I was twelve years into my teaching career before deciding to enter a master’s program in 2015. During those twelve years, I was fortunate to work in school environments that monitored teachers to ensure high standards in such a way that one felt simultaneously supported and trusted. Classroom experiences taught me valuable lessons with an impact that no training course could have delivered, encapsulating the question all teachers must face, “How do I teach others what I have learned through experience?” As a rookie, my senior colleagues became my teachers, helping me hone my skills so that I too rose to the role of a mentor teacher. Now, in 2019, my master’s work in educational technology at Michigan State University has built upon those formative years to expand my vision as an educator and influence my goals. In my current role as a STEAM teacher for a local non-profit, here are three areas on which I plan to focus in the near future: leadership beyond my classroom, self-directed learning, and equity in education.
Leadership Beyond My Classroom
Returning to the States after years abroad meant leaving a long-term leadership role as a department coordinator. Of the many leadership lessons I learned, the greatest was recognizing that everyone on my team had potential to contribute as leaders and benefited from chances to do so. Now, as I return to teaching full-time, I see an opportunity to lead by example through building my public online presence. For focus and motivation, I have begun regularly publishing work on my blog, which has the added benefits of reaching a broader audience, expanding my connections, and leveraging feedback from my professional learning network. I already have found that the necessary reflection prior to publishing serves as a final synthesis of editing based on effects witnessed in the classroom. Too often after a piece of curriculum is created and taught, it is easy to view it as done. And since life always brings new demands, it is often hard to revisit work that is in essence complete. However, research shows that reflecting on experience improves performance. “Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)”, from Harvard Business Review, has adaptable tips for forming good reflection habits that will no doubt serve me well in any future leadership role.
The lessons I learned as a new teacher were invaluable, and they were often initiated directly by some challenge in the classroom, like how to connect with a particularly disengaged student. In my current role it is no different. Teaching STEAM, I have witnessed how extending learning experiences encourages students to transfer knowledge between situations, further cementing their understanding. But I am still new to project based learning (PBL) and plan to focus my future learning on PBL and the flipped classroom model. PBL teaches students critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication to answer a driving question. It embodies the lesson of the Confucian philosopher Xunzi, who wrote, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” PBLWorks, run by the Buck Institute for Education, is one of the best resources in the field. The flipped classroom model complements PBL curriculum by shifting direct instruction from the group in school to the individual at home, thus freeing up more class time. Flipped Learning Network has support for implementation across age groups and subjects. While working towards implementing the flipped classroom model and high-quality PBL, I also want to continue my involvement in the educational technology community through the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and perhaps look into becoming an ISTE Certified Educator.
Equity in Education
Another transition I made upon returning to the States was shifting from private education to public. Talent Maker City, the nonprofit for which I teach, works tirelessly with local organizations, like Migrant Education and Oregon Youth Authority, to increase equity in education. Bringing hands-on educational programs to impacted populations in the community has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Stand for Children has a branch here in Oregon, and their resources are incredibly helpful for understanding the challenges and strategies for raising high school graduation rates. I particularly wish to investigate any potential roles delivering high quality content via online learning as a means in addressing this challenge.
Priorities fluctuate with life, but I know the broader lessons in leadership, reflection, learning, and equity, that I am sure to learn in my pursuit of these three goals, will remain and benefit my professional and personal life in the future.
February 25, 2019