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Professional Growth Assignment

ECC 509

Professor: Judy Chapman

Shannon Greig
November 2, 2013

The first day of this program or my journey, as Judy keeps reminding us,
was frightful and filled with self-doubt. As I arrived that first morning in October, I
thought I was going to be surrounded by seasoned teachers with years of
experience and an abundance of wisdom. To them, I would seem like a naive
new teacher. I kept telling myself that journeys can be exciting and rewarding,
but so many questions and worries filled my head. What if I dont like it? What if
this program is filled with two years of theoretical babble? I need courses to be
relevant for me to be engaged, so what if the instructors are boring? What if I
cant handle the amount of work that will be required. Will I be able to meet the
academic standards of a Masters program? Can I do everything? Work is
already so busy, how am I going to balance this? Is my sickness and laryngitis
going to make me the leper of the class? Are people going to cringe when they
hear me? What a great way to make a first impression! Shouldnt I be resting at
home this morning, getting better so I can be at my best for my students on

Monday? Am I trying to do too much and will it negatively impact my students?


All of these questions and self-doubt continued to fill my head.

As the day went on, I was able to relax. As I got to know the instructor and
my new classmates, my anxiety and self-doubt all but disappeared. The gentle,
yet honest demeanor of our instructor put me at ease. As we dove into the
course content, I began to get excited. Yes, it is going to be a lot of work, yet it
looks doable. It also looks interesting. The topics are issues I enjoy debating and
learning about; it is not going to be filled with theoretical babble. Throughout the
duration of that first class, my fear turned into excitement. This program had
been recommended to me for a reason; those reasons then became clear.

Like many journeys, before you go forward, you must look backwards at
where you came from. For me I come for a deep routed belief in student
centered learning. I have based my practice on some of the teachings of Jean
Piaget. Piaget was a leader in field of Constructivist Theory and Student
Centered approaches to learning. He said, Education, for most people,
means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his
society ... but for me and no one else, education means making

creators... You have to make inventors, innovatorsnot conformists"


(Bringuie,1980) This concept is something I try to implement in my classroom,
but at times struggle with.

Following Piagets theories, I try to foster intrinsic learning from the students
and support students natural curiosity. I will change my plans for the day or
week, based on a new learning opportunity brought to the class by a student.
However, I do require students to conform on several occasions during the day.
September in a Kindergarten classroom is a bit like a military bootcamp. I train
students to sit down, stand up, walk, line up, raise your hand, say certain
magical phrases, not to speak unless it is their turn etc... I spend a month
teaching the students to conform to the institution of school and to my
expectations. This does not follow Piagets theory about making inventors, not
conformists. Yet, could I sanely handle a year without this kind of conformity from
the students? My internal battle of conformity vs. individualism is something I will
continue to debate, as I am unsure if there is even an answer. Could you
possibly have only one style? Or do you always need to have some degree of
conformity and individualism? Or does it even matter if you have the right
relationships with your students?

Although I was running Kindergarten bootcamp for the month of September,


I was still working hard to create positive relationships with each child. Long time
teacher, Rita Pierson (2013) bluntly stated, Students arent going to learn
from you if they dont like you. This statement seems so simple, yet it is
often overlooked in education. I want each student to know that I care and I am
here to support them. Together we create respectful relationships built on trust
and empathy. These relationships exist between teacher and students and
between students. It is these personal connections that create the the foundation
of a community environment in the classroom, one that allows each student to
learn to their full potential.

My appreciation for relationships in the classroom has come from a number


of respected teachers who have mentored me over the years, including my
mother. She is a teacher herself and also a councilor in my school district. She
has taught me to emphasize social emotional learning and to build a classroom
community as it is a foundation to successful learning. Once the students are
feeling secure and supported in the classroom, the curriculum will come easily.
After four years of teaching students of various grades, I have seen the value of

these personal connections in the classroom, regardless of the age.

At this point in my career, I believe I am able to foster the creation of a


successful classroom community. I have not perfected, nor mastered this, and
can always learn ways to improve, yet I do feel confident in my ability to create
those relationships with and between students. My area of growth; however,
would be the creation of community outside the classroom, with colleagues and
parents.

The creation of community in a school is vital to the academic success of


students. Respected educational researcher, Andy Hargreaves believes in the
importance of school culture to create an effective educational community. He
believes that in order for these communities to be created, you need the
collaboration of teachers, administrators and parents (Hargreaves and Fullan,
1988). This is the area in which I would like to grow; to get outside of my
classroom and work with others in the school to benefit all.

My first step in my growth plan is to incorporate parents in the learning


community. Although I am no longer scared of parents, I still am unsure of how

to create appropriate and positive relationships with them. I know that parents
play an important role in education, especially in Kindergarten; however, I find
that their good intentions often interfere with my practices. My goal for this year
is to find ways to improve these relationships, in order to work together to support
the student.

The second step of my growth plan is to increase the relationships and


connections between colleagues. My current school has a history of
collaborative work and unity as a staff; however, this is beginning to diminish with
the departure of certain staff members. There is a noticeable difference in the
school this year compared to three years ago when I first arrived. My school also
has the additional challenge of being dual track. Although it is it great to have the
two programs in the same school, it also makes it challenging to build community
and to collaborate. Each program has different needs, challenges, and goals;
therefore, it can be hard to understand different perspectives. As a French
Immersion teacher who has also taught in the English program, I believe I have a
unique perspective on both sides. I would like to be able to use this to help unite
the staff.

I have already taken some beginning steps towards my goal of building


relationships between colleagues. For the Professional Development Day, I
organized a collaborative meeting for French Immersion Kindergarten and Grade
1 teachers in my district. This gave us the opportunity to discuss classroom set
up, daily routines, assessment practices, reporting methods, art projects, book
ideas, teaching methodology, parent communications, curriculum set up, field
trips, extra curricular, school community, among other things. Everyone who
attended thanked me afterwards, and told me how valuable they found the
session. Not only did we learn a lot from each other that day, we have also
opened up the lines of communication between colleagues and schools for the
future.

As I move forward on my journey, I will keep in mind many of the theories I


learned about while completing the leadership matrix. I hope to base my lesson
plans on the ideas of Jean Piaget, Sir Ken Robinson and Maria Montessori, to
name a few. I have also began to embark on my growth plan; my first two steps
are already in progress. As I continue to try and be a leader within my school
community, I will keep in mind the advice from Andy Hargreaves (1988), It is

individuals and small groups of teachers and principals who must create the
school and professional culture they want, (p.121). I feel I have begun to
attempt to shape the school culture I want to be a part of. I am fortunate to have
colleagues who are eager to join and support me in this attempt.

After having attended two classes as part of my journey, I could not be more
excited for what the future has in store. I feel ignited by the learning and the
potential changes that could occur in me. I have already found a leadership style
I admire and wish to strive for, Servant Leadership. This type of leadership suits
my personality and beliefs. It is no surprise that this is the type of leadership my
inspirational leader, Patty Jepsen practices. After presenting my inspirational
leader to the class, I realized that part of what made Patty Jepsen the great
leader she is today, was her journey with City University. Patty encouraged me to
take this same journey, so that I can make a difference in the lives of students
and colleagues as she has. I can hardly wait for the next chapter in my journey.

References

1. Bringuier, J.C., (1980). Conversations with Piaget. The University of Chicago

Press.
2. Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (1988). Whats Worth Fighting For: Working
Together For Your School. Retrieved 9/26/2013, from
http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED342128.pdf
3. Pierson, R. (2013) TED Talk: Every Kid Needs A Champion. Retrieved
9/23/2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw