ED 984 Reading Specialist Portfolio

Spring 2015

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Personal Professional History

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher. I know, it's one of those typical phrases, but in my in my case it is true. I grew up in a small town, where everyone knew everyone and everyone knew that I had a twin brother. We were in the same classes until the third grade, when my parents requested that we be separated so that we could carve our own academic path. We were constantly competing, though not on purpose, with our grades. What was a constant struggle for me seemed to be such an easy road for him. He would breeze through school, barely paying attention, while I spent a majority of my time fervently taking notes and trying to keep up with my peers. There was no such thing as differentiated instruction, everyone got the same instruction rather than everyone getting the instruction that they needed. So I knew from the time I was in elementary school that I wanted to work with students as a teacher so that everyone had a fighting academic chance.

When I was in high school, I spent a significant amount of time my senior year interning at the elementary school that I went through. I was lucky enough to be paired with a fantastic second grade teacher who had a passion for teaching and student learning. She had a bright, colorful, and inviting classroom that I couldn't wait to participate in everyday. I would count down the minutes each day until I could go and learn with the little kids. It wasn't a "job", it was a chance to learn. Learn what a classroom where learning was an inviting experience that was an opportunity to have fun, rather than a chore. I remember asking questions and learning how to teach students rather than the material that needed to be taught. Although I had always known that a teacher was what I wanted to be, this internship was the starting point in my career path and the point that I pinpoint as when I solidified my decision.

Throughout the end of high school and all through college, I constantly had jobs that included children learning. I babysat, I worked in a number of day cares, I worked at an after school program for children and teens. I learned how to talk with students rather than at them, which I feel is an important skill, especially when being a teacher. You learn that you don't need to be a "friend" to them, but rather you need to be able to relate to them and be friendly towards them. If your manner and disposition are not approachable, students don't feel comfortable opening up and talking to you.

During my undergraduate practicum, I was lucky enough to work with a great third grade teacher. She taught me how to be prepared and organized for a day without overwhelming myself and the students. I would plan and plan and plan, thinking that I could do it all. But realistically, it was and always is the students' learning makes that schedule, not my over-planning. I learned that being prepared means having a backup plan ready to implement. For her wisdom and knowledge of teaching that she passed on to me I am forever grateful.

After my practicum, I went on to substitute teach for about a year. This gave me the chance to experience working with a number of students from different grade levels and a number of different curricula. If there was any doubt in my mind that elementary teacher was the job for me, this time gave me the opportunity to solidify my decision. I learned that while middle school teaching was good for a day or two, it was not my wheelhouse.

Then, I went on in my teaching career to substitute for a teacher who had to take a sick leave for two months. I had the chance to plan and implement curriculum and academic activities that I wanted, of course within the frameworks and within reason. I learned what working with a team meant and sharing resources and experiences. It was during this time that I formed valuable relationships. I also had my true first taste of working with parents as well to help their child learn. The teacher then again had to take another two months off and again I was put into her role. It was great to see these students grow through this time and watch their progress. When the teacher returned, the principal asked me to work with her for the remainder of the year so that students would be able to have a consistent presence in the classroom, to put the parents' minds at ease, and to keep the students' routine.

The next year, I taught from the first day of the school year to last day of school in a fourth grade classroom for a woman who had left on maternity leave. This was my first experience of teaching my own classroom of students from start to finish. I could establish my own classroom management techniques and I could establish my own rules and expectations. It was a great opportunity to learn what worked for me as a teacher as well as for my students. I was able to continue working with my coworkers, developing team relationships and friendships. I appreciated working with others, developing my own teaching path with influences of others.

This happened once more, as I filled in for another teacher who took a year off for maternity leave. Again, I was able to once again look at my role as a teacher and what I could do to help my students. I continued to work with my coworkers and students to learn together. As of this year I am finally able to call a classroom my own.

This year is the first year that I am not teaching "elementary" students. I have a brand new job at a private school, teaching mathematics and science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. While I appreciate the change and the opportunity, I know that this job is not my passion. I miss teaching reading and writing. I miss helping students question what they are reading and creating pieces of writing. Though I try as best as I can to incorporate reading and writing into my math and science classes, it's not the same. I have a curriculum that I need to teach and learn with these students and sometimes there isn't time for my passion. Because it's such as small school, there are only a handful of teachers, one for each grade level. And because of this, I am not able to work with others. So if I have questions about if I am teaching something correctly or to the extent that I need to be, I have to muddle my way through it. I think that it is so valuable to work with a team and get feedback as to activities and lesson that worked or didn't and what could be changed to make things better.

But for the past three years or so, I have been working with a number of students by tutoring them. These children range from third grade students to seventh grade students, at the moment. I have a number of students that I see on a consistent weekly basis, but I also have a number of students that I also work with in the summer, so I only see them on a seasonal basis. I absolutely love working with these students. I typically work with them at their home. It's a great opportunity to work in a comfortable, individual setting. We have the flexibility to work on a number of different subject areas, but of course my favorite is to work on reading and writing. I love finding their love of reading. Recently, one of my younger tutoring students has fallen in love with reading the A to Z Mysteries series. So I purchased the entire set of the series and it was fantastic to see his face when he found out. The excitement in his eyes is exactly what I want out of teaching... the passion for learning... the excitement of something new. And my exposure to so many different grade levels and learning personalities gives me the chance to adapt my teaching and tutoring styles to suit them and their needs.

To summarize my professional history, it has been quite chaotic and interesting. I have had a number of great opportunities within my teaching career. There have been many chances for me to explore the field and learn different styles and techniques that fit my classroom management and personal style. It has allowed me to pinpoint my desire to help students create an educational foundation through skills of reading and literacy that will assist them in numerous ways throughout their entire academic career. My hope is that the skills I teach my students, no matter what the subject, they will be able to apply their knowledge both inside the classroom and within their academic, as well as in their everyday life.

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