I always knew I wanted to work with children. In college I studied Psychology because I wanted to become a school psychologist, but once I became exposed to the world on Semester at Sea traveling to twelve different third world countries and saw children on the streets and not in classrooms I made it my life’s mission to be in education. My favorite story is when I was in Yangon, Myanmar while on Semester at Sea visiting a primary classroom at a monastery with a group of college students. The teacher reminded his students to practice the English greetings they had been learning. The children were to practice saying; “Hello, how are you? What is your name? Where are you from? How old are you?” The typical introduction phrases to practice when learning a new language. However, there was one question that was distinctly different. Instead of asking the question, “What do you do or what are you studying?” they asked, “What is your passion?” To monastery monks in Burma, also known as Myanmar, your only option in life was to follow and commit to your passion. They did not know any different. This took all of us by surprise, but it was a refreshing surprise. Without overthinking it, I simply answered, “Teaching.” I used my senior year of college to plan my teaching abroad volunteer trip to Africa and immediately applied to a graduate program to get my elementary teaching license.
My graduate program at University of Colorado at Denver was rigorous and demanding. I felt so prepared when interviewing for my first teaching position. I was determined to be an excellent teacher because all my hard work meant better opportunities for my students. My whole life I was a little bit shy, but as an educator there were these natural leadership qualities of mine that easily surfaced. I knew I wanted to get my masters in Educational Leadership to cultivate these leadership skills and learn more about education reform because our students deserve the best.
The online coursework over the past two years at the University of New England has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. I am astonished when I look back at what all I have completed at UNE, and what all I have been able to apply not only to my instruction but also to school systems in general. I have been able to find my own leadership style and know how to apply these qualities effectively to strengthen my leadership virtues (Glanz, 2002). I have learned the most practical ways to motivate students based on the intentional and careful use of rewards and reinforcement to drive student intrinsic motivation. Carol Ann Tomlinson (2001) taught me exactly what differentiation is and what differentiation isn’t providing me with multiple ways to proactively plan for differentiated content, process and product. I’ve learned all about school finances in terms of where money originates and that resource decisions are made at the school site which emphasizes the importance of knowing about fiscal year projections to make the necessary changes in school budget based on student needs (Roza, 2010). The hardest course during this program was Educational Law, but it was so beneficial to learn about student rights and teacher rights through actual exam cases that I needed to prepare arguments for. I have learned how to evaluate teachers based on Charlotte Danielson’s (2007) domains and components of teaching responsibility and instruction. The process of observing, evaluating and giving feedback to other teachers was so valuable and something I really enjoyed as it came as a natural strength of mine.
The most rewarding experience I had was completing my Action Research Project because I was able to address the realistic problem of race and achievement gaps by choosing my own research based interventions and used data collections of culturally responsive pedagogy and personalized learning to close this gap. My interventions proved to be successful and I am now determined to make it my goal to become more culturally responsive in my interactions with students and their families and also keep implementing personalized goals for students to be more successful academically and socially.
Most importantly, the program at UNE has provided me with frameworks to develop and asses school wide plans. The most beneficial frameworks came from Reginald Leon Green’s problem-based approach to implementing the ISLLC standards in Practicing the Art of Leadership (2013) and from Peter Senge’s Schools That Learn interactive text and discipline field book (2012). Through the UNE coursework I’ve been challenged to analyze school systems and create multiple school wide plans to either improve overall school culture or to increase student achievement based on ethical and analytical decision-making processes that involved steps of analysis, developing alternatives, selecting alternatives with staff and evaluating the process. These challenges gave me the framework, the tools and the steps to follow in order to initiate school change and education reform.
I had stated in my application goal statement for the MSEd program at UNE that I wanted the essential skills to be an agent for change and construct strong site-based leadership that improves teacher instruction, community involvement and overall long-term student success. UNE has provided me with exactly that. The feeling of pursuing what you love to do while having the knowledge and skills to back up your practice is the best feeling in the world. Teaching is my passion and improving education for children is my mission.
Danielson, Charlotte. (2007). Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for
Teaching. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Glanz, J. (2002) Finding your leadership style: A guide for educators. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
Green, R. L. (2013). Practicing the art of leadership: A problem-based approach
to implementing the ISLLC standards. Boston: Pearson (4th ed.).
Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J., & Kleiner, A.
(2012). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education. (Revised Ed.). New York: Crown Publishing Group.
Thomlinson, Carol A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability
classrooms, 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (41,42)
Roza, M. (2010). Educational economics: Where do school funds go? Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press.