I believe that the level of parent and community involvement is relative to the level of relevant learning for students. Connecting with parents and the community is how school connects to home, which not only extends learning but creates positive relationships.
I believe this because my parents worked long hours and were not available to be involved in my school. I was first to earn a degree on both sides of my family because they still placed value on my education to improve my circumstances from ours when I was a child, they were not aware of what I was learning and how to support me at home. I was expected to just figure out how to be a “good student” on my own and I know now I missed out on a lot of learning opportunities. In contrast, being fortunate enough to be very involved with my children’s school extends conversations, shares culture, solutions to struggles, consistency and supports from home to school which has enrich the learning and development in academics as well as social/emotional growth.
There are many aspects and opportunities for parent and community involvement. For example, site council, parent committees, assistance with office, preparation of instructional materials, event organization, fundraising, family/culture/career sharing, community outreach and service opportunities, parenting and family learning nights, and local environment and community learning.
I’d like to talk about family learning nights as an opportunity to connect school to home academic learning environments. This design provides equitable access for families to explore collaborative learning as a family and school culture. I taught at an elementary school with a population of highly impoverished demographic, as well as located among gang violence in an agricultural community. The academic coordinator planned family math, science, language and cultural nights which allowed the students to return to school with their parents after work hours to experiment in learning centered activities as well as distribute information about the curriculum and resources to support their children at home. These nights may not have had a huge turnout with 20% of our population of 700 students, but in a community with more than 50% with 4th-12th grade education level, this made a considerable impact on the learning of their students and the community around learning. These nights extended the celebration and value of education and established the elementary school as a recognized communal learning environment.
I. Curriculum and Instruction
I believe that curriculum and instructional strategies should be selected and implemented systematically, with fidelity after gathered input from all stakeholders regarding the effectiveness of meeting standards and builds skills for career and college readiness.
I believe this because I have experienced and witnesses strengths and deficits of the curriculum adoption processes. I participated in roles when curriculum was adopted that allowed me identified processes and considerations that have either a positive, negative or no impact on effective curriculum and instruction. As a parent of three who have been impacted by the shift to implement CCSS curriculum beginning in kindergarten, first and 5th grade to what still feels like the beginning and implementation as they are in 4th, 5th and 9th grade. I also have been a teacher acclimating to the shift in instructional strategies and the curriculum selected for me. And prior to CCSS I have selected curriculum and instructional strategies in a private sector as they aligned with our mission and beliefs.
There are many issues and aspects of curriculum and instruction from simply trying to meet CCSS and NGSS, instruction and assessment balance, implementing evidence-based instructional practices, project based learning, differentiation, the technological components, modifications and accommodations for accessibility, equitable resources, school-to-home support, stakeholder input and the ever-pressing professional development
The curriculum is only as good as the intrustruction. Professional development as it is instrumental in quality instruction. From the beginning of a teacher’s career in public education to experienced teacher’s professional development requires intentional and appropriate training and development to really deliver effective instruction to our students. In public education, time is precious as there is not enough in a contracted day to address all the components of planning, preparing and delivering quality instruction. The most common feedback from teachers is that relevant professional development is planned based on level/subject. For example, this year our district adopted new math curriculum after two years of using Engaged New York to meet CCSS. The training was minimal compared to the demand and cumbersome planning and material preparation required of this math curriculum. Devising a plan for continued support and professional development for instruction with this curriculum would better address the needs of teachers for implementation of a new curriculum and/or supplemental curriculum and instruction. When our teachers cried out for support and training with this curriculum, the task then fell on the site administrators to reorganize and sacrifice other areas of professional development to compensate. With collaboration to reorganization and protocols in place to plan for extended professional development to improve instruction and the implementation process, the district and its sites can be proactive in supporting teachers in successful implementation of curriculum and instruction.
I believe that technology and computer science are instrumental in the current state of our society and is gaining momentum in changes for the future for which we are preparing our students. As educators, we have a duty to match this momentum with innovative design of instruction to meet the demand of the unknown future.
I believe this because what we do know is many current jobs did not exist as little as five years ago and with the continued struggle to reduce unemployment rates, hundreds of thousands of jobs in technology are left unfilled because citizens are not qualified due to the delayed implementation of instructional technology and infrastructures in education. Computer coding and programming will become the new language required to meet the demands of future, and it is a positive challenge that public education has begun to take on by increasing the ratio of student-computing, making internet available in rural areas and implementing instructional technology at the primary level.
There are many aspects and issues with technology in education. Issues such as closing the digital divide, professional development in instructional technology, digital content/resources, assessments, accessibility, personalized and blending learning, virtual learning and the progress of technology infrastructure to support the current and future needs of education.
I’d like to highlight the role of technology in Special Education. Education Specialists are to learning how to utilize technology to meet the needs of students with disabilities. As I plan for my instruction, I utilize the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to design instructional goals, assessments and materials to better meet the learning style of my student through a variety of methods of engagement, representation, action and expression. This is made possible by implementing technology and adaptive programs. Technology can not only supports them in meeting current individual educational goals, but also narrows the gap in career and college readiness for students with mild/moderate disabilities.
I believe that first the environment must be safe and supportive before learning can take place. Both teachers and students gain self-efficacy from a positive school environment. Discipline can be designed to support all students through a multi-tiered system. This all begins with collaboration in defining rules, expectations and norms, then making it a priority to teach and support positive behavior for all stakeholders.
I believe this because as an Education Specialist and member of Association of Positive Behavior Support, I extend beyond my instructional professional development to learning positive behavior support and how to design and implement Functional Behavioral Assessments and Behavior Support Plans for the “third tier of support” to “first-tier” school-wide support. I currently work at a school which does not implement Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS,) but I am able to design my classroom with preventative strategies and positive behavior support. My data is evidence that the positive behavior support approach creates success for all students.
In the past decade, discipline and school/climate culture has become a priority as traditional consequences, such as visits to the office and suspensions/expulsions are cause a severe loss in instructional time. Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) and the professional development to implement it, buy-in, collaboration and fidelity in practice, as well as the budget to support this shift is a debated issue once the California Department of Education joined other states in implementing a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) that aligns with CCSS and other systems for academic, behavior and social success.
I would like to discuss the impact that discipline and school culture/climate has on the Special Education Department and students access to the least restrictive environment. Schools not implementing PBS have an over representation of students with disabilities and behavioral referrals as well as a placement risk. Our district has yet to implement a MTSS to support behavior and social needs, so students are not receiving evidence-based strategies to identify their social/emotional needs. This can increase of time students spend in Special Education because their needs are not met in general education. At the middles school where I transferred my 5th graders, the number of students in a self-contained special education class (most restrictive environment) has increased 110% in ten years. Districts in other states who began implementing MTSS like PBIS, have seen a decline in the number of students with or without IEPs placed in a more restrictive placement (self-contained special ed class, juvenile hall, alternative or residential facility) and those with “third-tier” supports in appropriate placements based on their students’ needs.
I would find my behaviors as an educator fit into the style of a Democratic Leader. I know I practice the role of Autocratic, and even occasionally Laissez-faire depending on the situation and behaviors required of my students to meet the objective. However, even with my students I find myself practicing as a Democratic Leader by facilitating their involvement in their learning.
My leadership style also aligns closest with Servant Leadership (Green, 2013, p. 72) as I believe the primary role of leadership is servitude. In my personal and professional choices I have always been drawn towards service and it is foundational in my moral beliefs as well. The action of coming along side someone and learning what they need to be successful in meeting their personal and professional goals, offers exercise for my development as much as those I am able to serve. Supporting others to reach their goals is a special relationship and privilege. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to special education. I enjoy the challenge of identifying individual needs and planning how to assist them in learning. The big pay off is the shared joy in witnessing their successes.
If those influenced my by leadership are successful, then I am a successful leader. While I naturally exhibit Service Leadership, I work towards Transformational Leadership. Encouraging others to share in a vision of an equitable and inclusive educational environment sounds easier than it is in action. As an Education Specialist, I write and measure progress towards goals every day. I work best with a systematic approach to collecting, evaluating data and plan to adjust or progress with practices. As a team, collaborating in these processes allows for all to invest in the mission/goal and focus efforts that work together toward success.
Tolerance is my number one non-negotiable. Every member of my team will practice and teach tolerance. This creates a diverse culture and welcoming environment. Diversity creates a rich learning environment that our country has the opportunity to offer and I expect everyone to take advantage of that opportunity. The opposite of this breeds negativity that cannot be masked and is toxic to learning.
Equity is a non-negotiable. Equality is not enough. For example, I would like to ensure that students with IEPs are not excluded from opportunities to develop those same quality relationships with their non disabled peers and with their teachers. The need for these quality relationships has touched you as a parent whose child has ADHD and experienced exclusion from the classroom as means to address distracting behaviors. While he does not suffer academically, his access to learning and relationships is impaired when asked to "step outside the classroom." There will be no blind eyes to equity among those of whom I lead.
Respect is absolutely a non-negotiable. Respect is a hard thing to measure, but with the good ole’ Golden Rule, there is a clear baseline that everyone can understand. As a community defining what respect looks like in every element is crucial to healthy environment. Agreed terms on communicating feelings of disrespect is equally important as enforcing respect. To an extent in this area all of us have made a mistake, or maybe aren’t even aware they participated in what others found disrespectful. This non-negotiable could be rephrased as practicing respect across a community. Actions and words need to be respectful of self, others and the environment. Practicing and teaching mindfulness of being respectful could cover just about all non-negotiable points.
I have worked in education for 13 years. Three years in public schools as an Education Specialist and 10 in a private sector. After teaching at a Christian school, I then was recruited as Director of Children's Ministry. I also started a business at during that time. I managed our business with my husband (one mine and one his) while coordinating the Sunday School program, nursery to sixth grade for two church service periods. My responsibilities included assisted the director, scheduling staff, evaluating and ordering curriculum that aligned with our church doctrine, as well as training volunteers, planning and preparing for Sunday’s lessons.
Managing business, family and a leadership position at my church was the turning point in my professional development. While this wasn’t the teaching position I envisioned myself in, I was able to teach, lead, run a business and enjoy time with my babies. In 2010 I was offered the position of Director of Children’s Ministry for a new church in Solana Beach. In this position, I learned how a team of people can turn a conversation into a leadership board with a vision, mission and plan to grow and serve the community.
In 2013, I began earning my Education Specialist Credential and teaching a Mild/Moderate Special Day Class of third, fourth and fifth graders. After two years I transferred sites, but continue to teach the same grade levels.
As a professional interest, I embarked on my own professional development of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), joined Association of Positive Behavior Support to access conferences, webinars and resources to better support my students and school. I assumed the role of Positive Discipline Committee leader at my previous site and planning to develop the a Teacher Support Network for positive behavior and student engagement this year at my new site.
2. Personal Story
I believe this because I think the quality of life in general is impacted by relationships, thus so is the quality of education. As a child I wanted to be a teacher for many reasons, but two relationship stand out most the most. It is true what Maya Angelou said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I first wanted to be a teacher because of how my third grade teacher made me feel when she took an interest in me. No matter what was going on at home, I felt comfortable and happy when I got to school and much of the time I preferred to be at school. Then, the following year my relationship with my mom impacted my desire to be a teacher. My parents divorced that year and I then was raised by a single mom. I wanted to be a teacher to share in the activities, interests, and love for learning with as many children I could know, as well as my own. I didn’t want my children to miss me like I missed my mom when I came home to an empty house. I missed my relationship with my mom and was positively impacted from my relationship with my teacher during this difficult time, both instilling the impact of relationships.
Now as a mother, with experiences in a variety of positions in education, I found two more relationships impacting my beliefs. I have experienced many years of calls from school and my son being asked to stand outside because of his behaviors due to ADHD. My son came home with a joke his fifth teacher said “you are going to have to start paying rent for that space outside the door.” Perhaps he felt it funny because because everyone knew his performed high academically, but while my son tried to laugh it off, I could not. When a child is excluded from educational setting their trust in teachers and their school diminishes because there is not enough respect for them as people to invest in a relationship and understand their learning needs. Similarly, in the isolating field of Special Education, I find myself working tirelessly to advocate for my own professional development as I have to do for my students access to learning. When excluded from relationships and collaboration, both teachers and students suffer. Here I believe I have to be the change I want see through one relationship at a time in education.
I believe teaching is a relationship and relationships require respect. A relationship where there is respect is one where there can be learning and social/emotional growth. Any educational environment needs to cultivate and nurture healthy relationships first and foremost as the foundation for learning. School should be a place where students want to be, are comfortable to take risks, feel secure when making mistakes, and know they play an active role in the learning process now and always. Students, families and the community trust educators with their precious years of care and learning to prepare for an uncertain future. As leaders, we must facilitate a school culture built on the honor to be entrusted with the task of preparing students with skills to succeed, build relationships and demonstrate strong character as citizens.
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