My Final Reflection: Fall 2013 Semester

Dear EDSE 436 & 457 Fall 2013 Semester Students,

I always believe that as teachers, we should do the assignments that we assign to our students, partly because it’s a good exercise in knowing where students may struggle or stumble, partly because it helps us to know how long (approximately) the assignment may take them (I take my time and multiply it by 2.5 for HS students and 3-4 for MS students) and partly because it’s important to revisit assignments to make sure that they’re relevant, fresh and continue to meet our pedagogical purposes.

So, this letter to you, now that grades are done and recorded and our semester is officially over, is my version of a final semester blog post/ final reflection.

I always start each semester with the same two questions: Will they like me? Will they learn from me? I know that, as a veteran educator, I should be much more concerned with the latter question than the former, but I’ve come to accept that a part of my own professional identity and who I am as a classroom teacher (particularly one who values safe space and relationships) means that it’s important for me to be liked and respected. So those two questions weigh pretty equally on my mind throughout the semester.  The funny thing about this semester is that, although I saw your steady progress throughout the semester, I really wasn’t sure whether you liked or felt like you were learning from me up until this past couple weeks when I received a lot of the summative coursework due from the course.

You literally blew me away.

I have been so impressed with your growth, not only in the skills of teaching (lesson planning, assessment design, pedagogical & differentiation strategies), but also in the professional thinking (reflection, Reflection, REFLECTION!) and dispositions of educators.  I am sure there were times where you were thinking, “Are you kidding me? More reflection? How many times do I have to tell this lady why I’m doing something?!” but in the end, that reflection has paid off (at least in my eyes) as so many of you have become more thoughtful not only in what you are doing but in really understanding how what you do reflects pedagogical choices and professional identity.

In reading many of your final blog posts, I have realized that, while every credential program has room to grow, you have found value and are taking many practical strategies and theoretical viewpoints from the course.  You see the value in the marriage of praxis (theory & practice) and you understand the importance of keeping up with 21st century learning, including the use of technology to support student growth.

In EDSE 457, several of you mentioned how significant it was for you to explore technology through the creation of your own amazing digital stories or through your participation in twitter chats or simply through following my boards on pinterest to gain more resources for your classrooms.  This warmed my 21st century, multi-modal heart.

But, that wasn’t all. You also, for the most part, saw incredible value in cross-curricular collaboration.  In both EDSE 436 and EDSE 457, your cross-curricular presentations, though differently focused (one on cross-curricular units and the other on a project-based learning assessment) were incredible.  To see what you came up with in 2 weeks, from a music-English-Italian collaboration around Dante’s Inferno that integrated the Digital & Media Arts pathway to create a movie trailer for a level of hell (or this digital story integrating English, Music & Social Studies in the same industry sector addressing various modern historical time periods) to a History-Biology-English unit on the importance of biodiversity and its consequences in the case of the Irish Potato Famine that addressed the CTE pathway of Agriscience, you were amazing; although I don’t think I can forgive Matt, Katherine & Danny for making me watch this commercial as you discussed the links between math, music & English in relation to marketing and advertising.

But, aside from your assessments, you were also amazingly engaged.  You put up with “surprise” discussion board “opportunities” asking you to reflect on various aspects of the course.  You muddled through technical difficulties for our online sessions (it’s good that the powerpoint was posted in two places!).  You asked questions, shared from your experiences, and connected what you did (and didn’t) see in your fieldwork placements with what you were learning in class.  EDSE 436 even got to meet my former middle school students, learn from them about what they hope to see in their teachers, and share with them about the college experience!

But most importantly, all of you came. You engaged. You learned.

And I learned as well.

You’ve all helped me grow as a professional, see places to improve for next semester, value the importance of feedback and knowing who I am as an educator, think through everything I have you do.  You’ve all helped me grow as a person as I’ve gotten to know you through the semester.

When I left middle school teaching, I did so to make a difference for many future generations of students.  All of you give me faith in that decision.

I hope that our paths cross many times over in your journey as educators, but if we part ways here, I hope that you will take with you a small piece of string and a little more knowledge in the journey.

Thank you for being who you and thank you for the last 15 weeks.

With great affection and respect,

Dr. Hsieh