Monday, January 9, 2012

Week 1- Question 2 - Danae Marquis

The second chapter is titled " Defining Beliefs and Aligning Practices" and this is a great place to go now that we have visualized and shared our perfect classroom. In this chapter, Debbie Miller discusses the importance of developing and in turn defining our educational beliefs because "when teachers have a set of beliefs that guides our work, we know where we're going." I think we can all agree we have to know where we are heading with the understanding of the underlying goal of the path we have chosen. Ms. Miller continues through this chapter talking about aligning our educational practices with our beliefs once we have established what those are. Ms. Miller suggests in this chapter to take 15 minutes at the end of each day and journal about our beliefs and practices. Personally, I know I am not good at sticking with this but I do often find myself reflecting on these exact things on my 20 minute ride home. So, maybe I need a tape recorder instead of a journal! The point she wants us to take away is asking ourselves "What do I value?" The author points out that it was the "process of defining and aligning that made all the difference" in her classroom and teaching. Ms. Miller poses some great questions that I am going to put out there for you to answer:
1. What are your beliefs about education and teaching in the classroom?
2. Where's the evidence of your beliefs in your classroom?
3. What kinds of things should you or do you see, hear, and do to support your beliefs?
4. Where do your educational practices fit into what you value?

I challenge you if you have not already to take a few moments to think about what beliefs you have and then decide if you have aligned your practices with your beliefs. I will leave you with what Ms. Miller often found when her beliefs and practices were at odds. "I had to make tough decisions. Would I change the belief statement or the practice? More often than not, it was the practice that was out of sync. I discovered that even though I'd say I believed in something, I'd find myself doing things, and asking kids to do things, that had me scratching my head."


  1. I suppose I could write an entire essay in response to this, but I’ll try to keep it general and to the point. First and foremost, I want students to love music. If they don’t love music, why would they be motivated to learn? I believe this is reflected in my efforts to constantly keep every student engaged in whatever activity we are doing. I try to include singing, movement, collaboration and critical thinking in every single lesson, so if there is one area in which a student is not as engaged, there will be another area in which they “get sucked back in.” So, sum that point up, belief #1: student engagement promotes motivation to learn.
    I also believe the relationship between student and teacher is critical. Students must respect their teacher, not because they are told to, but because their teacher’s behavior is such that a student can’t help but respect him/her. I may sound like an old fart when I say this, but “kids these days” are allowed to get away with too much, and the way I hear some children talk to adults is ludicrous. I set high expectations (both academically and socially) for every class and every student, and I expect students to rise to those expectations. I will not lower my standards so that I can “hand out” more O’s, or avoid confrontation. Belief #2: Teachers can foster a wonderfully nurturing relationship with their students, but there still needs to be a defining line between teacher and student.
    I try to ensure that my classroom environment encourages students to be comfortable being themselves, but also to see how they, as an individual, fit into the bigger picture (an ensemble). So, I guess to sum up belief #3: Students must be encouraged to know their strengths and grow in their weaknesses, all the while being confident to know and be who they are, and how they can best contribute in a collaborative setting.

  2. Wow, I believe this is such a loaded question and to answer completely I could write an entire book. So, here is a brief but hopefully to the point summary of my beliefs. First, my classroom is to be a safe and engaging environment where problem solving and creative processes occur. With that, I want my students to LOVE the creative processes. I am not asking them to love “art” as much as I am the ability to think on their own, to be individuals, to try new things, and work through problems in different ways. It is extremely important to me that students stress their individuality. My classroom needs to built on trust and respect as a “two –way street”. Both of these characteristic must be earned but are expected. I have VERY high expectations of my students and want students to have high expectations of them, which is not accomplished without trust and respect with a push to achieve. Brief I know, but like I said, very loaded.

  3. I want my students to fall in love with learning. Creating a warm, safe environment where students WANT to be is very important to me. So, I try to make my classroom a place where my students feel comfortable and where their ideas will be respected. I hope that they feel free to explore, question, and learn. It is my belief that a classroom should function as a community of learners where we all support one another. I talk about this idea on the first day of school and continue to remind students that "we are all in this together" as the school year unfolds.
    Like Bethany and Jessica said, I have high expectations of my students and it's my hope that they begin to have the same expectations for themselves. I want to instill that sense of responsibility in them. I strive to make my classroom a place where there is a mutual respect for each other.

  4. I second all of the responses. Like Jessica said, I believe any classroom needs to be build on trust. My students know whatever I do is in their best interest. Sometimes we may not agree, but we respect each other. We respect and trust everyone. We may not agree, but we listen to his/her words. Then, we share our opinion.
    I, also, have high expectations of all of my students. I want my students to strive tho reach these high expectations. My students know they are responsible for their own learning. They need to come to school wanting to learn and teach and I need to school wanting to teach and learn.
    I want my students to know how much I love learning. They teach me!!

  5. I struggled with reading this second chapter because I feel like my beliefs and actions have been in conflict for too long now. I spend so much time trying to support the classroom teachers with the students I serve that I sometimes forget to uphold what I know is right for my students. I believe that all students can learn if they are given the opportunity, even if they arrive on their own little dirt road rather than the one that has been paved for everyone else. I believe that there is good in all children. Consequently my favorite students are often the ones that drive all the other teachers crazy. I believe that our students have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them. We are lifelong learners. I try to share books that I am reading or new things I learned about on a personal level whenever I can with my students. I want them to love learning and to always want to know more. I also make sure my students know that I will never stop caring about their success and wanting the best for them even if they do, and that I will never stop trying to find ways to help them learn and improve.

  6. I am going to address this question without completely answering it. I want more time to reflect, I guess. So here are my thoughts:
    1. A classroom must be a safe, encouraging, caring environment for learning to take place - children must understand that no matter what they are safe and cared for in that room in order for them to take risks and grow academically.
    2. Assessment (both formal and informal) should drive your instruction. If I do not know what skills a child arrives with, I cannot help them grow.
    3. Learning is best achieved with lessons are well thought-out, have a clear objective, and engage children

    With that said, I agree with Danae when she said that maybe she needs a tape recorder to reflect. I find that I do not have that 15 minutes in my day to close the door and reflect on what took place. I want to take some time over the next month to align my beliefs with my practices, and find my time to reflect.

  7. 1. What are your beliefs about education and teaching in the classroom?
    a. I believe that all students are capable of learning.
    b. I believe that as a teacher I am a role model for my students in all aspects of my life.
    c. I believe that formal and informal assessments are critical to guide student-centered lessons.
    d. I believe that students should be held to high expectations to become independent learners.

    2. Where's the evidence of your beliefs in your classroom?
    I would love to say that everything I do in my classroom reflects these beliefs, but I find myself straying from them, whether it be other demands of my job, time, management, etc. But I will say that I do hold my students to high expectations. I am always reminding them to be independent thinkers, and to try it out and let me know what happens. I find that a lot of my kids are scared or nervous of doing something WRONG. I try to explain that we need to explore using what we already know.

    3. What kinds of things should you or do you see, hear, and do to support your beliefs?
    I need to hold myself accountable. I know that there is always a way to put the blame on others for why I am not following what I believe. I need to practice. If I want my students to try and keep trying, I need to do the same thing. I also find myself, (I am in a kindergarten room) doing things for the kids so that it goes faster (usually cutting) I need to make sure I am giving them the opportunity to try and allow them to grow.

    4. Where do your educational practices fit into what you value?
    I think that my educational practices fit into what I value, I just need to make sure that I am doing my part in planning, organizing and holding myself accountable.
    This question made me really step back, think about any issues in the room, and why are they issues. They aren’t in my beliefs. If I am teaching the way I believe, I think that these issues would be resolved.

  8. I think it is great that I've seen several times here about people speaking to the high expectations that they have in their classrooms. Speaking from the North Union perspective, out students do a lot with goal setting, but the high expectations "stuff" that people were mentioning made be think more about goal setting, and arguable what is more important about goal setting, which is planning and implementation. Students might set a goal to learn their x7 multiplication facts, for example, but if they don't also identify HOW they are going to do that, it just becomes pie in the sky stuff. The other side of that as as educators, it is our job not only to "have high expectations" of students, but also to show them the path for meeting those expecations. I belive that there are lots of kids who want to meet our expectations both for external reward (something as simple as us telling them, "I'm really proud of you.") as well as intrinsic motivation. Sometimes, I think kids just don't know how to get where we say we want them to get to. I think the final thing I'll say along those lines are in relation to assessment...and that is starting with the assessment, is our instruction in line with what we say we want kids to know and be able to do, when it comes time for assessment, whether that is formative or summative. Did we give them the tools to do what we wanted them to do?

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  10. This was a bit of a challenge for me so I took a few days to think it through.
    As for my beliefs, well the one that has never faltered and I feel absolutely certain never will is: that all students can learn, and it is up to me to figure how to make it happen.
    I am open and willing to teach all students regardless of behavior, home environment or ability, and I feel that this is evidence of how important this is to me. I try very hard not to fall into that trap of saying "well if only they did their homework:, or "if only things weren't so tough at home". These are things that we have all thought, but can not control so really it isn't worth worrying about.
    In order to support each student in their learning I really have to look at them on an individual level. This way I can see exactly where they are, and what they need next to continue to build their knowledge. This has been much easier in my current position, and I can honestly say that I feel as though I am doing a much better job. Don't get me wrong still a great deal of room to improve, but I am doing better than in the past for sure.

  11. I believe that education should be enjoyable for both you and your students. It should be interactive and kids should be involved in the discussion, in the extension of ideas, and in the decision-making in the classroom. I think educational practices should follow what research has proven to be effective, with changes made solely on what your kids need, not on what you like/dislike or are comfortable with. I think kids need to be taught how to and be given chances to collaborate with their peers. I think kids need to see their teachers struggle sometimes. They need to understand that struggles are normal, and struggle does not equal failure. The environment should support student thinking and work. Kids should feel supported by their teacher and their peers.

    And I agree with the high expectations for students. I've actually had a couple of parents tell me that I'm expecting too much out of the kids... until the kids succeeded! :) Dave made a good point about goal setting, too. The idea of having kids set goals is wonderful, but figuring out how to reach them is completely different beast! That's actually something that I still struggle with at times. And I have a notebook now for my own reflection. I just have to get the timing figured out. I would like to have time to reflect after each class, but that's just not feasible. So, I'm still working through things. And I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one in this boat!

  12. Even though it seems like it should be easy to answer, this question is really rocking the boat for me. I am relieved to see that I'm not the only one who feels as if their beliefs and actions are in conflict. I'll do my best.
    I believe that the classroom should be a safe haven for all students. My kiddos need to feel safe and accepted in order to be successful in the classroom. I work very hard to make my students feel as if they can be themselves and feel comfortable in my classroom. We are accepting of others no matter what and we are able to be ourselves and "let loose". I have several students in my class who are not afraid to show their true colors in the classroom. I have caught students from my room stick up for their classmates outside of the room.
    I also believe that it is up to me to make sure that each and every student works up to their full potential. Every child is capable of being successful. I do whatever it takes to find what works for the students in my classroom. All students have the same opportunities for success.
    This topic is something that I'll be thinking a lot more about and I know I have more to add, but this seems like a good place to stop for now.