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The School of Education at The College of William and Mary is dedicated to creating the best teachers to join the profession of education. To accomplish this goal, the school has created four areas in which all students successfully completing the program must gain competency: content knowledge, reflective practices, collaborative interactions, and educational leadership. Each of these areas adds to the future educator as a whole and builds them into the best teacher possible. Through my instruction in The School of Education, I believe that I have developed these different parts to make myself into a strong educator.

The back-bone of being a teacher is having content knowledge. Without such a background, I could not hope to be a successful teacher, and there is certainly a great deal to know when being an elementary school teacher! I seek out the knowledge that will help me to share learning with my students in all the core subject areas but also things like the arts, technology, and physical education. But content knowledge includes a great deal more than knowing where the Civil War ended or how to define a parallelogram. It also means a lifelong commitment to learning and improving myself so that I can continually grow as an educator. I also need to understand how to help my students to learn the material I am trying to teach to them and share with them. If I have a wealth of knowledge but lack the skills by which to impart that knowledge, I will not be able to serve my students, therefore I make my best attempts possible at teaching based on my observations and knowledge from various professors and coursework. Depending upon the outcomes I see, I adjust my teaching to better serve my students.

This idea of adjusting my teaching is based on another of the competencies I have developed while studying and student teaching which is to be a constant and consistent reflective practitioner. Reflecting involves such things as analyzing student responses on assignments and assessments as well as making formal and informal observations of their interactions and abilities during guided as well as independent work. This allows me to adjust and improve my instruction as needed. But reflecting also means examining what I am doing in the classroom. To be an effective reflective practitioner, I need to look at teaching as a metacognitive process; basically thinking about how I teach, what I teach, and even why I teach. I need to consider that my teaching style could naturally fall to the methods which work best for my ways of learning. If one does not consider it, one could easily neglect reaching students the way they need to be reached rather than the way I think is easiest. For instance, I reflected on the outcome of a guided reading lesson I did with a group of my kindergarten students during my practicum. To see the lesson and the following review, please see here. Being a reflective practitioner also means that I need to think critically about what I see around me. For instance, I wish to improve myself as a teacher by reading educational research and using it to inform my planning. But not all research is valid, reliable, or helpful. For example, I examined a research article about the amount of time elementary school teachers were spending on social studies in the classroom, but upon careful examination of the article, I found that the researchers appeared to apply their results to a much more far-reaching population than could be validly drawn from their findings. Without reflection and critical thinking, I might otherwise have given this research article far too much weight and credit that could have led to misinformed beliefs in my classroom.

The general education classroom is no longer the isolated place it once was. Teachers and other members of the school community must work together to meet the needs of all students. As part of The College of William and Mary program in education, I have been trained and given experience in effectively collaborating with others. For instance, I worked with fellow classmates in creating a complete social studies culture kit on the ignored country of Sri Lanka. This project required a great deal of effort and communication among all of the members of the team involved in the development process. Within my mathematics course, I once again worked collaboratively with other future educators to analyze a mathematical basil program for its validity and effectiveness as an educational tool that aligned with the Virginia SOL and created this document that reviews it. I have also grown to see the unimaginable resources I can find in working with another educator, especially outside of my expertise. By working with special education teachers I can make myself a better teacher for my special needs students, or by collaborating with the technology expert at my school, I can share things with my students that I never could have done on my own. Being open and working together with the school community allows my students that greatest number and variety of ways in which to learn.

Among all the other qualities of an effective teacher, one must be an educational leader. To be a leader, it is not enough to teach in the classroom only to the students assigned to you. Instead, it requires you to go beyond the classroom and even beyond the school environment. As an educational leader, I have taken part in several professional organizations such as the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) and the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST), the latter of which I attended their annual conference and was able to bring back information and possible forms of resources to the team of teachers working at my school. I also attended the Tidewater Team 12th Annual Mathematics Day in which I learned about different techniques for teaching mathematics in the classroom. I was once again able to share this experience with the teachers with whom I work to broaden their background knowledge in teaching techniques. I additionally feel I have demonstrated my ability as an educational leader by contributing lessons and resources that have been used by other educators on my grade level team. But to move even further beyond the school setting, I have used educational research to inform my instruction. As mentioned previously, the use of research requires reflection upon it to determine its usefulness, but the next step as a leader is to apply what is learned from the research. One lesson in which I used a research-based and supported technique was when working with a student who has special needs. I did this review of two peer reviewed articles to help me develop this lesson plan and accompanying game for the student who had difficulty counting accurately.

Truly, a teacher is not simply an imparter of knowledge. The profession of education requires a teacher to be so much more than that; one must be a content expert, reflective practitioner, effective collaborator, and educational leader all in one. Through my education, coursework, student teaching, and life experiences, I feel that I have developed into an individual who contains and fosters all of these qualities. As I move into my future position as an educator, I am certain that I will cultivate these qualities to ever higher levels, since no one ever really stops learning through life.