Diving Deep in to Professional Practice

Ahhh free diving! Something I’ve never tried, but something I admire.  The simplicity, grace and appearance of effortlessness make this form of diving so unique.  It is also one of the most challenging forms of diving.

A good teacher, in my opinion, also makes it look like diving a free line – easy, effortless and graceful.  Behind the scenes is a different story however.  There are so many ways good teachers are going above and beyond to improve their practices.

This year, my focus is all about diving deep into my professional practices as I strive to be a better special educator for my students, their parents and my colleagues.

Boards, Boards and more Boards!
They say that the process of National Board Certification makes you grow as a teacher; that the reflection, planning, preparation, evaluation and thorough dissection of your teaching practice would teach you more about yourself as a teacher and as a professional. At this point, I don’t disagree with this statement. But I think this process has brought me even more.
As I comb through the last two components I need to complete – strategizing, planning and hoping for a much needed moment of clarity, I was thinking about what makes me the most effective as a teacher in my classroom and where I can become stronger.  Reflecting is perhaps the hardest part of our practice.  Whenever you have to take a magnifying glass to examine your flaws, it can make for some uncomfortable, difficult  revelations about yourself as a teacher.  It’s hard to be objective and to open yourself up for others to criticize.

Boards or no boards, teachers should always continue improving their practices and reflecting on where they have been and where they still need to go. I feel like I am a much better teacher now than when I first started 11 years ago, but man oh man do I have areas I where I could focus on for improvement.
We all do.
What the National Boards process has helped me see is that I already do a lot in my practice already. What I need to work on now is on refining, reflecting and providing the appropriate evidence for my successes. Every piece of new research I read, every insightful tweet, every unique challenge that is thrown my makes me dig deep, try harder and takes my thinking to a whole new level.
It is incredibly easy to get into a rut teaching. It’s easy to fall back on what you know, take the path of least resistance and keep it simple. For some things, it feels nice to have a very solid set of routines and procedures. Heck, just having had the same room for the last four years has made life much much easier! I didn’t realize what a toll moving all the time was taking on my professional practices. It is hard to be an effective teacher when your stuff is always in boxes!
As I have grown professionally, I’ve realized there is always more to learn, more challenges to be tackled and new ways of thinking, learning and doing to be explored.
I’m sure I will be exploring much more deeply as I hash out my entries for Components 3 and 4!
What’s Next for Alphabet Soup
This year I am going to spend time looking at the processes I could update and revise. One of these processes is writing more effective, meaningful IEP goals. I will be focusing extensively on my goal writing process. Two years ago, I attended the LRP conference in Denver.  Since then, my brain has been working overtime to try and wrap my head around a way that I can create a system of writing goals that is more meaningful to all stakeholders, including and especially my students.
I am also planning on delving deeper with executive function and the effects weak executive function skills have on students in the classroom – more importantly how significantly do these skills impact their learning and what can I do to improve these skills. Last year I did a presentation for Hawk Parent University and that presentation really got me thinking about how I could take what I had taught parents and make it more teacher friendly. Stay tuned for more on this in a later blogs.
My last area of focus for the upcoming year is parent communication. I communicate with parents regularly but I have been thinking a lot (thanks NBPTS!) about how I can improve this communication. I want my parents to know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Part of this will come from streamlining and improving my data collection processes. I also want my parents to understand how to advocate for their students and how they can best help them at home. I want to build better, stronger partnerships with parents and the community assets they need to know exist to support students with disabilities.
That’s a lot on my plate! But truly worthwhile and important endeavors. Part of the issue with special education, in my opinion, is that the processes, jargon and excessive testing make it inaccessible and inefficient. I think we can do better for our students.
What do you do to improve parent communication and increase your transparency? And what do you think special education could be doing better for students? What are you going to be more purposeful about this coming year?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can find me on twitter @mscrawford101 or drop me  line!

Rachel

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