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FromMenteetoMentor

MATCSynthesisPaper

Inpartialfulfillmentoftherequirementsforthe
MasterofArtsDegreeinCurriculumandTeaching
DepartmentofTeacherEducation,MichiganStateUniversity

MelanieL.Burchard
A37415403
November18,2015

Duringmyfirsttwoyearsasateacher,IstruggledinPhoenix,Arizona,to
findabalance
betweenthetypeofteacherIknewhowtobe,andthetypeofteachermystudentsreally
needed
.Iwantedtobeacoolteacher(whateverthatmeant)butstillshowthatIcouldmanage
aclassroom,whichIthoughtfrompastexperiences,meantmyclassroomneededtobequiet.I
hadpreviouslyexposedmystudentstogreatliteratureandallowedthemtocreatefunprojects
butIwasntsurehowtoconnectthetwoinameaningfulway.EventhoughIhadapositive
studentteachingexperience,Iwasntfamiliarwithusingdatatomeasuregrowthorwiththeidea
ofconstantlyassessingstudents.Ididntknowhowtocreateacurriculumfromlimited
resources,orevenlessonsthattrulyalignedwithstandards,andIdefinitelycouldntteacha
roomfullofEnglishLanguageLearners(ELLs).Itwasdifficulttounderstandwhymystudents
couldntbequiet,orwhymanyofthemwerentinterestedinreading,andIamprettysurenone
ofthemfoundmetobecool.
Thankfully,Iwasntaloneduringthosefirstyears.Mydistricthadanestablished
beginningteacherprogram,whichincludedattendingseveralsessionsofprofessional
developmentandworkingwithanassigned
mentor
whowouldobserveandconferencewithme
onaweeklybasis.ShehelpedmetorealizethattheclassroomIhadcreatedwascompletely
teachercentered,whichwasactuallymakingmyjobmoredifficultforme.Weworkedtogether
to
reshapemyapproachtoteaching
andIdiscoveredhowtoutilizedistrictrequired
assessmentstobetterunderstandmystudents.Shetalkedmethroughmylessonplansand
curriculumdecisions,assuringtheywerealignedandfocusedonobjectives.Ultimately,there
wasa
greatshiftinmymindset
asmymentorworkedwithmetofosterstructuredacademic
conversationsamongmystudents.InolongerwantedmyclassroomtobequietandIfigured

outthatIcouldbecoolbycreatinganenvironmentwherestudentsknewwhattoexpect.They
couldrelyonourroutinesandboundariesandtheyhadasenseofhowmuchtheywerelearning.
ThoughImovedbacktoDetroittobeginmythirdyearasateacher,mytimeinPhoenix
leftalastingimpressiononme.IsoughtoutanotherpositionteachingELLsandIfeltmuch
morecomfortableinmyroleasateacher,butIwantedtopushmyselftocontinuetogrow.I
alsobegantoconsidertheideaofeventuallybecomingaclassroomorcurriculumcoach,hoping
tocollaboratewithothereducatorsandhelpthemtoexpandtheirownpractices.Withthese
goalsinmind,Idecideditwastimetoreturntomyrootsat
MichiganStateUniversity
.Iknew
the
MastersofArtsinTeachingandCurriculum
(MATC)programwouldprovidemewith
themeanstocontinuemyjourney,learningasateacher,andhopefullywiththefoundation
neededtoreallymovefromnoviceteachertocurriculumcoach.
TheMATCencouragedmetoengagein
criticalinquiry,
thuscontinuingthe
reexaminationofclassroomvaluesandbeliefs,inadditiontoanalyzingmultipleeducational
perspectives(GoalOne,MATCProgramGoals).Myfirstexperiencewithaddressingthisgoal
tooktheformofan
actionresearchproject,
focusedonstandardsbasedgrading(ArtifactOne).
IfeltIhadageneralunderstandingofformativeandsummativeassessments,butIwantedto
examinehowtheymightimpactmyteachingandmystudentsunderstanding.Istartedmy
projectbyanalyzingexistingliteratureonstandardsbasedgradingandindoingso,Ifeltitwas
necessaryto
reexaminethegrades
IhadbeengivingoutinmyclassroomandthedataIhad
beencollecting.Ialsolookedatthedifferentwaysinwhichsummativeandformative
assessmentscouldbeusedtodriveinstructionandrepresentstudentunderstanding(Standard
Two,MATCProgramStandards).Thisprocesscausedmetoaskmanyquestions.Wasitokay

togradehomework?Whatshouldbedonewithlatework?Howshouldextracreditlook?Could
studentspasstheclasswithoutactuallyunderstandingcoursematerial?Orcouldtheyfailtests
andpasstheclass?Didstudentsunderstandtheirgrades?Didthegradesgivenundermycurrent
systemevenmeananything?
Inordertoanswerallofthesequestions,Ijumpedin,takingalmostallofKen
OConnerssuggestionsandbegan
onlygradingsummativeassessments
.Studentsweregiven
progressgradesonallassignmentsandweretoldthathomeworkwouldnotbeformallygraded
orpenalizedforbeinglate.FormativeassessmentsbecamemoremeaningfulasIstartedusing
themtodifferentiatelessonsandtodeterminewhentogivesummativeassessments.Ibegan
tutoringmoreconsistentlysothatstudentswhodidnotpassassessmentscouldcomeforextra
helpeitherbeforeasummativeassessment,orbeforeasummativeretake.Icollecteddata
concerningformativeassessments,summativeassessments,andhomeworkturninratesand
foundthatstudentachievementwasatanalltimehighunderthissystem.
Aftertheconclusionofmyresearchproject,Icontinuedtoutilize
standardsbased
grading
inmyclassroom(StandardTwo,MATCProgramStandards).Ifindthatmy
students
arenowmoreaccountable
fortheirownlearning.Theyhaveaclearergraspoftheirown
understandingofcoursematerialsandnolongerfeeltheneedtothankmefortheirgrades
becausetheyknowhowtheyareearned.
Mysecondsteptowardreachingthegoalofcriticalinquiryinvolvedreconsideringmy
classroomliteracypractices(ArtifactTwo).Aftercollectingdatafrommystudents,Irealized
thatIrarelyacknowledgedthefactthattheycometomeinthefallwith
manyexisting
literacies,
orthat
theyareliterateindividualsoutsideofschool.
Muchoftheirreported

literacypracticesreflectourmoderndayshifttowardtheincreasinguseoftechnology.Iknew
itwouldbemostbeneficialtomystudentsifIcouldlearntoutilizetheseliteraciesinour
classroom,soIspecificallybegantoconsiderhowIcouldprovidestudentswithmore
opportunitiestoengageinourstudieswiththeassistanceoftechnology(StandardTwo,MATC
ProgramStandards).
Collectingdataalsorevealedthatmanyofmystudentsenjoyedreadingandwriting,but
hadnegativeviewsoftheirowncapabilities(StandardOne,MATCProgramStandards).Iknew
IwantedmystudentstogainconfidenceinthemselvessoIbegantoresearchthewaysinwhichI
couldcreateaninquirybasedclassroomformystudents.Thisenvironmentwouldmodeltothe
studentsthatIwasalwayslearninganddiscoveringwiththem,andthatourclassworkwasnot
only
meaningful,butapplicabletotheoutsideworld
.Inotherwords,togetherwewouldneed
tofocusourclassroomdiscoveriesaroundrealworldproblemstotrulyengageinmeaningful
learning.
PerhapsthemostimpactfulexperienceIhadwithcriticalinquirywasthecreationofa
curriculumbasedblog(ArtifactThree).Whilewritingthisblog,my
entireperceptionof
curriculumwasaltered
asIwasgiventheopportunitytoanalyzeexistingcurriculum
requirements,classroompractices,andthewaysinwhichcontroversialissuesdoordonotfit
intoeducation(StandardThree,MATCProgramStandards).IbegantoquestionwhyIinclude
orexcludespecificstudiesintomyclassroomandhowthisaffectsstudentsandtheirlearning
(StandardFour,MATCProgramStandards).Whilecreatingthisblog,Irealizedjusthowmuch
responsibilityIhaveasaneducator,eventhoughitoftenseemslikeeducationaldecisionsare
madebyexternalforces.Theblogalsorequiredmeto
reexaminemyteachingjourney

throughthecreationofanopenlettertomystudentsofthepast,present,andfuturerealizing
whereIvecomefromandwhereImstrivingtobeinthefuture(StandardFive,MATCProgram
Standards).
MytimeintheMATCprogramalsopushedmeawayfrombeinganoviceteacherand
towards
accomplishedteachingthroughtheexpansionofpedagogicalknowledgeandskills
(GoalTwo,MATCProgramGoals).Thoughmyinitialyearsintheclassroomledmeto
understandthelevelofmystudentsabilitiesthroughdataanalysis,Istillwasntquitesurehow
tobestmovemylearnersfromoneleveltothenext.AsapartoftheMATCprogram,I
conductedacasestudyonastudentwhowasperformingatalowerlevel,strugglingwith
readingskills(ArtifactFour).Iwasgiventhechancetofocusoncreatingdifferentiatedlessons
inameaningfulwayforthefirsttime.Thelessonswerespecificallytailoredtothe
students
individualneeds
baseduponhispretestdataandresearchedstrategies(StandardOne,MATC
ProgramStandards).ThestudyhelpedmetorealizethatIshouldnotonlyuseposttestdatato
determinethestudentsgrowth,butalsotoconsiderhowIcouldhelphiminthefuture.Because
ofthecasestudy,Ihaveabetterunderstandingof
howtofindabalancebetweenfocusingon
thegrowthofanentireclasspopulationandthegrowthofeachindividuallearner
(Standard
Two,MATCProgramStandards)
.
DatahasbecomeevenmoremeaningfulnowthatIrealize
howitcandriveinstructionevenafterassessmentshavebeengiven.Afterputtingdifferentiation
successfullyintoaction,Iammoreconfidentintheclassroom,continuingtoexperimentwith
whatIhadpreviouslyseenasadauntingandidealisticconcept.
Additionally,theMATCprovidedmewiththevenuetoconqueranotherofmyteaching
fears:writing.DuringmyundergraduatestudiesatMSU,thecourseItookonteachingwriting

wasmoreofanexplorationofmyownperceptionofwriting.Thus,duringmyinternshipandmy
firstfewyearsofteaching,ItaughtwritingminimallybecauseIwasntsurehowtoeffectively
teachit.Later,whenImovedtoDetroit,Ifoundmyselfinanotherschoolcompletelylackinga
writingcurriculum,whichfurtheredmydesiretoavoidthesubject.Thefewwritingassignments
Igaveduringthebeginningofmyteachingcareer,onlyremindedmethatgradingwritingis
tediousandsubjective.
Deepdowninsidethough,IknewthatIwasdoingmystudentsahugedisserviceby
avoidingwriting,soIlookedtotheMATC

withhopesof

strengtheningoneofmyteaching
weaknesses
.
Asapartofbecominganaccomplishedteacher,Iwasdrivento
explorecreating
differentwritingassignments
andIwasrequiredtoputmyselfinthepositionofastudent,
actuallywritingtheassignments(StandardFive,MATCProgramStandards).These
opportunitieshelpedremindmeoftheimportanceofpeerfeedbackduringthewritingprocess.
Ourfinalprojectincludedcreatingawritingunit,whichIhavesinceimplementedinto
mycurriculum(ArtifactFive).However,Ireallyaccreditthiscourseforhelpingmeto
beginto
thinkaboutwriting
.ItookwhatIlearnedandstarteddiscussingwritingwithother7thgrade
teammembers.Weagreedthatthoughourschooldidnthaveanestablishedwritingcurriculum,
ourstudentsneedtobeexpectedtowrite.Wesatdowntogetherand
developeda
crosscurricularrubric
thatcouldbeusedinallofourclassrooms(StandardOne,MATC
ProgramStandards).Throughouttheyearweheldmanydiscussionsonthetypeofwritingwe
expectedourstudentstoproduce,andmethodsofteachingtechniquestothem.Ilaterbegan
th
collaboratingwiththe8
gradeLanguageArtsteamtodiscusshowIcouldpreparemystudents
th
tobesuccessfulwritersin8
grade.

ThoughIwouldstillarguethatgradingwritingistediousandsubjective,Iamnowless
afraidofit.Iammorecomfortablerequiringmystudentstowriteinfact,eachsummative
assessmentIgiveincludesawritingportionassessingtheskillswefocusedonduringtheunit
(StandardTwo,MATCProgramStandards).Bytheendofthisyear,Ihopetohavearough
writingcurriculumestablishedthatIcansitdownandreworkwithmycolleaguesduringour
summerpreparationdays.Iknowthatthis
writingcurriculumwillforeverbealiving
document
,thatIwillneedtocontinuallyrethink,butIamsogladthattheMATCprogram
providedmewithanopportunitytobegintostrengthenwhatIpreviouslyconsideredaweakness.
PerhapsthemostimpactfulcoursesduringmyMATCprogramwerethosethatfocused
on
collaborativeprofessionaldevelopment,teacherleadership,andcontributionstothe
field
(GoalThree,MATCProgramGoals).Instrivingtoreachthisgoal,andtoreachmygoalof
becomingafuturecurriculumcoach,Ihadachanceto
reflectonmybeginningteaching
years
andthewaysinwhichgreatmentorshelpedmetogrow.Italsoallowedmetoconsiderhow
educatorsperceivementorandmenteeneedswithinmycurrentschool,aswellasaroundour
country.Duringthisprocess,Iwasabletocloselyexaminemyownpreconceivedideasof
noviceteachersandtheirabilities.Ilearnedaboutsuccessesandshortcomingsofexisting
mentorprogramsbyresearchingpracticesinJapan,China,andNewZealand,comparingthemto
experiencesofmyAmericanclassmates.Forinstance,mostofteninschoolsaroundAmerica,
newteachersarelefttosinkorswimundertheassumptionthattheyshouldbefullycompetent
intheclassroomafterastintofstudentteaching.Countriesthatprovidebeginningteacherswith
inductionprogramsdemonstratethatitisnecessaryforallteacherstolearnandreflecteachyear
(StandardFive,MATCProgramStandards).Theydonotgivenoviceteachersfull

responsibilities,rathertheyeasethemintotheprofession,ensuringthattheyareprovidedwith
timeduringtheschooldaytoworkwithothereducatorsandthinkdeeplyabouttheirown
practices(StandardSix,MATCProgramStandards).Additionally,Iresearchedstrategiesto
encouragecollaborationthatwillhelpmetocreateanimpactasafuturecurriculumcoach.All
ofthisinformationwassynthesizedintoaproposalforateacherinductionprogramtobeadopted
atmycurrentschool(ArtifactSeven).
AsIfurtherpreparedmyselftotakeontheroleofamentor,Icreatedayearlongplanfor
professionaldevelopment.Irealizedthatinmanyways,IcouldutilizewhatIknowabout
studentsandtheirneedstofosteradultlearning.Forinstance,teachersshouldbegiven
opportunitiestofeelvalued,activatetheirpriorknowledge,engagewiththeirlearning,andtobe
heldaccountablefortheirlearning.Inordertoencourageteacherstogrow,theyneedtobe
providedwithtimetocollaborate
withoneanother(StandardSix,MATCProgramStandards).
Iwasgiventheopportunitytoresearchdifferentmethodsoffosteringadultcollaboration,aswell
astopracticedifferentformswithmycolleagues:previewinglessons,conductingobservations,
andprovidingthemwithfeedback.Then,Icompiledmyresearchandpracticestocreatea
yearlongplanforprofessionallearning(ArtifactSix).Irealizedthatratherthanrequiring
teacherstoattendworkshopswheretheysitdisengaged,theycouldfindmuchmoremeaning
frominteractingwithoneanother.Establishingastrongcommunityofadultswithinaschool
canultimatelyfosterthegrowthofallindividuals,includingstudents.
Overall,mytimespentintheMATCprogramhasgivenmethemeanstohabitually
questionandreflectonmyteachingpracticefromamoreselfdirectedplace.Inotherwords,it
helpedto
pushmefrombeinganewcomerintheworldofteaching,toonewhocanengage

deeplyandsuccessfullyinthevariousdimensionsofteaching
.IfeelthatIamnowcompetent
inindependentlyseekingthemeansforcontinualgrowthandimprovementasaneducator.Iam
alsoconfidentthatIhavebeengiventhemeanstobeginguideotherstocriticallyexaminetheir
ownpractices,eithermovingtowardorrethinkingaccomplishedteachingthroughprofessional
collaboration.ThoughImaybereadytobeginmyjourneyasamentor,IamawarethatIwillbe
mosteffectiveinthisnewroleifIcancontinueutilizingagrowthmindsettoencouragemyself
andthosearoundme.