Over the school year, I have been going through my own learning process as to what I need to do in my EAL position. There has been some growth, but I also realise that this is my first year back in EAL after being a homeroom teacher at my last school, and it is my first year at a new school, ISB. There have been the grade level goal and the EAL team goal to work on this year as well as various new systems to learn and use for my current position. With all that being said, I am not mentioning these to make up any excuse as a teacher as to why my Tripod goal may or may not have developed over the year, but to say how the reflective process by journaling my learning journey has helped keep me on track of my teaching/learning goal and move forward.
Reflection is an on-going part of the learning process. It happens at different parts of the journey so that we can modify and improve different components along the way and grow from the experience. Since I’ve been making little tweaks to my teaching practice since the first Tripod survey in the fall of 2018, I was expecting some improvement in the results in the Spring 2019 survey. Well, yes and no, but I’ll get to that later. When I compared the results, I had improved in three areas – Care, Confer and Challenge, but I did not improve in my chosen focus area, Consolidation. In fact, I had dropped 30 points when I compared the data. How could this be so? Part of it may lie with the survey and the audience it was designed for gathering the data. The survey has some questions that have a stronger connection to a teacher being the homeroom teacher. One of the consolidation questions states, “We learn a lot almost every day.” Unfortunately, I am not in the class I tested every day and I am certainly not with the students the whole day. I can understand why my targeted class placed this as being low. Not being in class everyday also means that I cannot talk about things that they have already learned since the lessons I come into are often different to the ones had covered from seeing the students earlier in the week. Another point I need to consider is that I do not always work with the whole class. My role has me working with targeted students, or with a group of students during the lesson. I have also done whole-class teaching throughout the year with my targeted class, but once again, I have always gone back to the whole class lesson the next day to help the students consolidate the previous lesson from the day before. Have I concentrated on certain skills and consolidated learning with my targeted students? I believe I have over the year. There have been groups of students whom I have worked with on areas such as developing reading fluency and we have worked on similar skills such as using punctuation to phrase sentences, using an appropriate voice for characters, and re-reading to help with book comprehension. I have checked with students before they have finished with the group to state the skills they need to continue working on, or I have started the group session by asking students to name a skill we had covered in the previous lesson. We have played games at the start of lessons in phonics to check our understanding of concepts covered previously. However, these forms of consolidation are not clear from the targeted group I surveyed. Even though some of the results have gone down, not up, in the survey comparisons, the surveys have made me think deeper about my teaching skill set and helped me to focus on certain skills throughout the year.
Another point that has come out of this year’s reflection pilot is that the Tripod Survey is focused on teaching and learning. One of the areas I felt that I needed to develop this year was on the area of co-teaching. Although I have made some developments as a co-teacher, writing a reflective journal on the process of my learning, creating set plans and outlining the steps I would need to take would have been very valuable to me as a co-teacher. It would also have been inclusive as I would have had to share this plan with the homeroom teachers I work with and the teams (Elementary School Grade and EAL Team) I work with at school. It is a point I will need to further think about for the next school year.
The question I need to ask myself is, “How can I ensure that I do have a targeted group that will give me back the data I require as a specialist teacher?” One thing I could try next year is to pull out certain students whom I work with on a semi-regular basis and have them complete the survey. I could also contact Tripod Survey and have them include a variety of survey questions that I would like the students to answer. Tailoring the questions to the culture and the job position I currently hold would give me more relevant and realistic feedback that will inform me and help me to interpret areas of strength and weakness. It would be best to have a colleague go through the self-developed questions with me so that the questions can be as objective as possible.
To sum, I have found the Tripod survey a mixed bag for me. I have found the information of use and I feel the surveys have helped me centre on teaching/learning skills that require further developing. I would change some of the questions and the target group so that the data I get back would be of greater use to me as a teacher in my class support position. The ultimate take-away from the pilot program is that I have felt in control of my individual professional development and by journaling on the process it has made me look reflectively at my own practices in the classroom. The pilot program is in its first year and there will be a few changes made along the way. Ultimately, however, I do feel that using a reflective journal is a valid and worthwhile practice in schools and it will help teachers to focus on productive and effective growth as professionals.