Tuesday, June 9, 2015

After 18 Years in Education, I am Discovering the True Educator in Me

Depth & Complexity and Bloom's Taxonomy Matrix
After 13 + years teaching at the upper elementary level, I have learned more about myself as a teacher, and a learner, working with my preschool-aged son in just two years! This is not to diminish my time in public education, at all; however, the confines of working within the established parameters of the public education system seemed to stifle my true calling as a teacher and, subsequently, as a learner.

When I first began teaching, back in 1999, there was still much autonomy to the profession. Teachers were given their charges and left to mold them as they saw fit. I wasn't a big fan of this model and craved peer interaction. As luck would have it, I entered the profession at the changing of the guards, so to speak, as there was a shift in the tides that brought waves of collaboration and accountability.

What resulted, however, was a system of checks-with-little-balance. Teachers found themselves at the mercy of high-stakes testing data and rising stigma. If we didn't raise scores in Math and Reading, we were publicly ridiculed and hung out to dry.

I remember when my district forced upon its teachers and students a scripted curriculum, in which teachers had to teach from a script. Literally, we were told to read, verbatim, the instructions in the teacher's edition.

It was torture; not only for me but, as a result, for my students.

Well, I rebelled and refused to read from the script. But, I still had to work within the confines of the curriculum.

I was not, never have been, and never will be, a rigid, formulaic teacher. Yes, I create lesson and unit plans. Yes, I work backwards from my learning objectives. And, yes, I am a proponent of using standards-based curriculum, as I believe this provides a consistent foundation from which all teachers can work.

However, I also believe in flexibility and exploration. I believe teachers and students should manipulate the curriculum through hands-on, exploratory learning experiences.

Having the freedom and creativity to plan my son's homeschooled preschool curriculum has shed light on my strengths as an educator. We work from my son's interests and approach our learning from his strengths, resulting in authentic, tactile, active learning experiences.

I have also discovered just how easy, and rewarding, interdisciplinary lessons and activities are to prepare. Sure, I dabbled in this during my elementary tenure by incorporating physical education and art activities into my scripted lessons; but, again, I was limited by time, resources, and the watchful eyes of my administration. Working with my son, however, I am free to create learning experiences rich in diversity and encourage divergent thinking.

Most recently, I have begun a quest to infuse the Depth and Complexity Icons with the updated Bloom's Taxonomy Cognition Levels into his preschool curriculum. The challenge of piecing together my research and experience with these two approaches has been stimulating and enriching. I look forward to sharing my efforts in future blog posts :-)

In the meantime, run on over to the Two Writing Teachers website and share your own Slice of Life, or read some of the others posted.

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