GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN
DEVELOPMENT, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION
Teaching Excellent and Achievement Project
Seminar on Professional Development and Change: Reflective Practice and Portfolio
Dr. Sherry Steeley
IREX, Fall, 2009.
1. How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching for thirteen years.
2. What are your future career goals?
I hope I can continue teaching for a while, and then I would like to become coordinator of
the English department at my school, gain experience in all fields concerning school, and
when I have what is needed, I hope to open my own school.
3. What kinds of methods do you use to motivate your students?
I always start class with a warm-up; I try to vary the activities done in class and try to plan
classes according to my students’ interests and needs. I make my classes very active and
4. What kinds of methods do you use to assess your students?
I use formal assessments, workshops, projects, and students’ participation like
brainstorming and answering questions aloud.
5. How do you differentiate instruction for students at different levels?
First, I have my students take a diagnostic test to identify the students with difficulties and
their levels. In class, I explain everything more than once and in different ways, and then I
check that everyone understood by constantly observing their work, and if I see someone is
behind, I try to explain again or work a little bit with him/her.
6. To what standards do you link your instruction?
This question is not very clear to me, but the way I understand it, I use “Outstanding, very
good, good, poor, needs improvement”
7. What types of interactive activities do you use in the classroom?
We have debates, discussions, brainstorming, etc. We try to express our thoughts and
opinion as much as we can, and I try to have different activities where they can speak
freely and spontaneously.
8. What would you most like to learn during your time here?
How teachers manage their classrooms in terms of time, organization, differentiation of
instructions, follow-up procedures and teacher-student interaction, because I want to help
improve the system in my school, and hopefully, in my community.
9. What places do you hope to visit?
Everyplace I can!
10. Do you have any other special needs or requests?
I hope I can fulfill my tasks during the courses and the internship.
Reflective Journal Entry
First days of internship
As part of our Seminar on Professional Development and Change, and since the beginning of
the TEA Project, we were asked to think about the goals we wanted to reach at the end of this
experience; at first, I thought about many things I wanted to know and learn, I began reflecting
about what I needed the most, and I came up with ideas like how to address to different
students' needs and be able to reach each and every student no matter what their level of
English is, how to give a successful follow-up to students who need it, how to improve
administrative procedures (make them effective in benefit of my students), and how to assess
and develop competences in my students. Then, in class we were asked to complete a “needs
assessment”, and I tried to reflect a little bit more and be more specific about my goals; and
then I decided to address all my efforts to try to find out how teachers manage their classrooms
in terms of time, organization, differentiation of instructions, follow-up procedures and
teacher-student interaction, because I want to help improve the system in my school, and
hopefully, in my community. By then, I thought I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to
achieve, but there were still too many questions and ideas that I had in mind, so I focused on
my priorities and expectations, and with the help of my mentor, I got a better idea of what my
goals should be.
On the other hand, concerning the first days of internship, it has been a great learning
experience: My mentor is very helpful, the students share some similarities with my students
back home, and the school system has many elements that merge with my initial desire to learn
procedures, policies and regulations that help make an effective learning atmosphere for
students. From this point, I was able to discuss with my mentor my goals and she helped me
reflect and alight on the main points I should focus on, and therefore I was able to finally
synthesize my three goals, which are:
1. Learn new methodologies, based on Holmes 5 methods and others (Kagan structures,
class management structures, LEARN sample, and some resources from the Internet)
2. Learn and understand US bilingual schools in terms of methodologies, techniques,
materials, standards, curriculum framework, etc., in order to introduce the main
elements to my school, which is in the process of becoming full bilingual
3. Explore how the attention to students’ needs is managed by my mentor’s school, both
in class and by the school through the designated person or department.
Finally, I would like to add that my mentor has been a great help and support, not only because
I have been able to observe and learn from her practice, but also because she has helped me
realize what my priorities are, and she has taken time from her own to do some research on the
topics we discussed that I was interested on, and has shared a lot of materials with me. Now,
she is giving me the opportunity to prepare classes and start experimenting new techniques I
had never tried, and she has been guiding me step by step on the process of her students
learning and her own system, but above all, she makes me feel like I can do it. By next week, I
will start a new adventure, teaching in a real US classroom!
What is the purpose or goal of a portfolio in your country?
By Zulema Roque, Guatemala
Speaking about my country, Guatemala, from my personal experience and point of
view, I believe that it is not a common or formal practice for many teachers to build and keep a
portfolio; in fact, it is not something established or mandatory, but in some cases, there are
teachers who keep one because they are required to do so by their schools, and in some cases
teachers just decide to do it by their own initiative, as part of their professional development
Particularly, in my school, teachers are required to have a portfolio, maybe not exactly
as a conventional portfolio might be, but still it contains elements that make it be considered as
As for the purpose or goal of a portfolio in my country, according to what I just
explained above, I think it is to file the teacher’s work and samples of activities performed by
outstanding students in order to keep track of the teacher’s own work and have some sort of a
bank of useful ideas and materials that can be reused, considered, or rejected; as well as a way
of showing the teacher’s progress and professional growth or development.
What I would say is probably missing or not practiced properly, is the reflection
performed by the teacher, probably because it’s not something someone else will require or
ask for, but I think most teachers do reflect, although almost nobody writes anything down. On
the other hand, there is some writing done regarding thoughts, analysis and reflections, but
maybe not in a way that is structured or systematic.
Finally, I would just add that it called my attention to hear from the group discussion
that in El Salvador, our neighbor, they are debating now about the institutionalization of
something like a portfolio for teachers, or at least that’s what I understood. I hope they can
make it happen and I hope people start taking actions for something like that in my country
too; I know I’ll start making arrangements to improve ours in my school back home.