Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feeling Honored

Tonight I was presented as Sycamore Elementary School Teacher of the Year at the Crowley ISD board meeting. What a humbling experience to be part of such a wonderful group of educators!
With my wonderful principal who has encouraged and supported me for 7 years!

     My personal beliefs about teaching have developed over the years as I have experienced growth and change within Crowley ISD and among the students. Our students come from many different situations that require sensitivity and skill, along with patience and understanding. Setting goals and sticking to them gives me the framework I need to provide an optimal learning environment and meet the needs of all my students. This year, my first goal was to implement The Daily 5 (Boushey and Moser) as the basis for teaching literacy. This program fosters independent learning and motivates students to work and achieve growth and success. My role is to guide the students and allow them to choose how they learn. As role model and mentor, I also provide daily, one-on-one feedback that encourages the students to challenge themselves. As a result, my students are reading and comprehending on or beyond a second grade level. My second goal was to implement blogging as part of our writing program. As part of this, I encourage peer review by having students read each other’s blog posts and then make constructive comments and ask questions. My students learn to find their voice, to understand the important connection between writer and audience, and to hone their editing skills.  My third goal was to teach global awareness and flatten the classroom walls so that my students can see what lies beyond their neighborhood. Using technology seamlessly and effortlessly allows me to teach in new ways that appeals to today’s digital natives
     My teaching philosophy can be easily observed in my classroom. Students work independently and are engaged. Students get one-on-one time with me, and they are encouraged to explore and take their learning to the next level. Although our required, formal testing measures knowledge of content, I assess my students informally on a daily basis. Working one-on-one and in small groups allows me to observe the students and make adjustments as necessary. Student collaboration and group work provides opportunities for students to learn from each other as well.  An observer would also see that I have set high standards for my students in both academics and behavior. They would also see that I have a personal connection with each of my students and have built rapport by learning what interests and motivates them and how they learn best.  My past experience as an insurance customer service agent taught me valuable communication skills that I have used to build relationships with parents. Weekly communication via email or phone with parents builds trust and understanding. Parent communication involves positive feedback and is not just reserved for when problems arise.
     As a mentor and role model, I must also set high standards for myself.  I have learned that I cannot rely just on district training to provide me with skills I need. I have built a (PLN) Professional Learning Network of teachers throughout the world to whom I can go to with any questions or advice I need whenever I need it. For example, almost every Friday evening I participate in a Twitter Chat (#D5chat) with teachers from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. Each week we focus on one aspect of The Daily 5. We provide links to resources, troubleshoot, and share what works best. It provides group collaboration at its finest.  I am also part of the Global ClassroomProject and Hello Little World Skypers. We communicate daily via Skype instant messaging and video conferencing. I recently Skyped with a teacher in northern Chicago because I needed advice on how best to present our Cinco de Mayo project to many classrooms throughout the world.  When I needed help, I went to an expert. 
     I am my students’ expert and I must strive every day to learn and be better for them. I am enough of a realist to understand that I can’t reach every student, but I am more of an optimist to get up every morning and try.
My students are like the lotus blossom.
They rise up from the mud of the swamp.
They grow up through its murky water
They penetrate the air and
Aspire towards the light of the sun.
They bloom into great beauty despite their dark environment.
My students are like the lotus blossom. ~ Preston Morgan  2012