When I reflect on my engagement as a learner, most importantly my personal investment has been challenged from the beginning of my program. At the start, my only focus was to engage in order to earn more money. I was willing to jump through any hoop so that I could climb the pay scale. Once into the program, I immediately knew I was not going to be able to keep the learning experiences impersonal. I knew I was going to have to show significant cognitive involvement, and I would be required to go into depth to fully embrace new structures of knowledge. The focus would move quickly from money to growth and depth of knowledge and application. Throughout the entire process, I have given a complete investment of myself, my time, and my willingness to be totally engaged in my learning and discovery.
As a teacher, again I was challenged in the beginning of my education. I realized that what I was doing in the past was no longer going to be acceptable practice for the future. Soon my engagement became focused on encompassing the concepts behind growing my classroom into a multi level learning environment. Educational plans began to be designed starting with the student and building out keeping best practices in mind throughout the process. Now, my classroom is one where mistakes are encouraged and students feel safe to take risks in growing their reading knowledge. Students are both assured and brought to see through formative assessment that the effort they put in will build success. Some concrete examples of the above include:
- Using backwards designs when implementing units of learning in reading.
- Grouping students by their skill levels to best meet them where they are at.
- Ongoing formative assessments including letter knowledge, phonics skills, reading fluency rates, comprehension understanding, and building growth mindset through building connections and sharing “what I learned” while reading...through hard work success can be achieved.
- Providing choice in learning by giving offering ipads, books, and games to build skills.
- Implementing gender specific learning strategies that meet the needs of varying learning styles.
Not all areas of engagement are able to be witnessed in my classroom learning environment. I find that when I focus on certain areas, other areas begin to lack and vise versa. An area that is still lacking includes self-directed inquiry based learning. As much as I would like to have my students self-directed, that tends to be why they are seeing me. The longer the kids are in Title 1, I find they either end up having a learning disorder that is causing a gap in their achievement, or they lack practice time at home. They are not good at directing themselves and they need strong structure and support to build skills as they grow and develop. Moreover, I know that I cannot excel in every area of classroom engagement. What this learning community has done has been to expose me to various best practices and theories along with building my research capacities. Now that I have had a chance to grow and develop my engagement, my knowledge and skills will follow me as I move on from this learning community. In the future, when high impact practices are introduced, practiced, and mastered, new ones can be focused on and incorporated in the classroom; thus, continuing to build a life long learning rich environment.