Professional Development Plan
As a young pre-service teacher, I am trying to not be particular when it comes to the type of school or school district in which I will look for my first job; I see positives and negatives of all types of districts, and most of the downsides would not make me think twice about accepting a job offer. I enjoy the resources, opportunities, and number of peers that larger districts have to offer, but I also see the value of the smaller class sizes and the autonomy offered by smaller schools and districts. What I am sure of is; I would like to teach in the mid-west, preferably Minnesota, and I do not want to live in a large city. I would not be opposed to teaching in a larger city, as long as I was able to live in a suburb and commute to work. Ideally, I would like to move back to my home town and get a job teaching at the high school from which I graduated. However, I knew when I decided to become a German teacher that I would not have the luxury of being selective when it came to choosing a place to live and teach. At this point I am just looking to find a job and not worrying about where that job may take me.
As a pre-service teacher I do not think I am at a point in my life where I can make an educated decision about joining a teacher’s union. I am still very idealistic about my career. At this time I have only thought about making a difference in the lives of students, and I have not thought at all about teaching in terms of a career from which I need to earn money. Therefore I have not put any thought into contracts or contract negotiations, and I feel like I care so much about my students that I would not want to go on strike if contract negotiations ever went poorly. However, I realize that my feelings on these issues may change as I get out into the real world and have to think about real-life issues such as house payments and buying my own groceries. I will continue to keep the idea of joining a union in the back of my mind, but I will wait and see if my thoughts and ideas about teaching and contracts change over time before making a definitive decision about joining a union.
Beyond Teaching – Other Professional Possibilities:
Student teaching is a wonderful time to develop connections and relationships with different people around the school and really figure out what and who goes into making a school successful. There are the obvious administrators, teachers, and counselors, but there are also secretaries, cooks, bookkeepers, custodians, security officers, and a number of other people who serve the school in important ways; and it is these people who really keep the school running smoothly. Although I have always wanted to be a teacher, the more I look into the different positions available at a school, the more I am realizing that there are other ways to be involved and to make a difference in the lives of students.
One person who deals with students every day and really keeps the school running is the bookkeeper who is Gail Barry at Washington High School. I interviewed Gail to find out more about what being a bookkeeper at a high school really entails, and I realized that her job is a lot more involved than I had previously thought. She deals mostly with paying bills, balancing the school’s accounts, ordering supplies, and documenting all of the expenses. She has to keep this documentation up-to-date, because the school is audited quarterly and all of her information has to be current. I do not feel as though being a bookkeeper is in my future, because I do not want to spend my days looking at finances and worrying writing up receipts and deposit slips. I do realize that this is a very important job in a school and applaud any person who can do this job well, but I have never been interested in a career in accounting or finances. Furthermore, although Gail does deal with students by making change, collecting fees, answering questions, and reminding students that they need to pay all their fees before graduation, she does not really get to develop personal relationships with the students, which is one of the aspects of teaching to which I am most looking forward.
Another person who makes a difference in the lives of the students he/she helps is the guidance counselor. I interviewed Sue McDermott who is one of the guidance counselors at Washington High School. I was particularly interested in interviewing a counselor, because I feel as though this is a profession that I could possibly see myself going into one day. Sue informed me that being a school counselor is a lot more involved than most people think. Counselors work with academic advising and graduation requirements, college and career prep, meeting state requirements, and personal and social crises that may arise for students. However, school counselors are not therapists; in fact, they are overstepping their boundaries if they try to deal with issues for which they are not trained, such as suicidal students or students with eating disorders. I think that I would enjoy being a school counselor because there is a lot of variety involved in the job. The counselors are constantly being interrupted by students who all think that their problem is the most important. Although that might not sound enjoyable to most people, I think that it would be a very good fit for my personality. I love working with students, I love helping people work through their problems, and I enjoy multi-tasking and being flexible. Counselors also do a lot of behind the scenes work for which they do not get a lot of credit; most people only recognize one aspect of a counselor’s job. For example, students who are getting ready for college view counselors as people who help fill out applications, teachers view counselors as people who can help them deal with “problem” students, and parents of a student with personal or social problems view counselors as their student’s first resource in dealing with these problems. Few people really understand the full range of a counselor’s duties, and I actually enjoy doing behind the scenes work. I do not like being recognized, even if it is for doing something outstanding. I would rather work hard, do my job, make sure things run smoothly, and never let anyone know how hard I was working. I think that counseling is definitely something I could look into if I ever decided it was time for a change in career.
The principal of the school also makes a big impact in the lives of the students. I interviewed the principal of Washington High School, Dr. Ralph Plagman, to learn more about the role of the principal. Although he really enjoys his job and offered me a number of reasons why being a principal is a wonderful job, I do not feel as though becoming an administrator is path that I would like to pursue at this time. Dr. Plagman tries to get to know as many students as he is able to, but since he is not in the classroom with the same students every day, he does not get the opportunity to develop as close of relationships with these students as a classroom teacher develops with their students. He also has to deal a lot with the public relations aspect of the school. He spends a lot of time looking at statistics and survey results and figuring out how Washington High School stacks up in relation to the other schools in the district, state, and nation. I did not go into the field of education to look at statistics and see how my school stacks up next to other schools; I went into the field of education to spend time with and teach students. Furthermore, part of Dr. Plagman’s job is school management and dealing with the discipline issues that no one else at the school can address. Due to the size of Washington High School, there are assistant principals who take care of most of the behavior issues, but he does have to deal with the most serious problems. Furthermore, a number of principals start out as assistant principals, and small schools do not staff assistant principals, so the principal would have to take care of all of these behavior issues. Since classroom management and discipline are probably my weakest areas as a teacher, I do not think that I should pursue a career in which management and discipline are even more important.
Graduate programs for education are notably different from graduate programs in the majority other disciplines, because it is impractical for future educators to go straight from receiving their Bachelor’s Degree and Teaching License to a graduate program in which they receive their Master’s Degree. I want to be comfortable teaching and confident in my lesson plans before I go back to school, so I am planning on waiting until I have been teaching at least two years before going back to get my Master’s Degree. Therefore, when researching graduate programs, I looked only at programs that would be plausible for me to complete while I was working at a full-time teaching job. I further narrowed my search by only looking at programs in Central- and Northern-Minnesota, where I am most interested in teaching. I came up with three different programs, one for each possible career which I could eventually have.
The first of these graduate programs is the most likely candidate, because it would be the most useful for me if I continue on my current track and become a classroom teacher in German. This program is a Master of World Language Instruction Program, which is offered through Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I am especially interested in this program because it pairs online learning during the school year with on-site observations and classes during the summer months at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota. I feel a special connection to this program because I spent five summers of my youth at the German Language Village (Waldsee), and I feel like their emersion program is incredibly effective. This program is very small, with only 8-12 students per professor, which allows for more individual attention and time for all students to share their experiences. Furthermore, I feel as though their online summer courses would be entirely manageable balanced with a full-time teaching load.
The second graduate program I considered would be most useful for me if I end up teaching English in conjunction with German. This program is the Master of Education (M.Ed.)/Professional Studies Program with Interdisciplinary Focus which is offered through the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This program is designed for teachers who are teaching a number of different subjects; it is flexible and allows teachers to choose subject matter courses in two or more areas. The program includes at least 30 semester credits. These credits are a combination of core academic classes, specific subject-matter courses, and elective courses. I would be able to continue teaching while I was going through this program, because courses are offered during the summer and at off-campus sites, which may be closer to where I end up teaching.
The third graduate program I looked at is the Master of Science in School Counseling Program from Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. This program would, obviously, be most useful for me if I decide that being a classroom teacher is not for me or if I later get burnt out with teaching and want to try another profession but still be involved in the lives of students. This program is not as practical as the other programs, since I would have to take at least a small amount of time off from teaching to complete my coursework. However, if I ever become serious about wanting to change my profession and become a school counselor, taking time off from teaching will be a necessary sacrifice. This program consists of 12 credits of research courses and 46 credits of core courses followed by a counseling practicum experience and a 600-hour internship. This is definitely the most intensive of the three graduate programs, but it is also the degree that is most unlike my undergraduate degree. Choosing this graduate program would be a bigger choice than choosing either of the other two programs, and it would have the potential to create a larger amount of change in my life; I would have to be willing and able to put in the time to make that change happen.
Professional Associations, Conferences, and Reading:
Last year I joined the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), and I will continue my membership in the future. This association is useful both for pre-service teachers and for those who are already teaching in their own classrooms. For pre-service teachers, the AATG provides a number of resources, the most useful of which is a ListServ that sends email updates about job openings for German teachers throughout the nation. Although this service does not include every job opening in the entire country (districts have to upload their openings to the website) it is a very useful resource for me and a place for me to get a feel for what jobs are out there. For classroom teachers, AATG has wonderful teaching resources, a website with forums for German teachers to bounce ideas off each other and standardized German tests that both gauge performance of students against the national standards and provide the opportunity for students to “win” free trips abroad if they do well on these tests.
I am also already a member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL), and I will definitely become a member of the state world language association of the state in which I end up teacher. In Iowa that association is the Iowa World Language Association (IWLA) and in Minnesota the association is Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures ( MCTLC). Although membership in these associations does cost around $50 every year, it is worth the investment. When one becomes a member of one of these associations, one gets access to a plethora of useful materials, reduced rates at all of the many workshops and conferences offered by the association, and, perhaps most importantly, one becomes a member of a community. This is especially significant for those teachers, such as most German teachers, who may not have any peers in their content area at their own school.
All of these associations have professional conferences at least once a year. I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend IWLA’s 2007 Fall Conference, and it was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot of new information and strategies; I came away from the conference with a bag full of new materials and a head full of new ideas. Any teacher who is a member of IWLA is able to present his/her work if he/she chooses to do so, which is definitely something in which I would be interested in the future. I think that sharing ideas and strategies with other teachers and conversely listening to other teachers share ideas and strategies is one of the most important ways that teachers can learn and better themselves professionally. I will absolutely attend professional conferences whenever I have the chance.
Many of these professional associations also provide free subscriptions to their professional journals when one becomes a member. For example, when one becomes a member of ACTFL one is automatically offered a subscription to Foreign Language Annals and The Language Educator. Both of these journals are wonderful resources that are committed to the improvement of language teaching and learning, and I will continue to subscribe to both journals in the future.
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