Knowledge of Content, Pedagogy and Students

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In order to understand, I spend a considerable amount of time getting to know each student. This is crucial to my being an effective teacher. Getting to know each student begins in August during a schools’ “open house.” This particular time is primarily a short, introductory conversation with the parents. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to get to know one thing about each child. From there, I grow my understanding of the child to better empathize with their struggles. This helps me connect with the student during my many one to one conversations. It is perhaps my most effective means in constructing understanding.

I celebrate learning and I learn from each student. I learned to meaningfully compliment each student, each day. This is not only kindness, but also a way of creating a safe learning environment for my students. I tell my students early and often that when the brain does not feel threatened, the brain is able to acquire information and think more rationally. Anyone that walks into my classroom can see a community that learns. This takes an extreme amount of planning, note taking and thought. I arrive home each day from work, mentally exhausted.

I shake hands with each child, each day. From this habit, I quickly scan to see if the student is at peace and is ready to learn. If not, I use this small window of time to question the student and to ask how I can help. This habit allows me to check up and help the student steer clear of potential problems. It also is an opportunity to effectively compliment.

Starting each August, I gauge the students considerably. I assess through anecdotal notes, engagement logs, reading logs, parent letters to the teacher, student letters to the teacher, reading of last year’s recommendations, on-demand assessments, interviews, reflections, exit slips, reading inventories and more. This habit allows me not only to measure my teaching but it gives me an opportunity to show growth and to more meaningfully complement the student.

My lessons are data driven. I differentiate my lessons and my student grouping according to my students’ particular needs. This is mentally stimulating for me and perhaps, my favorite part of my job. The students really appreciate the fact that I know so very much about them and that I have a variety of strategies to help them meet a particular goal. The students understand that I assess them often and that I use the assessments to drive my teaching. This again, creates a less stressful learning environment.

I plan my conversations with the children. My conversations stem from the data that I collect. I post each unit’s essential questions and refer to them habitually during each lesson. I think each day about how I am to most effectively connect with the students. Each writing and reading lesson starts with a personal story that allows the students to see that their teacher has had similar experiences and struggles. This habit is yet another lever in creating a brain friendly environment.

I am a voracious reader of educational journals, websites, weblogs, social media sites and books. I spend a considerable amount of my money on books. I am quite proud of my ever-expanding collection of mathematics and literacy instruction texts. I am now spending an inordinate share of my salary on publications and resources from Heinemann Publications. My wife, alas, is somewhat perturbed at the money I spend to develop my professional library. I then share my love of learning through my book recommendations to colleagues. This too, is a lever for creating understanding.

I am a professed lover of professional development. I am particularly impressed with and grateful for the many professional development opportunities at Hong Kong International School. For each of my three years, I have attended the 21st Century Learning Conference Hong Kong. I have had the pleasure to attend two workshops from Columbia University Teachers College of Reading and Writing with Lucy Calkins. This year from my professional development, I have had the distinct pleasure of integrating 21st Century Educational Technology, Challenged Based Learning, and Poetry into my lessons. This has been a joy for me and has provided me opportunities to inspire.

I have earned a master’s degree in Mathematics Instruction (K-8). My deep understanding of the beauty of mathematics has helped me become a more inspired mathematics instructor.

Through social media, a former student from Singapore American School has expressed her opinion that I was her favorite math teacher of all time. She reminded me that I would dance each time she successfully solved a problem of the week. She is now studying engineering at the National University of Singapore. It is wonderful that she thinks of me as her favorite math teacher.  I remain equally passionate to this day, about the proper teaching and I still dance while teaching math.

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