Professional Development Plan
Now that my student teaching is coming to a close, I have begun to think about my options and ideas about what I would like to do with my profession. Here I will discuss what type of school district I am looking for, my new knowledge about unions, what I have learned after conducting some interviews, as well as graduate schools I am looking at and scholarly journals I would like to subscribe to.
I have had experiences in both small rural and large urban school districts. From what I have experienced as a student growing up in a small rural school, a practicum student and a student teacher, I am most interested in working in a similar sized school district. From what I have seen, there tends to be less pressure from the administration in small rural schools to follow specific curriculum. In turn, I have observed that larger school districts tend to focus on sticking to a curriculum, thus minimizing the freedom teachers have in their classroom.
Large school districts also seem to assess much more frequently that what I have experienced in the small rural districts. Since I do not like formal assessments and do not believe in their accuracy, I do not want to be in a district that relies heavily on them. However, I realize that assessments are being used more and more by schools and are becoming more integrated into the small rural schools.
I also like small school districts because class sizes tend to be smaller. This makes teaching easier and students receive more personal and one-on-one attention. I feel small class size is very important because so students will not get lost among the mass. It is easier for them to be part of a learning community and it is easier for the teacher to cater to each student’s needs. In addition teachers get to know parents better since the school is in a smaller community.
Teachers also get to know each other better in small school districts. Since there are generally only three or four teachers in each grade level, teachers are more likely to collaborate on curriculum and activities. Furthermore, teachers have a better opportunity to share lesson ideas and help each other. Basically it seems that there is a better support system among teachers in small rural school districts.
Recently I have been asking around for different opinions about unions. From what I have gathered, the American Federation of Teachers union is an organization teachers can pay to be a part of. This organization offers support and protection to teachers if something were to happen to them involving their teaching profession. They offer member benefits as well as legal financial support.
I heard mixed thoughts about the union. For example, my mentor teacher was not a member because she felt it was the teacher’s responsibility to keep his or herself safe, support his or herself and not rely on others. She also believed that it would be very rare to need their assistance and therefore would not be worth the money.
However, my mother, a kindergarten teacher of thirty-five years, argues that the union has helped her greatly. In fact, she was the first teacher in the Tipton school district to have her accumulated sick days count towards her maternity leave. This was thanks to the help of the union who supported her in court. Without this support, she would have only received two days- her personal days- paid for during her maternity leave. She said that she felt safer knowing people would be there to support her and that she was not alone.
After some thought, I feel that it would be beneficial for me to become a part of a union. I like the idea of protection and knowing that there is something I can go to if I need assistance. I frequently hear side conversations at my placement where teachers are being treated unjustly by the administration which makes me realize how common it is that rights may not being met.
As my undergraduate work comes to an end, I am beginning to think about what I would like to do with my career professionally. Three areas of study I am interested in are elementary special education, elementary art and early childhood education. To find out more about these areas, I interviewed a person with each endorsement.
I first interviewed a Kindergarten teacher who has her Bachelors is early childhood and her endorsement in reading. Basically she informed me of how early childhood differs from upper levels in elementary. For example, she said a major difference is the areas of focus. There is just as much focus on creating social skills and making students independent as there is on learning new concepts.
The interviewee also said that in early childhood, the teacher gets to set the stage for their formal learning experience. This is what excites me the most. I feel that it is important to give students a positive learning experience as early as possible to get them excited about learning and eager to learn. I love working with young children because they have fresh ideas, are curious and want to know more about the world. They are also innocent, sweet and playful.
Next I interviewed a first grade teacher who is in the process of receiving her endorsement in elementary special education. She said this is a great area of study because it can be extremely challenging but at the same time incredibly rewarding. I enjoy working with the special education students, especially those with behavioral or learning disabilities. I love being able to make a student who struggles to feel good about his or her self personally and academically. I enjoy helping students overcome obstacles and my interviewee said that is the major part of the job.
Furthermore, the interviewee explained the “perks” to having an endorsement in special educational. For one, it makes a person incredibly marketable since there is such a need for special education teachers right now. Also, many places will pay off loans or pay for teachers to get their special education endorsement.
Last, I interviewed the elementary art teacher who has her Bachelors in Fine Arts and Kindergarten through twelfth art. She said one of the best parts about being an art teacher is that generally it is up to the teacher to decide the curriculum. Therefore, you get to work with what fits in the budget, what you enjoy, what the students will enjoy and you are able to work at a pace that is focused around the students and their needs.
She also said that it is great to be able to see every student and work with them in an area that is more abstract and personal. However, she said that one of the more difficult parts to this profession is that teachers are required to grade students and that it is sometimes difficult to assign a student a grade in such a broad and personal subject.
Furthering My Education
After interviewing a few teachers, I began to look at graduate schools to get certification to maybe teach in these areas some day. I first looked at special education programs. Since I would generally like to stay in the area to do my graduate work, I looked at the University of Iowa. There they have a 32 credit program to get my masters in special education. I could get an endorsement in special education, but since it is only a few more credits to get my masters, I may as well do that.
I am interested in their Instruction Strategist program in which I will be licensed in K-6 behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. According to the website this program is “designed to prepare graduates for positions in public schools, local graduates for positions in public schools, local and state education agencies, clinical settings, and institutions of higher education.” Therefore, I feel this license will make me highly qualified and more marketable.
After looking at the University of Iowa website, it was evident that I could do most of my graduate work there, however, I researched another school in the area to become aware of my options. The school I looked at for early childhood education was University of Northern Iowa. This program is 30 semester hours and would give me an endorsement in early childhood education. For this program, I would not be expected to take the GRE but would be required to take an exit test before receiving my endorsement. This would also be a good program to enlist in while I am teaching because it does not require any practicum hours.
I could not find many schools in the area that have a program to receive an endorsement to teach art. Most schools require a Bachelors degree in art in order to have this license. Since I have only taken a hand full of art classes, I am no where near the required amount. Therefore, I decided this was not the top on my priority list, especially since my main focus is for younger children or special education.
I have had much experience with the Montessori teaching philosophy. In fact, I taught for a while in a Montessori classroom and have had a few job offers in different Montessori schools. However, in order to attain head teacher status, I need my certification in Montessori. One school I researched in the North American Montessori Center. This is a correspondence program where materials, texts, videos and assignments are transferred through the mail. Through this program, I would be licensed in preschool and kindergarten instruction, ages 3-6. This would be perfect to do while I am teaching because I would be able to work at my own pace and not worry about deadlines. This program is also nice because it does not require a practical and written test as many programs do.
To further my education in my free time, I would like to subscribe to a few journals and magazines to keep myself current on new trends, research and to get new ideas for my classroom. One journal I looked into was titled Education Week which aims to raise awareness among education professionals about important issues in American education. This journal seems to have more of a focus on the politics of education rather than ideas for in the classroom.
I also looked at the Early Childhood Education journal which has six editions a year and is an online journal. The focus of this journal is on learning and instruction as well as education and society. Next I looked at a special education journal titled The Journal of Special Education which has four online editions per year. The main focus of this journal is to present research about instruction, implementation and philosophies in special education classrooms.
I also plan to attend professional workshops and conferences to further my learning. One way to learn about conferences and workshops in my area is to look at my state’s education department website. Here they have listings of journals, events and speakers which will be in the area. The Grant Wood Education Agency in Iowa also gives detailed information about conferences and events to attend.
In conclusion, I feel my research into school districts, unions, professions, graduate schools and professional reading has given me a larger knowledge of my goals for what I would like to do with my life professionally. I now feel more equipped and ready to further my education after I receive my Bachelors in elementary education.