Self-Assessment Papergreenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread
-- Anonymous, January 08, 1999
I graduated from Falls High School in1969, and then earned my A.A. degree from Rainy River Community College in 1971. In 1973, I graduated from Bemidji State University with a major in elementary education, a minor in special education, and a history concentration. My first teaching position was at Northern Elementary School in Bemidji in the fall of 1973. I taught first grade there for two years and then moved north to The Pas, Manitoba, Canada. While there I taught third grade in a traditional closed classroom for one year and then team taught at the same grade level in an open area setting the following year. Our principal was a black man from South Africa, our school population was largely Cree Indian, and the average teacher was twenty-nine and white. This experience gave me a new look at cultural diversity. I was an American, twenty-five year old, new mom teaching in Canada. My native students had no Cree speaking teachers in the school to relate to and being that far from home and family, I felt as frustrated as some of my native students. It was at this time that my principal began to encourage me to write articles for a school district newspaper that he had been instrumental in having published. I had not had any experience writing anything other than my assignments from high school and college. I was nervous, to say the least, but I did manage to contribute several articles over the next two years. My third year there I was on maternity leave, when I received a phone call from the Superintendent of Schools. He told me that Brandon University had a teacher training program for people born north of the 54th parallel and that they wanted to hire me to supervise student teachers from this program. This experience was rewarding from a cultural and historical awareness standpoint as well as a time to pick up some great new teaching ideas.
In 1979, I moved back to my hometown of International Falls. In 1980, I accepted a teaching position in the Outreach Program. This was an alternative school program for seventh through twelfth grade EBD students. It was housed outside of the school in the basement of the Municipal Building. This was one of my biggest challenges. I was leery about taking the job because it was working with older students and required writing individual contracts that would satisfy high school credits for kids who couldnt make it in the mainstream. I have to admit that we had some tough lessons, but I grew to care deeply for these kids and found that the more I could get them involved in family and community projects, the more they succeeded. Not all were successful; however, and it saddens me that some have experienced painful drug-related deaths.
The years from 1982-1989, proved to be a time of business closures and declining enrollments. During these years I taught first grade, second grade, Title I, fourth grade, and went back to Bemidji State University for some graduate classes, before settling into a sixth grade position. About four years ago, the idea of starting a multi-age, school within a school was presented at a staff meeting by a fellow teacher. Three of us decided to start doing some research on the concept. We then applied for a planning grant from the Center for School Change. This was the first grant writing experience that any of us had been involved in but we felt we needed to try. We were successful in getting the grant and began to attend workshops and visit multi-age schools. After a year, we applied for a second planning grant which turned out to be an implementation grant for phase one of our program. Two years ago a fourth member joined our team and we wrote a $35,000 implementation grant which allowed us to add phase two to our program. We now have a grade 3-4 multi-age classroom and a grade 5-6 multi-age classroom at Falls Elementary School. Both of these rooms operate as team teaching settings and are heavily involved in community projects and social skills training.
Teaching in the multi-age program has given me a renewed energy and a chance to try out new ideas that involve using community members, cooperative learning groups, portfolios, The Responsive Classroom social skills approach, and an intergenerational garden project to give our students a sense of community pride and respect. The M.Ed. Program gives me the opportunity to research these areas and get feedback from other educators. I realized after writing about my professional background, that I have spent most of my teaching years in a team situation. This Cohort Program is, therefore, a comfortable way for me to be able to succeed.
My thesis project will be done with two other members of the Cohort. We have chosen to research the relationship between social skill programs such as The Responsive Classroom and academics or how it affects violence issues at school. Our thesis project and our professional journal readings will give me the opportunity to explore the new ideas that we are currently trying in our classroom and to explore new areas of interest as well.
-- Anonymous, January 08, 1999