Curriculum and Instruction
I believe that curriculum and instruction should create authentic learning experiences to develop knowledge and skills relevant to students’ lives.
I believe this because I support student choice in my class which has led to my students consistently earning the highest scores in the district on standardized testing, such as California HIgh School Exit Exam and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
For example, I teach lesson designed to help students master Common Core State Standards and become college and career ready while simultaneously addressing their academic and social-emotional needs. I select content, such as reading material and unit topics, that directly relate to my student population.
I would like to tell you more about a problem-based learning unit I led last spring that helped my students to solve the problem of declining placements at our site. This students assumed the roles of social workers and worked in teams to establish claims, gather evidence, and create media presentations intended to be viewed by local foster youth living in group homes and foster homes. They learned academic content and skills by exploring a subject directly relevant to their lives and by participating in activities intentionally selected to help improve communication and collaboration skills.
I believe that schools should seek and provide extra support for students who do not have the privilege of parent support.
I believe this because I teach in a district with minimal parental involvement by biological parents, many of whom do not have the means, willingness, or even a legal right to be involved in their children’s education. However, extra effort by our school staff, partner agencies, community groups, and additional invested adults enhances our students’ learning experiences.
For example, I communicate class and individual student learning with New Alternatives (residential agency) houseparents, clinicians, and staff; San Diego Health and Human Services Social Workers, Voices for Children Court Appointed Student Advocates, San Diego Workforce Partnership staff, San Pasqual Academy Neighbors grandparents, and even a few invested biological family members and family friends.
I would like to tell you more about how I enlist students in this communication. Once a month, my students write check-in letters to their invested adults. In the letters, students share what they are currently learning, evidence of their learning, reflections on their study habits, and updates about participating in extracurricular activities The (unedited) letters are emailed and hand-delivered to students’ adults in order to help them to connect with their students’ learning.
I believe that all students want to learn and participate in a community, even if their words and behaviors do not demonstrate this. Students should be taught desired behaviors and supported through practices that are culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed, and restorative.
I believe this because my school is also the home of a student body completely comprised of foster youth who have experienced trauma, abuse, and other adverse childhood experiences. Instead of punishing our students, we attempt to understand the causes of their behaviors and patiently guide them toward behavior that supports the culture of our school and society.
For example, I have been trained and independently studied in positive behavior intervention supports, trauma-informed care, and restorative practices. I strive to implement these models in my interactions with students, in my classroom, and in my school.
I would like to tell you more about the use of affective statements in my classroom. Each class period begins with a circle, during which students state and explain their current feelings. As class progresses, I verbally provide encouragement and address concerns using affective statements, such as, “I feel like you don’t care what I’m saying when you look away as I speak,” instead of giving directives, bribing, or threatening consequences. I attempt to say more positive than negative affective statements. If a conflict arises between students, I extend the use of affective statements through restorative practices questioning in small conferences and circles.
I believe that technology should be intentionally integrated into teaching to support critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity in a way that simultaneously supports face-to-face interactions.
I believe this because I have taught in a cloud-based, blended classroom ten years--maintaining a paperless, one-to-one learning space for five years.
For example, in each of my classes, my students assignments are posted in Google calendar, writing is done in Google Docs, graphic organizers are created in Google Drawing, media presentations are built in Google Slides, videos are published to YouTube, work is published to Google Sites, and assignments posted and submitted through Haiku learning management system. But, my classes also begin with a tech-free face-to-face meeting, group discussions are regularly held, direct verbal communication is expected, and hands-on activities that engage the senses are incorporated into learning.
I’d like to tell you more about a survey my students recently conducted as part of a unit of study focused on food politics. After learning about quantitative and qualitative data, the class created a survey using Google Forms. Next, they created a flyer that contained a photograph from a recent field trip, URL shortener, and QR code. They shared the survey link on social media and posted flyers on campus. After the survey closed, they discussed the data by examining charts in Google Sheets and wrote blog posts to explain their findings.