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Emily Bennett

VII. Professionalism

I. | II. | III. | IV. | V. | VI. | VII. | Resume

        Students should not be the only learners in a classroom - teachers need to be learning constantly as well.  I am continually working to develop my professional knowledge.  After completing my Master's in Elementary Education, my first year of teaching was an incredible learning experience for me.  I learned classroom management skills, how to implement lessons in a real situation, among completing several courses and workshops to further enhance my education.  Among the courses I have taken in the last five years are two reading courses (Guided Readers and Writers, and ERSI = Emergent Reading Strategies Institute), one TESA course (Teacher Expectations and Student Acheivement,) History Alive!, any countless other staff development seminars. 
        Inherent in any learning is the ability to reflect upon what has happened.  I find it helpful to do my own reflections about my teaching to decide which aspects worked for me and which I should improve for next time.  In artifact #1, I practiced a journaling exercise myself, so that I could see if it was a worthwhile activity to have my students do in my class.  I found that it was extremely beneficial to put my own thoughts on paper, and I have started having my students do the same during the school day.  Also, parents love when we do these because it helps them to see the thought processes their children are going through during the school day.  Self reflection is a great way to realize the process you went through as you learned something, and to completely take ownership for your own learning.  I think that this is an invaluable skill for students to have.
       My second artifact is a reflection I did after completing one of my reading courses, Guided Readers and Writers.  I was able to write down what important lessons I had absorbed from the course, and to confirm to myself that I had, in fact, changed and improved my teaching since the beginning of the class.  These are always important points to remember during or after learning.
       Professionalism means not only helping your students to learn, but being a learner yourself.  It means communicating with your students and their families, and most importantly, always seeking to improve your skills as a teacher. 



Journal Assignment:  Using Learning Logs in the Classroom

            I chose to practice using learning logs because it is something I think I would like to try using in my classroom.  Right now, I do a form of these, where students take notes on the right hand side pages of their social studies notebooks, and on the left side, they reflect and do extension activities based upon the information we have learned.  However, I think that I can use a general learning log more like an “exit pass” in my classroom.  I could put a question on the board at the end of each class so students have to reflect on what they have learned each day, and write their thoughts in their learning logs.  I could either respond to them, or just read them to help me assess how much they have learned.  After doing it for some time, I probably would not need to write any questions, but instead, ask them to reflect on what they learned during the class, and they will know how to do it.  I think this could be very beneficial to the students to reinforce learning and for me to assess how effective my teaching is every day. 


Journal 1:  Sat, Jan. 28

How did this activity make you feel?  How can you relate this to ELL students in your classrooms?

            I felt very emotional during this activity, because I had written 1)my husband, Todd, 2)my family, 3)my good friends that I’ve had for a long time, 4)my coworkers at school, and 5)my cell phone.  (I love being in touch with them all!) 

            The first one to obviously give up was my cell phone, then my family and coworkers were taken, which was hard, but I thought that at least I still had my one partner in life, and that would get me through this, so I didn’t have to be out on my own.  So, I gave up my friends next, which was hard again to leave my support system and people I identify with.  But losing my husband was the hardest in the game, and would be unbearable in real life-he is my best friend and I think that if I still had him to be a refugee with me, I could get through it.  If not, I’d be floundering emotionally and logistically in a million ways. 

            The important question here is how to relate what I just felt to kids that may have been through it, too – but in real life, and to empathize with them.  Since mine was a pretend situation, I will never truly know the pain they went through and are still enduring, but on some level, I can get a glimpse of it all.  I think by allowing venues to for kids to share these experiences with each other and their new communities, they can start to feel like there are others who also went through this and although they feel isolated, they are not alone.  They are now a part of a new community that they will hopefully feel like a valuable part of.

            One activity that I did in class was very powerful, and I want to continue doing this year after year.  All of the students who had come from another country were our “experts” (around 5) and the other kids had to do interviews of them and then report out to the class what they had learned from the “expert.”  It was incredible, because the ELL students felt like people were interested in their lives, their languages, and their experiences, and they felt empowered when other students shared how much information they had learned from each “expert.”  They ELL students realized that they were very important and had interesting lives that people wanted to learn about.  They need to constantly se that they are important, interesting, welcomed, and we will respect and learn about them.

            I want to keep doing this and other mind-opening activities to help me and the kids in my class, both ELL kids, as well as native English speakers.  After the refugee activity, I was hit with the shock of how difficult the transitions for some kids must be, and I want to do whatever I can to ease that transition.


Journal #2:  Sat., March 11, 2006

            Prompt:  Write about some aspect of your culture growing up that had an impact on you and has made you who you are.

            Growing up, my family celebrated St. Patrick’s Day enthusiastically.  I’m not saying the family met at the local pub to throw back some pints.  Our motivation centered around my dad, who is fully Irish, although he and his parents were both born in the U.S., but great grandparents were from Ireland.  Anway, my dad’s name is Patrick Timothy Hayes, and his birthday just happens to fall right on St. Patrick’s Day.  So with his name, cultural background, and birthday, we could never resist.  Our entire family has wardrobes of green that we put on for this momentous day once a year, and all day, we listen to Irish jigs, sing around our house, dye some of our foods green, and of course eat a traditional corned beef and cabbage with Irish soda bread dinner.  This was no ordinary birthday celebration, but a birthday and holiday wrapped into one!  I always felt very proud of being Irish, because I felt like my family was so proud of it’s heritage, and it made me feel great to be a deserving member of a group.  I think it is hard for people to fit in and have an identity when it comes to culture, because so many of us have parents from mixed backgrounds, culturally.  For me, my mom’s mix of European descent does not draw me in and make me feel like a member of any group.  That is why I am thankful to be Irish and happy that we so wholeheartedly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in my house.

The Hayes’ are proud to be Irish!


Journal #3, Thursday, March 23, 2006

How is Karla, a HILT A student in my class, adjusting and learning English this year in my class?

            The reason I ask myself this question is that she is one of three HILT A students in my class, all of whom are of Spanish speaking backgrounds.  She is from Guatemala, and her reading teacher has been talking about how she has not progressed like he would have liked her to during his daily hour with her.  I am wondering why he is discouraged with her progress, because I have watched her language skills and confidence grow this year.  I came up with the reasoning that he is comparing her to the other two in the group.  One girl has a tutor who helps her with one-on-one reading every day after school, and she has jumped two grade levels this year (she started at a K reading level and is now at a 2nd grade level.)  This tutor is a teacher who has seen that the student needs the help and has been volunteering her time.   The other boy in the group arrived just this year from Bolivia, and he already speaks German and Spanish, and obviously has had a solid base in his home country.  He is progressing quickly because he is able to transfer these skills.  

            This week, I had lunch with Karla every day so I could try to find out more about her life.  During the lunches, I learned that her mother had left for America immediately after giving birth to her, and started a life here, while Karla lived with her aunt and uncle in Guatemala.  Her mom missed her a lot and came to visit when she could, but obviously the situation was pretty grim if she had to go to such measures of leaving a newborn to come here.  Then, just last year, Karla told me the story of the journey here from Guatemala: taking a bus to Mexico with her aunt, cousin, and baby cousin, and then separating when they got to the border so as not to seem like they were crossing together.  Then, after pretending to be a stranger’s daughter, they met up with the coyote and walked for two hours through Arizona, crossed a river being propelled by a man underwater who pushed their raft, and then finally meeting up with another person who drove her from Arizona to Arlington.  When she arrived in the middle of the night, she saw her mother again, and met brothers and sisters she didn’t known she had.  It must have been overwhelming.  She told me she had never touched a computer before coming here, and to think that we do so much on the computer at my school.  I think she is adjusting well and progressing, and has a wonderful attitude and good friends.  To me, seeing her this way helps me to know that she really is adjusting to her life here in America, and we must give her time.  All children have their own backgrounds and stories, and I don’t think it is fair to expect them to all progress the same.  I’m proud of Karla and excited for her that she has a great life ahead of her here, finally with her family again. 


Journal #4, Sunday, March 26, 2006

When I have my own children, how will I teach them to respect cultures and to get involved in the multicultural society found in Arlington?

            Since I recently found out that I am pregnant (seven weeks so far!)  I am starting to think about myself not only as a teacher, but as a parent.  I always have considered myself to be respectful of all people and very interested in language and culture, and I want to make sure our child feels the same way.

            My husband, Todd, and I love traveling, and I think one way to expose our child to different cultures is to travel or even live abroad as much as possible.  We took a year off three years ago to go on a sailing trip to the Bahamas, and once again, as happens each time we travel, our eyes were opened to a new Bahamian culture and way of life.  I think that taking another trip like this would allow our child to see the world from a different perspective – as a foreigner and someone who is a minority in a culture.

            I now have access to many multicultural books and have added more to my list based on ideas from class.  I think reading books with multicultural characters is a great way to share the idea of acceptance with my child.

            Since I teach at Key School, I am a strong believer in bilingual education.  Key is a Spanish English dual immersion school and I would like for my son or daughter to be a part of the Key community and to be able to be in a classroom with half English speaking children and half Spanish speaking children.  This will help my child to understand language more completely and to be able to practice speaking with classmates while making friends with kids that do not look or talk the same as him/her.

            Raising a child who is aware of being raised in a multicultural society is very important to me, and I think that if I show my child that I am aware and excited about the many cultures around me, he/she will most likely follow my lead.  


Journal #5, Monday, April 17, 2006

What will I do to improve my teaching tomorrow?

            I just was thinking about this and thinking how I have had a spring break to get reenergized and ready to put forth my full effort again into my lessons (the week before spring break, I was really needing the break I think!)  So, today after finishing report cards, I started to think about my next lessons and how to make them more interesting and beneficial for my ESOL/HILT students. 

            I found some lessons online that were really excellent, and I’m going to use them this week.  I need to review homophones with kids before the SOLs, and I know that for a second language learner, this can be especially confusing and hard to master.  So, I found a place where I could print out flashcards that have a picture on one side (for example, one has a picture of a maid and says “maid or made?”)  and on the other side is the answer, which in this case would be the word “maid.”  I think they are especially fun because I’m going to have students practice this orally, in groups, and they will have the pictures to help them remember and understand meanings of the words more easily.  I think it’s important for ESOL/HILT students to practice visual cues of what the word looks like compared to the picture, to practice the oral speaking part, and to get all of my students interacting together, since sometimes the ESOL students are separated from the mainstream students.  I hope the lesson helps them to practice homophones.  I have a follow-up activity that I’ll be able to evaluate to see if it worked.

Journal #6, later on Monday, April 17, 2006

            Thinking about my previous question, I thought of another way for ESOL students to become more engaged in learning that is hands-on and will hopefully use many of the multiple intelligences to enhance learning.  (I think that often times, teachers use just writing, or just oral explanations to teach the kids, and so it is much harder for ESOL students to get the information because the language is weaker for them.  I want to be able to use more of the senses and ways of learning to captivate their interest more.)

            So, also thinking about our SOL review that is coming up in a few weeks, I will need to be reviewing our social studies concepts.  In another class, I got copies of the pattern to make dodecahedrons (a 3-D shape that has 12 sides on which kids can put information before creating their structures to hang up.)  I am going to use this shape concept to review for all of our units.  I think that each student will have to develop a few really good faces to the dodecahedron, and since I’ll put them in groups of about 3 or 4, they will have to put together all of the information from the year and pull out the important facts that they must be sure to remember to include on their part of the dodecahedron.  For example, in one group of 4, maybe one student will be responsible for making one of the faces covered with the important info about Jamestown and Revolutionary War, and another group member will do Reconstruction and Civil Rights, etc.  It will be great when they have to communicate to get all of the information and put it all together into the final structure.  I’ll have them present it at the end.  They have all of this information in their Interactive Student Notebooks for social studies, so it won’t  be hard for them to find the facts to include.  I hope this works, too, and I think that all students will be engaged in the project.  Students seem to love projects and they won’t even really notice that they’re doing some hard core review!

Journal #7, Thursday, April 20, 2006

What has worked well with my ESOL/HILT students this year?

            There are several things that I think I will do again next year with my ESOL/HILT students in regards to testing, because I saw some definite benefit and enhanced learning.  One thing that helped them was to use tangible, visual manipulatives so that students have various methods to learn the information besides only using auditory learning.  I used flashcards with the students to show them ways to study for tests.   I also helped them study for tests by having them come up with possible questions for the unit test.  When they could understand the way that questions would be formed and to create some on their own that they would then answer, they became very familiar with how test questions can be worded and what type of information the question was asking for.  I think that being prepared for tests is really important to ESOL students because often times, the whole concept of a test, especially standardized tests, is difficult and foreign to students.  They are at a disadvantage if they do not know what to expect on a test day, like other native English speakers would probably be able to figure out.  Helping them to prepare makes them feel more comfortable for the test and if they know what to expect in general, they won’t be surprised and can do their best job actually answering the test questions.

Journal #8, later on Thursday, April 20, 2006

What are some strategies that have worked this year to make the ESOL students feel more comfortable in class?

            When the new students arrived this year from different countries throughout the school year, I found that the most effective way to make them feel comfortable and accepted was to assign a “buddy” to help them get accustomed to our class.  That buddy helped to show that person where the bathroom is, helped the new student to learn our routines, and in general, looked out for the student and let me know if the student needed an extra notebook, didn’t understand the classwork or where to find something in the classroom, etc.  I have found the buddy system to be extremely beneficial, both for the new student to become comfortable and to help me manage the time I spend with each student.  In addition, the student who serves as the “buddy” often times makes a new good friend, and feels a sense of goodwill and accomplishment.  I have found that good buddies are not only the students who are well behaved and above grade level, but often ties, a good buddy would be someone who the new student could relate well to (maybe someone who is very comfortable in Spanish so that they can use Spanish to explain things when necessary,) and many times it is a student who seeks attention from the class and can be a discipline problem.  When placed with this job, that attention-seeking behavior often magically turns around into helpfulness and someone who wants to set a very good example in front of the new student, their new “buddy.”  The only danger with this is that if the buddy continues fooling around (which rarely happens,) I would not want this type of example being set for the new student and would have to reassign his/her buddy.

Journal #9, even later on Thursday, April 20, 2006

How do I get ESOL/HILT parents involved with their child’s education and school experience?

            At my school, we have a very mixed population of about half Spanish speaking parents and about half English speakers.  The parents who are involved in PTA meetings, who come into school to volunteer, who go on field trips, and who provide feedback about how our school is functioning are almost always the English speakers.  While I understand completely that there are many factors that affect who has time to participate (employment, culture, familiarity with school system and how it works, etc..) I would like to make the Spanish speaking parents feel like they have a voice and that they are free to come into the school when they want, or express concerns about their child when or if they have them.  I think that if I were to come up with several activities at the beginning of the year that are non-threatening and fun, it might be a light and easy way to start the school year and set a friendly tone that all parents feel comfortable participating in their child’s school experience if they want to at any time during the year.  At the beginning of the year next year, I think I might hold a potluck and ask parents to cook a dish from their native countries (this would be optional of course) to share with other parents.  If we invited students, too, it might be a fun way for parents to get to know other parents, the teachers, and the other kids in the class, in addition to becoming familiar with coming to the school. 

Journal #10, Friday, April 21, 2006

What will I teach after I get certified in ESOL and why?

            I would love to be an ESOL teacher.  Originally, I wanted to become an ESOL teacher, but when I found a good program to get certified in general education, I decided to do that first.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to get some experience in the whole classroom as a homeroom teacher, and then later move to ESOL.  So, that is my plan.  I would like to work in my current fourth grade position for at least one more year (which would be four years total,) and then begin looking for an ESOL position.  I think that having a small group to work with will be really nice because I can focus on the children and give them more individualized attention.  However, I know that all schools run their ESOL programs differently, and it will depend on the school whether or not I am part of an inclusion program or a pull out program.  In our school, we do a mixed approach, where the goal is full inclusion, but there are several times during the day when the ESOL students get pulled out of the classroom to do reading with their ESOL teacher in a small group.  For me, that would be the best part, because I would like to focus more on these students who really need it and have so much to learn with the language, in addition to learning the demanding curriculum.  I would really like to focus my efforts on these students.  I also can’t help the fact that I am much more interested in working with students from culturally diverse backgrounds than with English speaking students from the U.S.  I just find that there is so much to learn from these students, and I find it incredible when they begin learning English and love when you can see their progress.  I really love working with the ESOL students that I have in my classroom right now, and I think that being a full time ESOL teacher will be exactly the kind of teacher I have always wanted to be.

Lessons I Learned

from the "Guided Reading and Writers Grades 3-5" Course


            I have learned a great deal about learning comprehension in this class, “Guided Readers and Writers.”  Therefore, I will touch on a few key concepts that I believe have really changed my thinking about teaching reading and that I think will greatly benefit my students.

            The first concept that stands out in my mind is that fluency is such a key part of reading comprehension, and if the children are reading fluently, there are ways to tell if the student is comprehending the text.  I really liked the idea of tape recording a student and then playing it back to listen for the various components of fluency.  I think that really helped to catch the subtleties of the student’s reading.  I learned about many parts of fluency and how to listen to see if the child is adjusting, monitoring, predicting, etc.

I learned that reader’s theater is a great way to practice fluent reading.

            Regarding vocabulary, I learned that students often look up a word in the dictionary, and do not understand the definition.  Finding student friendly dictionaries can greatly enhance their understanding of a word.  Also, when helping students to describe the meaning of a vocabulary word, it is a good idea to use the words “you,” “something,” and “someone.”  If students learn how a word is used everyday, they will not need to memorize the word only in that context, but will be free to understand that it can be used in other ways, and they might try using it in another context later. 

            As I said, these are only a few key concepts that I have learned, but with all of my new knowledge about guided reading, my students will surely benefit greatly.