Standard 1: Model moral and ethical behavior

Many, if not all, of our courses in this program addressed acting leading in moral and ethical ways, prioritizing non-negotiable values, and putting diverse student needs at the center of our practice. Some courses that explicitly addressed this standard include:

  •  Leadership in Education
  • Engaging Communities
  • Moral Issues in Education

Moral Education Framework

  • Culturally Responsive Education

integration-and-action

In Moral Issues in Education and Culturally Responsive Education, we directly addressed a variety of moral issues faced by educators including

  • race,  ethnicity and cultural identity
  • religion and spirituality
  • politics and charged discussions
  • access
  • parents and community
  • school materials and curriculum

In The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching, Pace discusses the conflicts and forces that push and pull teachers in their pursuit of educating students prepared for entering a democratic society where they need to be able to think critically, question authority, respect and dialogue with diverse perspectives, practice empathy, dialogue with dissenting opinions, and work for social justice. Pace outlines three key areas of conflicts in classrooms: complex dynamics in classrooms, insufficient preparation and ongoing professional development to support and develop teachers ability to facilitate democratic discussion and dialogic conflict, and the contradictory curricular demands that are driven by social and political agendas.

Pace mentions that “we know a great deal in theory about how to [facilitate dialogue about controversial topics], but are still stumped by its minimal existence, especially in racially diverse and lower track settings.” (64) I however am not surprised by the minimal existence of meaningful dialogue around controversial topics, as I too have wanted to stimulate these conversations but had considerable reservations, especially after speaking to colleagues about this issue. I actually had a school counselor last year advise me to send a parent consent letter home first before talking about race and culture in my Spanish classroom! Many of us have heard of teachers right hear in the Greater Seattle Area who have lost their jobs after teaching curriculums centered around controversial topics. Teachers are intimidated by confrontation and heated controversy.

There is a notable lack of professional development in strategies that facilitate these dialogic situations in classrooms, especially those made of up students from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, teachers need to know with certainty and confidence that administrators support and share a value for democratic discussion and dialogue in the classroom and the inherent conflict that comes with it. Teachers need to know that they will be supported not only through professional development, but also if a conflict with families arises. Teachers need to recognize that there are dialogic skills that need to be explicitly taught to students, norms established, processes practiced in order for a structured and respectful dialogue/discussion to be successful. This takes time and intentionality, and training teachers in these strategies would obviously help. Often times, if a teacher has not been trained in a strategy, tries it , and is unsuccessful due to a lack of structure, there is often a tendency to blame the strategy or say it’s not appropriate for the student group for one reason or another and the teacher is often unlikely to try again.

I believe that the ideals of teaching students to think critically, question for themselves, express unique opinions and ideas, and dialogue respectfully with others, especially in charged situations, are those which we MUST place at the center of our teaching. I agree with Pace’s call for more meaningful and readily available professional development for teachers and administrators. As Pace says, we cannot expect teachers to just figure out how to do something they don’t already know, we must lead them there.

I found Religion in the Classroom engaging on a topic that, as highlighted often in the text, is so rarely discussed in educational settings but so deeply shapes our lives and the way citizens of our society interacts. There are many parallels drawn here with our previous text, The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching, especially in the call to teachers to create spaces where dialogue regarding “controversial” topics, like religion and religious influences on our society, values systems, and politics can take place in the classroom, teaching students that “respect requires understanding but not endorsement, civic humility doesn’t require ethical relativism of core beliefs, and civic deliberation doesn’t require consensus, but rather continued conversation” and thereby helping cultivate mindful and empathetic democratic citizens. (p. 82)

On page 3, James mentions that she was “equally concerned about [Christina] feeling ostracized within the teacher education program and her accusations that those of us claiming to be “democratic educators” were acting in hypocritical ways.” This is a critical reflection, as so many times when a student voices an intolerant opinion or one that does not recognize the reality of a society with pluralistic views and beliefs, we often do not challenge these students due to a lack of confidence in how to do so, an avoidance of conflict, or an avarice to bring religious conversation into the public realm, due the conflict we might encounter amongst students or push back from families. Often, we can help build understanding and demonstrate respect for others with differing belief systems, simply by opening up the conversation. Ask, start the conversation, don’t just ignore religious conversations. On page 57, Simone Schweber discusses the awkwardness that a Jewish student studying the Holocaust as one of the only Jewish students in the class feels, but by simply asking her what it feels like to be in this situation, one can not only learn how to better meet this student’s needs in the classroom, but can also open the door to exploring the role religion plays in our personal identities, value systems and ways we perceive the world and actions around us.

The discussion around unconscious values was particularly intriguing for me. I was surprised by the example of how religious views can shape one’s perceptions of poverty and wealth, for example. I had never thought of this before, and what a unique challenge it presents in the classroom as these values are often not shared vocally. This emphasizes the need for pre-assessments and frequent formative assessment to gain a better understanding of students’ perceptions, values and misconceptions of the content. This is a very important reason why students don’t always learn what we teach!

Over and over again it is suggested here that as teachers it is our duty to create safe spaces to discuss religion in our classrooms. On page 59 Schweber suggests that “we do our utmost as teachers to raise these ideas and discuss them. I want us, as teachers, whether in public or private schools, to consider it part of our work to put religious ideas on the table. I want them to be part of classroom conversations…” It seems that in order for this to really happen, as was suggested in The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching as well, teachers need better professional development and more whole school support in order to outfit them (us) with the strategies to create safe spaces where opinions/ideas can be shared and explored collectively through dialogue in the

Norman Wirzba’s book Way of love: Recovering the heart of Christianity discusses the fundamental characteristic of love in shaping the Christian religious tradition. I found this book inspiring personally, but less relevant for my teaching life in public schools. Obviously there is much love, dedication and consideration of others in our profession, but the need to love our students unconditionally was not a revelation. I appreciated the thoughtful way in which Wirzba connected Christian traditions with modern life examples, as I have often found this lacking.

Another resource with many thought-provoking essays regarding social justice and morality issues we are faced with every day is the This I Believe Essay Collection. There were many essays I listened to that made me think or appreciate the author’s sincerity, but the one I liked the most was “I can make a difference” by Carol Fixman (http://thisibelieve.org/essay/170999/). In her essay, she speaks to the lesson she learned from her mother that she can be a person of action, to be the change-maker in her own life, to create the kind of relationships she wants to see in the world and to push back on injustices she pays witness to around her.

I found this particular essay inspirational, as it can be easy for me to get caught in the “oh I will do it tomorrow,” mode. There is always something else more pressing, more urgent to attend to, and I often don’t get around to all those things I was intending to do. I find upon reflection that often the activities I neglect are those most beneficial to myself and my community, such as saving time for meditation and personal reflection, exercise, engaging in public dialogue about community issues and injustice, but as they are more challenging or time consuming and require more intentionality, they often get pushed to the back burner and remain on the “to-do” list forever. This essay has inspired me by reminding me that I do strongly believe that change is always possible: in our students, our classrooms, our society, our relationships, and in ourselves. But I must be my own change maker.

A public dialogue about belief – one essay at a time. (n.d.). Retrieved June 04, 2017, from http://thisibelieve.org/

Blankstein, A.M, Cole, R.W., & Houston, P.D. (2007). Spirituality in educational leadership.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

James, J.H., Schweber, S., Kunzman, R., Barton, K.C., & Logan, K. (2015). Religion in the classroom: Dilemmas for democratic education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pace, J. (2015). The charged classroom: Predicaments and possibilities for democratic teaching. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wirzba, N. (2016). Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Standard 8: Present professional practice for the review of colleagues

Throughout this program we worked collaboratively to present our work and practice to peers, receive formative feedback, and adjust and grow based on the feedback we received.

Presentations reflect an understanding of adult learning theories

A key learning for me was that adults learn differently from children, and adult learning styles and theory must be considered when designing reflective learning processes for adults. Unfortunately this is often overlooked by school leaders and can lead to staff disengaging from learning processes that could otherwise be valuable.

According to Zepeda’s Adult Learning Theory, “adult learning should be built on ownership, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, internalizaton, reflection, and motivation.” (p.47) Throughout the course I learned various strategies that can be implemented within the school setting to engage staff in professional development that responds to how adults learn including: embedding professional development within the job, giving teachers choice over what professional development (PD) they need and how they would like to learn and thus giving teachers ownership and making sure PD is appropriate for the teacher’s level of knowledge and expertise, making sure  PD applies directly to the job, and engaging teachers in leadership opportunities throughout the school, including the opportunity to share their learning with others. (Zepeda, p.59)

Some practical steps to take in working towards addressing unique needs to adult learners would be:

  1. Make teacher professional development a priority and communicate this vision and goal to teachers, or even better, develop it WITH teachers.
  2. Create time and space to discuss values and vision. Link this to professional development.
  3. Create opportunities for teachers to choose their area for development and method for growth, whether it be in a PLC, a book study group, a coaching opportunity, attending a training or workshop and then sharing learning with staff as an in-house expert, learning walks, etc

-In our accomplished teaching course we practiced how to reflect in small groups and implemented a variety of protocols to aid the reflection process. We wrote a lesson plan for this and then filmed the lesson. With a partner we then reflected on the lesson, using protocols listed below to assist us.

peeling_onion_protocol

student_work_analysis

tuning_protocol

Utilizing protocols helps keep all involved focused, as unbiased as possible, and allows us to work with a meaningful structure to our reflective session.

4. Get creative and create time for teachers to collaborate and work together

5. Follow through-administrators need to commit to emphasizing and dedicating time and resources to the same focus for a few years in order to truly change school culture. In the three years I’ve been at my school, passing attempts at PLCs/data teams, book studies, learning walks, and interdisciplinary teams have been attempted.

6. Intentionally work to empower teachers: Give teachers more voice. What development do they need? How can they share their learning, in a meaningful way, with all staff? How can more than just Team Leaders take a leadership role? Send out leadership surveys asking teachers in what areas they feel like they could lead or share expertise. What types of areas would they like to collaborate with others? Then admin needs to work to set up these opportunities for staff to both lead and participate. Respond to teachers concerns. Let them know you listen to and value their opinion. Keep shared vision and non-negotiable values at the center.

Presentations include reference to research

Before my studies in the Masters in Teacher Leadership Program, I had heard mention of Action Research but did not know what it entailed. EDU 6979 – Action Research in School Settings and EDU 6528 – Accomplished Teaching helped guide me through valuable learning experiences regarding the Research Action process itself, and also more specifically regarding my area of focus for my project. I now feel capable and confident enacting an Action Research Project on my own using 3-legs of data and presenting  my research professionally to colleagues.

See full Action Research Paper here: Raising Cultural Competence and Sensitivity.

I have also reflected upon the idea that my PLC could significantly benefit from implementing some of the structure and research that is built into the RAP. As of now, PLC meetings are loosely defined and fairly unproductive. There is usually a general goal that defines our topic of discussion, but data is never discussed nor shared. We have yet to implement common assessments across courses to compare results and best practices. Frustrations are shared but rarely are concrete techniques or strategies discussed. I would love to bring my learning from this course to my PLC and suggest we follow some of the steps to conduct an informal Research Action Project and compare results among students to explore best practices across many classrooms and teaching styles. It would also benefit us to establish clear student outcome goals and specific data collection strategies.

Learned how to communicate professionally and verbally to an adult audience

Presenting practice for review does not just mean to teaching colleagues and staff, but also to the wider community. Schools operate as one of the great last social safety-nets and are one of the few experiences that almost all  of us go through in our lives. In this way we have a great responsibility to share and collaborate with the community in the educational endeavors we undertake.

In EDAD 6589: Engaging Communities, I learned that involvement means doing to as opposed to engagement which means doing with. In this way, most schools involve parents and families through email, parent-teacher nights and/or curriculum nights, sports events, automatic caller systems, and mailing home school-related information. However, this is a one-way system where families and communities are the recipients of school information, but are not active contributors who have the power to shape the school culture or processes. As school leaders, we have a responsibility to not only involve families and communities, but to engage them in meaningful ways, to invite them and encourage them to be a part of the process where their voices are heard and considered and school-related decisions are made with them, not for them. (Ferlazzo, 2011)

I have come to learn that family engagement is critical for improving student achievement and is more than simply involving families. Involvement is making decisions for a group based on perceived needs, whereas engagement is making decisions with a group, based on real needs. As referenced in Washington State Leadership Standard Four, in order to consider needs of all stakeholders in our schools, we must establish a fluid feedback loop between families, students, staff and school leaders. This takes added creativity and effort when considering the needs of diverse groups, but is essential as we must recognize that as a school we are an integral part of a larger community, and by addressing the needs of our diverse student and family populations we are also enriching the school environment for our students and staff and modeling for our students how to function in a democracy made of diverse needs. I was able to put this into practice and design a theoretical Community Engagement Product (CEP).

The ability to reflect upon engagement practices is one of my great take-aways of this course.

This is often the difference between a good educator and a great educator who works as a change-maker: one who can engage families and the larger community to take responsibility and be part of students’ education can affect lasting, long-term change.

In the Leadership in Education course, I learned about various leadership styles and how a strong leader must be adaptable to varying situations, deliberately choosing decision-making models based on each unique situation.

Hoy & Tarter Decision Making Model

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 11.40.38 AM

In this course we researched and presented to our peers on a leadership topic of interest, practicing both skills of presenting to adult colleagues, but also practicing our new-learned skills of being responsible consumers of educational research, distinguishing between reliable and unreliable research.

Leadership in Ed Research_Achievement Gap

Notes_Research Presentation

Ferlazzo, L. (2011).  Involvment or Engagement?  Educational Leadership, 68(8), 10-14.

Hoy, W. K., Miskel, C. G., & Tarter, C. J. (2013). Educational administration: theory, research, and practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education.