professional development and collaborated  with fellow teachers to achieve this. I also wonder how much is self motivation. I want to do bigger and better. I want what is best for my students. I don't want to become a stagnant teacher.”

After submitting this to her, I began thinking how the National Board Certified Teacher process affected these changes. Becoming an NBCT is by far the best professional development process I have ever received. By looking intimately at myself as a teacher and comparing it to the National Board for  Professional Teaching Standards: Literacy: Reading/Language Arts, I realized I was doing a lot of things right, but I was also doing some things ineffectively. I continually look for things I need to improve based on the standards, and I correct them. I cherish the process of becoming an NBCT, and I think that is the biggest factor in the changes of my teaching style and has refreshed me as a teacher.

~Written by Cara Whitehead
You can follow her on Twitter @WhiteheadsClass. Her class website can be found here.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How Are You Building Your PLN?

How are you building your PLN (Personal Learning Network)? In a previous post, I wrote Why Should I Tweet on Twitter? where I explained the power of finding those specific educators that you can connect with, learn from, and share your own experiences with using Twitter. Now, I want to share with you another tool for connecting with educators. This is a tool that I approached skeptically, but one that sky-rocketed my professional learning. One of the most appealing aspects was that it was PD that I could do from the comfort of my own home...it's PD in your PJs. It's where I met and connected with many of the educators that my students collaborate with throughout the school year. I also learned how to use many of the tech tools that my students love using this tool. So, have I peaked your interest? Are you open-minded?

What I'm talking about is Second Life, a multi-user virtual environment. I realize that many of you have seen the crazy spoofs of it on televisions shows like The Office and Oprah. However, being the resourceful people that we are, educators learned how to harness the power of this free virtual space in order to create a real-time learning experience. You can meet for  formal sessions, presentations, and workshops. There are informal gatherings where like-minded people meet to discuss certain topics.

For example, currently a group of teachers from Virginia are conducting a book study on the book Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing? on Thursday nights at 8pm Central. Each week, anyone interested shows up and there is a round table discussion about different chapters. On Thursday the 9th, the discussion is about differentiated instruction. Attendees bring examples, questions, comments, and challenges to discuss. And did I say all of this is free?

If that doesn't interest you, there are a myriad of other topics and discussions going on just about every night of the week. Here's is a listing of the ones held by ISTE. Discovery Educators Network also holds regular events.

Also, did you know that there is also a Second Life NBCT Network? It a network of NBCTs from around the country who meet to discuss educational issues, host speakers, promote professional growth, and support candidates. They provide a support system for NBCTs and candidates who may not have that support in their local areas.

If you are intersted in learning how to get started, check out this website.The important thing to remember is that it is no matter what methods we choose, it is important for us to continue building our PLN to remain accomplished teachers and grow great schools. As John Dewey said,
 "The world is moving at a tremendous rate. Going no one knows where. We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past. Not for our world. But for their world. The world of the future."