How teachers can advocate for their students
Teaching doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Effective educators reach out to their peers when developing lesson plans to best serve their students.
“Teacher leaders … work with other teachers as they share some of the great things that are going on in their classrooms,” says Clara Taylor, Doctor of Education, an elementary school principal and online instructor in the education program at University of Phoenix who helped design the new Master of Arts in Education/Curriculum and Instruction (MAEd/CI) program.
Here’s how teamwork helps teachers become student advocates:
Classrooms are fair and inclusive.
Federal policies such as No Child Left Behind require teachers to ensure that all students show measurable academic progress, regardless of socioeconomic status, learning styles or abilities.
Understanding the nuances of cultural differences and social-class issues can improve instruction, Taylor says. “Teachers in the [MAEd/-CI] program get a chance to research and discuss sensitive topics about race and social economics, and the implications for bridging the gap [on] student achievement,” she adds.
Catering to the needs of each student requires self-awareness, adds Marvin Davisson, Doctor of Education, area chair for the College of Education at the University’s Central Valley Campus, and a contributor to the development of the MAEd/CI program.
“I retired from the largest high school district in California, [where] we made self-assessment material available to teachers,” Davisson explains. “We did this on the premise that if teachers understand their own learning style, it provides an understanding of how to adapt instruction for individual student needs.”
Knowledge is shared.
Teachers must work together to develop effective learning environments for all students, Taylor emphasizes. “During meetings and lesson planning, teachers share and discuss student work and analyze data to determine strengths and weaknesses within instructional programs,” she says, noting that the MAEd-/CI program provides training in this area.
Students have access to all services.
Creating an equitable learning environment means connecting students with appropriate support resources, Taylor says, noting that teachers can share information to collectively select what’s best for each student.
“These services could include [a session] with the school counselor or referrals to special education and gifted and talented [programs],” Taylor says. “Teachers can come together [to] discuss what’s needed … and remove any barriers to [students’ access to] those services.”
“Closing the loop” is a cooperative endeavor.
Collaboration among teachers serves as a model for students to follow, which can help them succeed under requirements of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Taylor and Davisson say. These national standards require teachers to connect lessons to the real world and provide opportunities for students to develop collaboration and problem-solving skills that they can apply beyond the classroom.
This means “demonstrating competency with performance tasks that extend beyond a test,” Davisson notes. These can include role-playing games, group writing projects and internships in which students apply their new knowledge. Performance-based assessments allow teachers to “close the loop” through collaborative analysis of student learning outcomes and by continually improving how they teach.
Taylor agrees, citing a math skills project for which a cluster of students used the Facebook® social networking site to conduct a survey: “This [was] a great learning task with real-world connections.”
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