Reflection Rich


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A reflection of my past year in the MAET program at MSU as well as forethought into my possible path over the next five years as an educator and learner.

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Reflection Rich

  1. 1. Before I begin reflecting on my summer in East Lansing, I would like to recount my time leading up to my arrival and the small amount of time after arriving and prior to class beginning. <br />Coming to East Lansing for class was a decision I had made because I was eager to see whether I was certain I wanted to move back to the Midwest. Living in California over the past five years has made me long to be closer to my family and friends, most of whom reside in Ohio, save my parents whom live in Dallas, Texas. The Midwest, for the most part, is a much slower-paced environment and the people seem to be more genuine and kinder than what I am currently used to enduring. Therefore, as you can imagine, I not only had high-expectations for my trip, but as a result, I was also quite anxious to make the trip to Michigan State University. <br />Just after landing in Detroit, I rented my car and navigated my way to East Lansing. However, in the short time at the airport and car rental terminal, I was already feeling good about my decision because of the good people with which I had the pleasure to speak. Upon arriving at MSU, I checked into my dorm and strangely felt like I was back in my twenties, a feeling of rejuvenation. Though this is not a bad feeling, it has been sometime since being in a college environment and I must admit it was refreshing. My first evening in East Lansing came to a quick completion and I prepared myself for the next day, the BIG day. <br />The big day is referencing my first day of class with eighteen people I had never met and five people I have only had the pleasure to interact with during our online coursework over the past year, but never met face to face. I finally arose from my restless slumber and quickly readied myself for the first day of class. Much to my dismay, I walked outside and found the sky was unleashing its fury on the area. Being from southern California, rain has actually become something I am not used to experiencing any longer. Luckily, I had brought along a bright red poncho purchased from Target just days before the trip. Judging by the looks I was receiving by people on campus, they must have thought they were witnessing the real-life Red Riding Hood, though slightly more masculine. Not to worry, I remained dry. I packed my poncho after shaking off the water and proceeded into the room where class would soon begin. I opened the door and there were only a few of my colleagues in the room. <br />Upon entering the room, I noticed there was one free seat at the first table and I hesitated to sit down, panning the room for a safe spot to sit where I could possibly go unnoticed for the first few days. Much to my surprise, Tami Nelson encouraged me to have a seat next to her and with Arin Giannandrea and Lisa Mulka at that first table inside the room. This may seem insignificant at first, but it is quite significant in my overall enjoyment of the course, the people, and the location. It was the beginning to me truly believing I needed to return to the Midwest. <br />Lisa, Arin, Tami, and I collaborated on several projects, ate lunch with one another almost every day, and began getting to each other; however, in a positive manner. Through many hours together and good, hard work, we submitted better work than we individually anticipated. Further, I have to admit, if it were not for Tami’s guidance to sit at their table, I probably would not have had as enjoyable of a time as I did. I really enjoyed working with these three and I am eager to work with them again and see their progress over the remainder of our MAET program.<br />Now on to my reflection of my learning as well as how this program has affected my outlook on teaching, more specifically my approach to my particular school and classes. <br />First, my thoughts are directed toward creativity and inquisitiveness, particularly cultivating creativity and encouraging inquisitiveness, questioning, and students going beyond the normal effort. However, I must briefly address the expected function of the “great teacher” at my school, but in particular by many of the students, most of the parents, and quite a few of my colleagues and administrators. <br />Being a private school with high placement in many top-notch universities and colleges around the country, the expectation is that the teacher is the lecturer while he or she drones on through text-rich PowerPoint presentations day after day. When I first started teaching at this school, I felt that was what I had to be as a teacher. <br />However, at one point, I quickly become the anomaly as I began integrating creative and collaborative projects for both my high school aged and middle school aged students. This, along with attending all sporting events, home and away, as well as all performing arts activities, has drawn the attention of most of my colleagues, though not in the expected positive and appreciative way. Mostly, I am labeled as the over achiever and the teacher that must have ulterior motives because there is no reason to be on campus or that involved with the students. <br />I argue that doing all the things I do, as mentioned above, allows me a greater respect for my students, from my students, and affords me the opportunity to see them on a different level, not just the information regurgitating machines most have become. In doing so, I am able to integrate many of the activities in which my students participate into my lessons, from basketball and soccer to plays, musicals, and even the student newspaper. I feel the effort I have put forth in learning about my students has provided me with the ability to enrich my teaching techniques on top of inspiring student creativity and a feeling that they are not simply my subordinates. However, I do tend to be constrained by the notion that a student’s knowledge can only be assessed by the educator providing them with anxiety-inducing tests most parents and administrators expect. Although, I forge onward and continue to provide “alternative” learning methods for my students, trying to reach multiple levels of intelligence and understanding through one lesson, or several integrated lessons that demonstrate the connectivity of the subject with human behavior.<br />I have found that asking my students to be creative in their expression of conceptual understanding has provided many with the notion they are capable learners and capable of achieving understanding of difficult concepts and relating them to more common activities, or vice versa. Cultivating creativity in my students has been very rewarding for me in spite of the hectic meetings and explanations I am required to participate in order to justify my desired results. Many students, however, seem to be eager to come to my class a majority of the time, excluding the days of the dreaded tests or quizzes. One related story I tell my students at the beginning of each school year is that even I struggled with school. Nevertheless, I did not struggle because I was not capable of understanding, rather because I could not demonstrate my knowledge in the manner that suited me best as well as not seeing a direct reason for learning many of the subjects. As a result, it has long been my goal to allow my students to understand the ways in which their classmates understand and provide methods through which each of them can excel as individual learners. In fact, we often discuss the different ways in which they approached a project or preparation for an assessment. <br />Concerning the issue of the inquisitive student and the possible lack of interest inspired by the teacher whom stifles both creativity and inquisitiveness, I must admit I find myself dismissing some questions from students at times. It is not because I do not want them to question the subject, their classmates, or me. It is more the student who is giggling and laughing while asking questions that I do not answer immediately. However, through the readings, I have concluded many of these students are not seeking attention from their classmates through disruptive participation, rather their giggling, or laughter is more of a defense mechanism to protect them from feeling as if they are not intelligent enough to participate in the discussion. As a result, I am going to be more forgiving to those students and address their questions, but I am also going to provide alternative modes of asking questions beyond simply raising their hands, interjecting, or emailing. <br />This issue has already been somewhat addressed by providing an online classroom discussion forum where students can ask and answer any questions they may have. Additionally, I am going to reinstate my office hours for individual students before and after school as well as providing a question box outside of my door for students to either anonymously or openly ask questions that I will address during the next class period. It is very important to me that my students feel they can approach me, but also feel their classmates are approachable and an acceptable means of gaining clarity.<br />Further, and above all, I have learned I need to reevaluate what it is I want my students to take from my course, what it is they need to take from my course for success in future classes, and the methods through which my students receive and evaluate information. Over the past couple years I have found myself drifting away from the discussion and inquiry based classroom environment and moving toward the lecture and memorization style of teaching, not because I have wanted to, but more so because I was looking for the easiest way to avoid conflict with parents and administrators. However, knowing the benefits first hand as a learner and seeing how students act when provided these opportunities for exploration, I must reintegrate inquiry into my classroom, but this time in a much more efficient and less trouble-inducing method while providing parents the opportunity to understand the benefits as well. As a result, I am revamping my lesson plans, labs, projects, and even assessments while transitioning my classroom to a tech-friendly, media-rich environment, which cultivates creativity and provides each student with an opportunity to find a personal method for understanding the concepts addressed.<br />The design of this course has aided me in seeing the need for new, more media-rich methods of developing student understanding and further inspiring creativity in understanding. I am eager to continue to integrate video production and editing by students in order to develop a greater conceptual understanding. Further, I am proposing the development of student designed flash media products, which will be either games or tutorials for their classmates to gain a greater depth and breadth of knowledge as well as tying the subject matter into everyday life activities and testing their knowledge through the design process.<br />In looking ahead at my career and my personal education over the next five years I will complete my Master’s in Educational Technology through Michigan State University as well as further my own personal learning through workshops and online resources provided through ISTE and NSTA. In addition to using these online resources, I will also be using less specific resources such as searches for student learning methods and instructional techniques. Additionally, my school offers continuing education and professional development opportunities through local universities and collaborative forums with other local private schools. Over the past two years, we have had speakers such as Daniel Pink and Charles Gardner attend these forums and lead the groups in thoughtful dialogue on the future of education and the importance of inspiring students to find their own joy in learning.<br /> <br />However, after much thought over the past two years I am actively pursuing acceptance into university PhD programs to either study Geophysics or Education, specifically curriculum design. Though I love teaching middle school science, I have a desire to get into formalized research at an institution of higher education. That being said, I have also been looking into programs where current faculty have been researching the way in which university freshman are taught and learn Geology, or the Earth Sciences. <br />In my undergraduate studies, I was lucky to have instructors who were able to relay the subject matter in a clear and understanding manner. Although I was interested in learning this subject, most other students did not share the same feeling. Physical and Historical Geology as well as Earth Science are typically required of all students at most universities, thus students are usually not very eager to learn in these courses, rather the courses are viewed as consequences of their enrollment in university. <br />With this in mind, a past professor, Dr. David McConnell, currently a Professor at The University of South Carolina, embarked on new, collaborative research with the School of Education at The University of Akron. This project covers the design of university level Earth Science curriculum that is relevant and engaging enough to inspire university freshman to take their required courses more seriously and enjoy the act of learning material they may not normally be interested in pursuing. Furthermore, Dr. Julie Libarkin of Michigan State University is currently researching Geocognition and Geoscience Education. Over the past year, I have been in contact with Dr. Librakin as well in an effort to start a dialogue and gain acceptance into her research group. Within this group, Dr. Libarkin is also working with Dr. Kazuja Fujita and Dr. Duncan Sibley on K-12 Earth Science Education as well as Science and Mathematics Education respectively. This is of interest to me because I will not only be able to continue my passion for Geodynamics, Tectonics, and Hydrology (not directly related to the previous two subjects, but Karst and cave formation have always intrigued me), but also continue my path in education. <br />Additionally, I have been in contact with instructors at universities like West Virginia University, California State University at Northridge, The University of Memphis, and Pennsylvania State University to discuss the possibility of conducting, or even beginning research in Geocognition, specifically related to the fields mentioned before. All communications with these professors has been very positive and given me hope that I will have the opportunity to further my education at the university level.<br />Furthermore, I want to begin working with my father and two close friends in designing courseware for corporations to provide discounted, continuing education for their blue-collar work force and family members in subjects ranging from basic computer and technology literacy to areas of concentration like Quality Assurance, Sampling Methods, and Quality Management. My father and friends, have a combined total of 60 years in business, specifically the engineering and telecommunications industries, each with a university Master’s in Business Administration. <br />I have always considered myself a lifelong learner and hope to cultivate the opportunity and desire for others to continue to pursue their goals and dreams as well as further their knowledge of and ability to compete in the ever-changing global society. <br />