Reflective Journal

During my pre-student teaching and student teaching placements, my reflective journal has helped prepare me to meet College of Education expectations of becoming a reflective and innovative urban educator who is committed to diversity.

The six journals that I wrote during my pre-student teaching placement had no specific topic or rubric; we were allowed to reflect on anything we chose. This certainly made me more reflective, as I not only had to reflect upon my experience, but also had to decide what aspects of my experience would be most beneficial to reflect upon. For these six journals, I focused on a variety of topics.

The first one was due prior to beginning my field experience, so I reflected upon a conversation that took place during TED 5160 (the pre-student teaching course led by my field instructor) about our own high school experiences. I discussed how my experience of attending a single-sex Catholic school in Farmington Hills would be different from the experience of the students at one of the Warren Consolidated District public schools. In this journal, I emphasized the importance of immersing myself in the community that I would be teaching in order to better understand the diversity of the community.

The second journal was also due before I began my field placement, so I focused on another conversation that took place during TED 5160 about prior experiences working with teenagers or children. I wrote about my experiences as a camp counselor and focused on the disparity among students in regard to access to experiences and opportunities and how many of the disparities I noticed at camp are also present in classrooms. I concluded that acknowledging the disparity in experiences and access and offering opportunities for less privileged students to access these opportunities (while also valuing the experiences they do have) are an important part of teaching. This journal has also met the College of Education Student Teacher Competency 7: “understands and integrates varying perspectives to enhance students’ awareness, respect and appreciation of diverse populations.”

The third journal was due the week I began pre-student teaching, so I wrote about my observation of “extension projects” in the two American history classes and three U.S. government classes I was placed in. For the government classes, students brought in a current event and related it to what they are learning in class at that time. In the history classes, students brought in a piece of art (film clip, photo, artifact, etc…) that related to what they were learning in class. I chose to reflect on this because I thought it was an innovative way to get students to connect with course content and it also allowed for diversity in that it required students to make a personal connection to the content. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 1: “Knows the subject area and best practices in those areas,” and Competency 4: “Provides a learning environment that engages students’ creative and critical thinking.” While I did not design the extension projects, I assisted students with them and assessed them, learning the importance of these two competencies.

For the fourth journal, I reflected on how my cooperating teacher’s few absences allowed for my growth as a pre-student teacher. Because the substitute teachers let me take over the class on these days, it helped me transition from an observer/assistant in the classroom to a role with more responsibility and interaction with students. After the first time my cooperating teacher was absent, I noticed that the students felt more comfortable asking me questions about both content and classroom issues (hall passes, missed homework, etc…). This helped me realize how important it is to gain the trust of students by showing confidence and certainty in both content area knowledge and classroom policies from the first day of class. I recalled this reflection as I began preparing for student teaching. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 3: “utilizes appropriate classroom organization and management techniques to ensure a safe and orderly environment conducive to learning,” and Competency 6: “exhibits professional dispositions: behaves in an ethical, reflective and professional manner”.

For the fifth journal, I reflected on the difference between creating lesson places for education courses and creating and implementing lesson plans for actual students. In the journal entry, I discussed how many other aspects must be considered with real world lesson plans, such as available materials, time constraints, student abilities and more. Also, I noted that reflection and adaption are key for real world lesson plans. As I began my student teaching placement, this became more and more apparent and I think I have become much better at reflecting on my lessons and adapting them for each class. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 2: “organizes and implements effective instruction including the integration of content across curriculum areas,” and Competency 4: “provides a learning environment that engages students’ creative and critical thinking.”

The sixth journal for pre-student teaching was a reflection on some things my cooperating teacher modeled for me or explained to me. These were concepts that had been introduced during my education courses but were better understood in practice in a real classroom. The first few things fell under classroom organization and management, such as the importance of putting a daily schedule and objectives on the board to provide structure and the implementation of bell work to get students to focus for the class. Other things my cooperating teacher taught me were the importance of seating students homogeneously and the importance of creating an environment in which questions are encouraged, in order to create an inclusive classroom for all students. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 3: “utilizes appropriate classroom organization and management techniques to ensure a safe and orderly environment conducive to learning,” and Competency 4: “provides a learning environment that engages students’ creative and critical thinking.”

My first journal during my student teaching placement was the Learning with Communities assignment. In my reflection, I discuss ways in which I plan to use the research I have conducted on my student teaching placement school community to take responsibility for the students of the community and collaborate with students’ families and the community to ensure student growth. Even though I was familiar with the community, during my research and observation I learned many interesting things about the community that helped me nurture and awareness and understanding of the diversity of the community. This reflection also helped me become a more innovative educator, as I though of ways to address and utilize the community’s assets and potential obstacles in the classroom. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 7: “understands and integrates varying perspectives to enhance students’ awareness, respect and appreciation of diverse populations,” Competency 9: “utilizes school/district/community resources,” and Competency 10: “communicates and interacts with parents/guardians/families to enhance student success.”

The second journal for student teaching was the Curriculum Analysis assignment. In this reflection, I examined the curricula of my student teaching placement district and classroom and compared aspects of these curricula to the Common Core Curriculum. With this analysis, I used evidence from my research to evaluate how to best reconcile the needs of learners, their families, and the community with the requirements of the curricula. Additionally, I looked for opportunities within the curricula to meet the needs of each learner. This journal required me to be reflective, innovative, and committed to diversity, as I explored possible ways to meet each individual learner’s needs while creating lessons that align to the curricula. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 1: “knows the subject area content and best practices in those areas,” Competency 2: “organizes and implements effective instruction including the integration of content across curriculum areas,” Competency 8: “selects appropriately from a variety of assessment strategies to evaluate student learning and uses this information to make informed curriculum decisions,” and Competency 9: “utilizes school/district/community resources.”

The third student teaching journal was the Classroom Organization and Management assignment. This journal focuses on creating a classroom that is inclusive of both cultural backgrounds and learning abilities so that all students can feel welcome and meet high standards. My plan includes classroom design and physical accommodations, classroom management strategies, ideas on how to build a community of leaders, and descriptions of the roles of students, teachers, and families. This journal helped me grow as an effective educator who is reflective, innovative and committed to diversity, as I spent a lot of time reflecting on how I could create a classroom environment that would meet the needs of a diverse group of students. This journal has also met some of the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies, such as Competency 3: “utilizes appropriate classroom organization and management techniques to ensure a safe and orderly environment conducive to learning,” Competency 4: “provides a learning environment that engages students’ creative and critical thinking,” Competency 5: “demonstrates knowledge of human growth by providing an inclusive setting for all students grounded in developmental theory,” and Competency 10: “communicates and interacts with parents/guardians/families to enhance student success.”

This last journal has also helped me become a more effective educator who is reflective, innovative and committed to diversity, as I have revisited my experiences in the field and have observed my own growth as an educator. This journal has helped me to see how I have met the College of Education Student Teacher Competencies and how I can continue to improve upon them.