The Fantastic 4
Being apart of Touro University's Innovative Masters degree program has been life changing. This experience not only changed me, but my family and professional life as well. So many people have been affected by me earning this degree therefore they all own a small piece of it.
Along this journey there were a lot of highs and lows where you felt tremendously proud of yourself or the work you did on an assignment but then also in the same week cried because of the things you were missing out with your kids to sit at a laptop for hours on a beautiful sunny day.
Having instructors that truly knew your struggle because they once lived it, understanding of your little ones popping on the screen in the middle of class, and never once judging, ridiculing or laughing at you for making silly techy mistakes was priceless. The amazing hand picked team chosen to teach us was God sent.
Meeting my wonderful small cohort of 4 members from all walks of life was not by accident. We honestly could not have been a more diverse group of people but we came together, developed a remarkable bond and I will never forget any of them.
I remember thinking in the beginning of this process these people are crazy..... a 15 page paper the first semester? I hadn't written a paper in over 15 years so as you can imagine I had my doubts.
When I started this program I didn't really know what it meant to be innovative or have a clear understanding of how to teach a 21st century learner or much about technology and the direction it's heading but now these are all concepts I have gained so much information on with the tools to back it up about I can truly say I am knowledgeable about them.
I've done things over the course of this program that I never would have done before on my own and stepping out of my comfort zone especially when it came to creating the various types of video presentations. The introduction to so many great authors making them a household name and being able to discuss, quote their ideas and theories is life changing.
I've also developed more patience and learned how to persevere through many obstacles when dealing with all the technology issues that have come up whether it be when things went wrong or tackling an assignment I had no previous experience on how to begin. I still did it.
I think my biggest take away would be, you can do anything you put your mind to. Even though it's extremely cliché, it really applies to my life....for a second time. I went through college the 1st time with a baby and that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Everyone thought I was I was going to drop out and there were times I wanted to but I pushed through so for me to do it once again I know anything is possible. I learned so much about myself, one thing being how much I value being a teacher and educating myself to be a better teacher. I am going to take everything I learned and apply it to do what this program was meant to do....preparing our children for the future.
What I learned on this remarkable journey has been priceless and such a dramatic growth professionally and personally. The values that Touro University is founded upon is something that has shined through during my work in the Innovative Master's Program.
The information I gained over the last three semesters makes me asset to my students, my colleagues, my principal, my school and my district.
I previously only used social media to stay connected to friends and family but now I realize and utilize it's many other professional benefits as well. I was not apart of the Twitter world before this program but being able to network, have an abundance of resources and new 'friends' to tweet my expertise thoughts and opinions to read has been an eye opening experience.
My action research focused on managing behavioral issues with 'early finishers' in a multi-leveled classroom using inclusive design teaching all while keeping learning rigorous, equitable and following the direction of the 4C's. I believe what I did in my classroom showcased their individual learning needs and kept them engaged with curriculum that otherwise would have cause then to drift and wonder and eventually misbehave.
Because of this program I am a better teacher and I recognize with this gift comes great responsibility as well. It's now my job to spread the knowledge I gained with others. Not only to be there when someone asks but to reach out and offer ideas through collaboration. I have even highly recommended colleagues to apply to the program because I truly believe they will like it and get the same memorable experience as I did.
Upon investigating Napa’s statement and policies around technology and 21st century learning I came across their About Us page on the NVUSD website. I was actually looking for a mission statement from the district to pull from but couldn’t find one.
They have six goals in their plan but Goal 1: Student learning, Achievement and Access is what I analyzed. Within the six bullet points under Students experience responsive, engaging pedagogy many terms really stood out to me such as, Inquiry based; technology devices; personalized learning; responsive teaching and bilingualism.
Because I can see evidence of most of these goals being met at my school site I believe the district is up to par. We all have access to the technology(and it keeps coming), and we have adopted curriculum(benchmark/bridges) that is online based.
The only area of concern of mine is although the district seems clear cut on ensuring that students have all the tools but there seems to be a goal missing on using and applying them properly to develop the skills for future work readiness. It sounds a little like here is everything, now figure it out to be successful. The how is unclear to me.
The main reason I decided to commit to my current research topic was because last school year I really struggled with managing a class with such great behavioral issues from the most brightest and intelligent boys in the classroom. I had never experienced this problem before where it truly effected the classroom dynamic, the learning environment and what and how I taught.
I knew I wasn't the only teacher dealing with this on some scale so I when I reached out I was given an abundance of worksheets, packets, busy work and early finisher games/activities unrelated to the curriculum that I was teaching. Most of them were also too easy so my students raced through it, too difficult so they were interrupting me working with the rest of the class to ask questions or too fun so their excitement was distracting other students. Either way it wasn't the a solution and I wanted more.
Once I began exploring how to incorporate inclusive lesson design to activities and projects that I was already doing through Project Based Learning I began to see the results I wanted. The whole class working on various components to complete a common goal at the same set time appealed to me. It was not perfect but much better.
A major part of my research is how it appeals to the strengths of my students. They are able to contribute to the class project or activity through different transliterate platforms. By introducing my students to this now they are more prepared for the world.
I have found myself in a similar situation this school year because I have even more of an learning gap because I am teaching a combination class of 1st and 2nd graders. That's 6,7 and 8 year olds all in one classroom, all at various academic levels. Because there is only 1 teacher(me) there are many times when we all must come together and my students must show me or represent what they have learned but it certainly will not be in the same way.
The audience that I would want to attract for my capstone would be teachers and educators that specifically are looking for ways to keep students engaged that work with a large group of varied learners such as advanced/low students or mixed grade classes who want an alternative from busy work and worksheets.
I think my audience would also include classroom teachers that struggle to manage finding the "medium" when teaching lessons or activities where either their students find it very easy or very difficult.
By providing lessons and ideas that are inclusive where students start a task that is based upon their individual need and skill set, therefore completing the task at the same time so "early finishers" are not engaging in disruptive classroom behaviors.
My own goals and the goals of the program go hand in hand. The main thing I want for myself is to be transliterate specifically in the area of mastering how to implement technology such as i pads, applications and web tools in meaningful and purposefully way to engage my various leveled learners. With all the new and valuable information I will have learned from completing this program another goal of mine is to transform myself as an educator with new lessons and new ways to teach by leaving augmentation and becoming redefined.
My thoughts of how my fellow cohort members can support me with completing my capstone would be primarily through their feedback. Because they are the teaching experts I would depend on them to engage in honest, constructive and helpful discussions from their evaluation of my work. Ask me genuine and clarifying questions, and offer quality suggestions for improvement. In return I would do the same while remembering not to be overbearing, rude or disrespectful to the hard work they have put in so far.
I also believe an important group norm is to assume positive intent. People have different circumstances in their lives(kids, impairments, travel) as we have seen so far that can make the program more challenging so coming together with the right attitude makes a difference in the learning environment.