As an undergraduate student participating in an accredited teacher preparation program in the State of Iowa, I am required to develop an electronic teaching portfolio. My portfolio is divided into ten sections. Each section meets one of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners’ (BOEE) ten New Teacher Standards. Prior to receiving my teaching license in the State of Iowa, I must present and defend my portfolio to faculty at Coe College, my home institution.
Over the course of my four years as an undergraduate education major, I have been collecting artifacts to use in my portfolio. These artifacts include individual lesson plans, week-long plans, home-school communications, professional development materials, and reflections. Each of the ten sections of my portfolio includes at least two artifacts.
In addition to the artifacts, the Iowa BOEE requires all new teacher candidates to include ten synthesized rationale statements describing their instructional decisions, assessment strategies, teaching philosophies, and reflections. You will find one of my rationale statements below. I will post all ten over the course of the next few days. To view my teaching portfolio, please click on the tab at the top of my page.
Standard 5, Learning Environment & Classroom Management: The practitioner uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.
As an educator, my ultimate goal for all of my students is an intrinsic passion and love for learning. In order to accomplish this goal, I must make a series of calculated instructional and non-instructional decisions. I know that establishing a safe, welcoming, and inclusive classroom environment is the primary step I must take before I can implement any meaningful instruction.
When interacting with my students, I make an explicit effort to get to know them both as learners and as human beings. In order to encourage my students to expose their academic and personal sides, I start by allowing them to get to know me first. I reveal my academic strengths through efficient and effective academic instruction. However, I am also sure to make obvious mistakes to reveal my human side. I want my students to know that even I, as the classroom facilitator, make mistakes. I also share my personal life with my students. I bring in pictures of me when I was in elementary, exposing my braces and bleached blonde hair. Again, I understand that if I want my students to feel comfortable revealing themselves to me, I must feel comfortable revealing myself to them first.
When it comes to their lives inside my classroom, I seek to understand their academic strengths and their growth areas through continuous formal and informal assessment. Once I have gathered this data, I can plan my instruction to cater to my students’ strengths and develop their growth areas. Instruction that is appropriate for my students allows me to connect with them as learners.
However, I also want to know what my students’ lives are like outside of my classroom. What are their passions? What activities will they avoid at all costs? An understanding of my students’ passions and dislikes outside of the classroom allows me to better connect with them as children. All of this information, academic and non-academic, contributes to the non-instructional strategies I make to ensure all students feel welcomed and valued in my classroom.
I believe that my students should take risks. The most meaningful learning occurs when students take risks. But taking risks often times results in failure. I believe my students should embrace failure as an opportunity to grow as an individual. In my classroom, my students are supportive of one another and encourage all on their paths towards learning. As a classroom manager, I have zero tolerance for disrespectful or harmful words towards others. To establish a safe and welcoming classroom community, I believe in providing my students with opportunities to take ownership of their experience. I believe that students should be responsible for establishing yearly classroom expectations and rules.
With my 32 learners at Andrew Jackson Language Academy, I utilize literature as a platform to foster a safe and welcoming classroom environment. R.J. Palacio’s Wonder is an award-winning novel that traces the life of August Wilson, a 10-year old boy who was born with serve facial deformities and who is attending a public school for the first time. This book is a powerful piece of literature and touches on issues that are common in all classrooms: bullying, stereotyping, and self-confidence.
August’s English teacher, Mr. Browne, engages his fictional classroom of students in the process of personal reflection by having them respond to monthly precepts. These precepts are quotes or sayings that speak a universal truth of kindness, determination, and self-efficacy. My students engage in a similar process throughout the week during our morning meetings. Their written reflections and oral responses to Mr. Stanford’s Precepts develop strong social-emotional skills.
Through August Wilson’s fictional life, my students are exposed to the harsh realities of a negative classroom environment. I encourage their reflections and responses to draw connections between August’s life and their day-to-day experience in my classroom. These connections help to foster the type of classroom environment where all are welcome, encouraged to take risks, fail, and succeed.