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A Leader With A Team To Lead:

Where Ive Been, Where I Am, and Where I Am Going As An Educator

MATC Synthesis Paper


In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
Master of Arts Degree in Curriculum and Teaching
Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

Christopher DHaene

June 4, 2017
Ever since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be an educator. This

inspiration came from my fifth-grade teacher who made that year so memorable it made

me want to emulate that same excitement to students as well. The idea though that one

thinks about of what it is like to be an educator changed considerably for me from when I

began my journey of achieving this goal to where I am at this point in my life, about to be

completing my graduate studies with the MATC program at Michigan State University.

While many of my views on teaching students have remained in a similar view, I have

also gained newfound perspectives.

It has been through my experience at the beginning of my internship year, when I

began taking graduate courses, and now throughout this last year where I have been

continuing my education while teaching full time, I was able to take the newfound

knowledge that I have gained to be able to improve my craft of teaching. This learning

process has been helping me on my journey towards achieving my ultimate goal which is

to be a knowledgeable, well-rounded educator who continues to learn and grow to be the

best educator I can be.

The Journey Begins

As I began my student teaching year, I was very excited to begin what I believed

to be my first official step into the world of teaching. I had spent many years before

volunteering, observing, and reflecting on what life is like to be a teacher. It was my

internship year, where I would be spending everyday from the first bell to the last being

able to get a great opportunity to see what the daily ins and outs of a teacher are like. It
was during this period, as well as with the graduate courses that I began to take as part of

the program, where I truly feel the foundations for the way I teach began to form.

The courses specifically gave me an initial insight on how to present the content

that I wanted to teach to my students in an effective manner, assess and analyze student

data and think of the necessary steps that should be taken afterward. After this rewarding

experience, I spent the next year guest teaching throughout various grades with a couple

of long term assignments given as well. It was during this period where the responsibility

to perform teaching lessons essentially on my own was I able to gain a better

understanding and comfort on classroom management and content instruction.

Once this year was over, I was finally able to achieve one of my life goals which

was to have my very own classroom. After my first year, where many colleagues

informed me prior that the first year is simply making sure you keep your head above

water, I knew I wanted to continue my education. To be able to keep learning various

ways that will assist me in becoming a well-rounded educator. It has been during this

second stage of my graduate courses that I truly feel I have been able to gain a better

understanding of how I can teach my students effectively by providing them with

resources that will make my instruction more engaging as well as make my lessons fit for

21st-century education.

My Stance on Teaching

As my teaching career has begun to develop and grow over these last couple

years, as part of my learning I have had many times to sit down and reflect on what my

philosophy on teaching is as well as a stance on quality teaching. As part of my graduate

studies, my TE 807 course focusing on professional development and inquiry gave me


the opportunity to reflect on my initial views on teaching and then the changes that

occurred, for the better, as part of this course (artifact 1).

Quality teaching is an important aspect into how a teacher views themselves and

what they believe allows them to be the teacher that they aspired to be as they first

stepped foot into the classroom. According to Fenstermacher & Richardson (2005) state

that quality teaching is about more than whether something is taught. It is also about

how it is taught. Not only must the content be appropriate, proper, and aimed at some

worthy purpose, the methods employed have to be morally defensible and grounded in

shared conceptions of reasonableness. To me, I feel that quality teaching involves a few

key tenets. They are a comfortable and quality environment that also involves

establishing relationships, having a well-designed curriculum, successful teaching

practices, and reflection. I feel these are what help create a quality teacher.

One of the main things that stands out to me now, and as I look back, I have

thought, didnt I think about this procedure prior to this? This would be the process of

reflection. Reflection is a very crucial aspect of teaching. It was a beneficial time in my

life to realize how important this was. I began this course in May of 2016 when I was just

about to finish my first year of teaching in my own classroom. I feel that because I was

able to this realization at this time of the year, it helped me over the course of summer

vacation to think about what did I do well this year and what could I tweak to make a

better learning experience for my students, or completely forget about for next year? This

course has helped confirm to me by taking the time, whether it is for a couple of minutes,

at the end of the week, even in the summer time, a reflection will lead to creating more

effective lesson and in turn higher success for the students.


While I did make some changes to my stance on teaching, through this course I

was also able to reaffirm my belief that I need to provide a safe and comfortable

environment, as well as create a vision for the year for my students before any real

teaching can be accomplished. One of my biggest passions of teaching is classroom

management. While I know I have a long way to go before I feel truly comfortable with

how I manage my group of students each year, I feel that I have avoided many of the

stresses that some first years teachers experience because I take the time necessary to

make sure my students buy into the vision that I am providing for them to have their best

year ever (if not one of their best years ever) and to know that in our room, you should

feel comfortable to be in here and know that your well-being and opinion are very

important. It is because of this confirmation during TE 807 that I feel I was able to

successfully provide this environment again to my students this year.

I was also able to gain a better understanding of the importance of practice when

it comes to how well the curriculum will be taught. The idea of their being tools of

practice intertwining with the practice itself I thought really helps me in my realization

that in order for me to be able to use the curriculum that I am provided to the best of my

abilities, I need to make sure that I take the time to learn and understand how I can use

this knowledge, as well as the learning aides that have been provided to me and see how

itll be applied successfully for my students.

Teaching in the 21st Century

As I continued on through my journey, I then began to look into the courses that

focused on what I chose as my concentration in the MATC program which was how

technology and the effects it can/will have on 21st-century teaching and learning. I hope
to have a long and rewarding career and at this present moment, I still have many years to

go. So in order to make sure I can achieve this, I need to make sure that I am able to keep

a relevant eye on what is going on in the world of education and how all the

technological pieces are being introduced into the classroom and then think how can I

make sure I can use them effectively?

The first step began with my CEP 810 course, teaching for understanding with

computers. Teaching for understanding is probably one of the biggest challenges that I

think about as a teacher. I often reflect on how my lessons go. I wonder how successful

was it? Did my students really obtain the learning targets I was setting up for? CEP 810

was able to help me learn about the type of learners that are present as well as where I am

in my current teaching level (artifact 2). During this time, I read an article from John

Bransford, Ann Brown, and Rodney Cocking called How People Learn: Brain, Mind,

Experience and School where the authors say the new science of learning is beginning to

provide knowledge to improve significantly peoples abilities to become active learners

who seek to understand complex subject matter and are better prepared to transfer what

they have learned to new problems and settings (p. 14) and I feel that if learners can

achieve this goal, then they will be more engaged to learn. To be able to take the

knowledge learned and to know theres a chance it will come in handy in the future, I feel

makes it more important and more meaningful.

This has helped me greatly in my teaching instruction this year. I have made a

more diligent effort, especially in math to find a way to give an example as to what my

students are going to be learning and apply it to real-world experiences. Granted this is

much easier to do in some subjects over others (math vs. history for example), but
regardless, I feel that by implementing this more into my instruction this year has

enhanced the level of engagement in my students and in turn increased the amount of

student participation. This knowledge is one that I will continue to develop as an

educator. I know that as time goes on and I continue to grow, I will be able to refine this

thought process in a way that will allow me to be able to implement comfortably for my

students.

Another impact and learning experience that I got out of this class were from the

Network Learning Project (artifact 3). This project was a lot of fun to work on for a

multitude of reasons. The first and main reason why I liked this project so much because

it forced me into learning something new that I have always been interested in but would

always find some type of excuse to not getting around to doing it. So now that it was a

requirement, it shifted my motivation into gear to learn something I always wanted

thought was interesting.

It was because of this experience, I was able to go back and tell my students that I

had to learn something completely new and take the time and effort to study, practice,

and reflect on how it was. I feel this paid huge dividends because it shows my students

that even someone in my position, who they feel should know everything are now aware

that it takes time to learn something new and it always doesnt work out perfectly the first

time around.

Which also makes think about when I am trying to teach something new to my

students, I need to remember that not everyone is going to master the concept first time

around. I remember when I was trying to cook my food dishes (which is what I chose for

my project) for the first time I had to stop the video, made sure I was following the
instructions correctly, then play it again. Im certain there are students of mine who need

me to make sure I take the proper amount of time to learn a specific step, reflect on it

briefly to make sure theyre learning it correctly before I move on. So I believe in this

manner, I have now added another tool to my teaching belt to help me on my goal of

becoming a highly effective educator.

I feel though that I still have room to grow from the other things I learned from

this course. For example, with the 21st-century lesson plan, while I was pleased with how

my lesson turned out, I am still pondering as to what other technology I could use in other

subjects that would perhaps make the lessons more engaging for my students. That is the

beauty of this class and the world of technology that we are in at this moment. Its the

idea that while its important to find tools and strategies that are going to help in your

teaching, its also important to not stay in one place for too long in your teaching

instruction. This notion has helped me grow in confidence and to not be afraid to try out

something new.

When I was taking the CEP 811 course I was able to experience the maker

culture. I had not heard about this movement until taking this course and afterwards I

found out that it is a term to describe the independent inventors, the do-it-yourselfers, the

ability to take an item and remix it to make something new out of it. What this course has

focused on is integrating the maker culture into the classroom. With the shifts that are

happening in the classroom with more encouragement on integrating technology, it is

essential to remember to not just teach the curriculum the same way you would have.

Be comfortable with trying other things out that may provide major benefits.

Staying stagnant in one place for too long can be detrimental because as everyone else is
moving forward (students, teachers, society), what worked with one generation of

students may not have the same success for another. While some of those methods would

still be successful, it is important to try new methods in the goals of increasing

engagement and instruction. The maker movement is one way to help achieve this goal

(artifact 4). By working with the tools suggested in this course, I was able to create a

review maker lesson on one of my math chapters and then applied it to my teaching this

year. It went over with a wonderful success. While my students were very engaged with

this lesson I created, after it was over I made sure to write down ideas to tweak the lesson

to try and attempt to use for next years group. Because while it is great when a lesson

you teach goes well, its always important to list in some form what went well and what

you would like to perhaps change.

Addressing Student Challenges

While CEP 810 and 811 were able to help provide me with the importance of

creating a personal network as well as re-thinking how I taught the content to my

students, CEP 812 was able to help me focus on the problems of practice that can

intervene in our classroom instruction and encouraged me to find a solution for it. I

decided to focus on the achievement gap (artifact 5). As a fifth grade educator, I have

heard the word achievement gap used as many times as fidelity and engagement. But

there are many challenges to achieving this goal.

I needed to identify the reasons why I should rethink my teaching around this

problem by first coming up with five questions that would help give a specific outline to

help me try to find solutions to the achievement gap. Its important to periodically take a

step back and question how things are going on in your life and to make sure those
questions are strength based. Berger states strength-based questioning focuses on what is

working in our lives so that we can build upon that and get more out of it. This is

important because self-questioning can easily drift toward dissatisfaction, regret, feelings

of helplessness (p.190). This thought process was an important realization for me

because it is important to understand as educators that there are many instances in our

careers that are out of our control. As a result of this project, my group and I were able to

come up with a solution that I was able to use in my classroom this year. There were

many moments where I had my students using the solutions we came up with which I feel

assisted in our end of the year assessments.

Throughout this course, I was reminded of my passion that I had when I first

started taking education courses during my undergrad years. I remember now that in

order to keep improving to become the educator I want to be is to keep telling myself that

its a process and it takes time. As Berger states creating happiness is ongoing. You

dont find it, you gradually figure it out for yourself questioning and experimenting as

you try to understand what makes you feel happy and how to bring more of that into your

everyday life (p. 186).

My quest and hopes to be discussed in the same breath as some of the great

educators Ive observed in my career requires me to continue to research, learn, and

implement strategies that will provide my students with the best teaching practices that

will gain positive results. In todays classroom, the implementation of technology at the

palm of my hand has made it much easier to be able to continue research best practice.

Though I must remember only my passion and curiosity to do better can achieve this

goal.
The Leader I Want To Be

This program has helped me learn so many different ways to instruct content to

students in many different ways, but one of the biggest skills I gained relates to one of the

main reasons why I entered this program. Part of my views on being an educator is being

a leader amongst my students as well as someone people can go to for guidance or

assistance. I feel by doing so will lead to a much more gratifying career. When I took the

EAD 801 course on leadership and organizational development, I figured I would learn

about different strategies that would help me become an effective teacher leader in my

building. While this idea has come to fruition where I have been making gains in being

confident in my abilities to share my knowledge with veteran teachers on ideas and

practices we can use to help instruct our students; because of this course, I have now

become more involved on curriculum issues that affect our entire district.

During this time I had to focus on a challenge that has been affecting our

organization (artifact 6), which led me to look into the lack of communication between

teachers and administrators. At first, I was right alongside the educators. Quick to blame

the administration for their incompetence to think about all of the tasks we are required to

complete in a school year and felt this was just one more thing they are adding onto our

already busy schedule. After finishing this activity, I came to the realization that it is a

shared fault and there are definite ways both administration and educators can take to

help resolve this issue and help both sides work together to resolve this issue. It is a

shared leadership that must be put in place, and I wanted to find any opportunity I could

this year to get started to make this solution possible in my school.


In my district, we are going to be changing our English/Language Arts curriculum

throughout our entire grades. Because of this, our district administrators wanted to create

an ELA curriculum team to look at various curriculum programs to see which ones would

be best suited for elementary and secondary schooling. After choosing a program, we

then formed an ELA council whose job it is to discuss the ins and outs of the program,

discuss about any questions that teachers may bring up to us and then be able to answer

those questions, as well as present any new information we have to make instruction as

easy as possible for our teachers.

While language arts is not my strong suit (my focus was on Social Studies),

because of the knowledge I gained from this course, and the coincidence of my solution

to my organization challenge where I would like a group of administrators and teachers

coming together to discuss matters that relate to teacher instruction so everyone

understands where both sides are coming from now suddenly forming, I instantly wanted

to jump at this opportunity. So as this council continues to work together next year when

we implement the program into our classrooms, I will make sure to take the ideas

proposed in my solution to help make the communication between administrators and

educators run smoothly and effectively.

Being an educator is the only career Ive ever wanted to have. I have come to the

realization though that the educator that I thought I would be, and the educator that I am

at the moment, while still some of my initial views are similar, there are many differences

as well. I knew that I wanted to be seen as a leader amongst my students, but I would not

have thought about initially about being a leader with my colleagues. I have hopes of

becoming a mentor to young educators looking to enter this rewarding career.


I want to share and instill the passion and excitement for educating young people

as I do. My experiences as an educator, in addition to the coursework from my MATC

program at Michigan State has given me the necessary tools that deepen my knowledge

and understanding, as well as look at all facets in the world of education including the

inclusion of technology in my instruction, as well as think of ways to minimize the

gridlock of student learning. Because of this program, I also want to make sure I increase

my network community to be able to share my knowledge with others and learn about

new strategies and ideas that will help me in my career goal of being a highly effective

educator and leader.


References

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind,
experience and school (pp. 3-27). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved
from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark


Breakthrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From Preparation to Practice: Designing a Continuum to


Strengthen and Sustain Teaching. Teachers College, Columbia University, 1013-1055.