End of Year Reflection (1999)

greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Lisa West

Reflections of Year One

UMD Master's Cohort III

As I reflect upon the past year in the UMD M.Ed. program, I remember how much anxiety I had when classes first started. I was also excited to learn how to be a better educator but full of questions as to how that goal would be achieved. I wondered if I could balance everything in my life and still have time to sleep. I have learned a great deal this year and look forward to continuing the journey to (what I term) "Higher Education Peak" and Mt. Masters Degree.


At first glance, the UTNE Reader magazine appeared to me to be a distasteful journal, filled with shockingly, alternative articles. I had a very closed mind and never would have picked up the magazine at a newsstand. At first it was difficult to find an article to write about. As I continued to receive the UTNE, I found myself looking forward to the articles because I never really knew what to expect. Some articles did contain information that I really did not want to read about, but I did find articles that I could relate to. I learned to search the magazine with a critical eye towards articles that were in my realm of understanding and way of life, but at the same time realizing that there are many different ways to live and to view the world. Who's to say mine is "THE" way.

I enjoyed reviewing professional journals and books. I read two wonderful books that I have added to my home library, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE and BREAD GIVERS, both inspirational stories of the human spirit. I also read interesting journal articles that have been helpful to me in the classroom, one on snacks that enhance brain function and an excellent article on report cards.

Many of these readings have helped me gain a better understanding of who I am and what my goals are as an educator. I feel that I have a broader perspective of people and how life experiences affect the way each individual fits into this world. I realize the importance of taking time to read up on educational issues and how it enriches my role as an educator.


My choice for the GREAT BOOKS assignment was REVIVING OPHELIA by therapist, Mary Pipher. The book's title refers to Ophelia, a fictional character from Shakespeare's Hamlet, which tells of the destructive forces that affect young women. As a girl, Ophelia was happy and free, but with adolescence she lost her sense of self. She then fell in love with Hamlet and lived only to please him. Her value depended on his approval. Having no inner direction, she killed herself when Hamlet rejected her.

In her book, Pipher cites case after case of adolescent girls she sees in therapy, who have lost a sense of themselves. She states in her book, "Girls today are much more oppressed [than when I grew up.]They are coming of age in a more dangerous, sexualized and media- saturated culture. They face incredible pressures to be beautiful and sophisticated, which in junior high means using chemicals and being sexual. As they navigate a more dangerous world, girls are less protected." Pipher goes on to describe our culture as "a girl-poisoning culture" which leaves many girls overwhelmed and traumatized.

Adolescence is a time of change, and a turbulent one in many aspects. Pipher offers suggestions as to what girls need to build and maintain a strong sense of self. "In order to keep their true selves and grow into healthy adults, girls need love from family and friends, meaningful work, respect, challenges and physical safety. They need identities based on talents or interests rather than appearances, popularity, or sexuality. They need good habits for coping with stress, self-nurturing skills, and a sense of purpose and perspective. They need quiet places and quiet times. They need to feel a part of something larger than their own lives and that they are emotionally connected to a whole."

This book is one that I will read again, to remind myself that the girls I work with as well as my own daughters need me to be a role model for them. I want to send a message to girls that they can be anything they want to be and are not limited by sexual stereotypes.


I gained a great deal from the classes we attended on Wednesday evenings. I have learned the most from the classes that had guest speakers with topics relevant to teaching or working with others. I particularly enjoyed the class on personality types, the visits from Jeff Hardwig and Bill Johnson speaking on topics of childhood disorders such as ADD and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, MaryAnn Rotundi presenting on gifted and talented programs, and Dave Rigdon speaking on the issue of group dynamics and holding productive meetings. I also realized the value of working together as a team when we spent time at Ladd's house building site. It was amazing to see what could be done when people worked together!

I was grateful to have Barb McDonald as a resource. She is an effective educator and was helpful in giving us direction and guidance as we struggled to begin our thesis work. I learned a great deal from our group discussions. It was valuable to get to know the other educators in our school district that I did not know, and hear opinions and perspectives that were different from my own. We are all working for kids and it feels good to know what a team effort it is, from kindergarten all the way to grade 12 and beyond.

One aspect that I did not enjoy or gain from, were the videotaped presentations. They were of poor quality and it was difficult to remain attentive. The ITV presentations were not as interesting as having a presenter on-site.


At the beginning of the year I knew the general direction I wanted to pursue as far as a thesis topic. The subject of "the brain" intrigued me and I wanted to explore the new discoveries and the implications for education. I joined a group of four other people who were also interested in this topic. We struggled for direction for quite some time. Finally after several months and lots of reading, questioning, and guidance from instructors, we decided that just the issue of "the brain" was not appropriate in itself. We decided to use the current research on the brain as well as other types of research to support the premise that a second language should be taught in elementary school as opposed to high school. We will survey other school districts in Minnesota with early second language programs to discover the rational used for implementing their programs. Inquiries will be made about specific aspects of each program. We will compile this information and use it to present a case for implementing an early foreign language program in our school district.


In order to fulfill the 12 transfer credits required, I elected to take two classes this year. One is a yearlong, multicultural awareness program called S.E.E.D., which stands for "Seeking Educational Quality and Diversity." I have experienced a great deal of growth in my understanding of the subtle prejudices present in my way of thinking. I was awakened to the pain and hardship of those who are persecuted for being different in some way and how our culture perpetuates this, and then turns the other way. I am planning on continuing on to S.E.E.D II next year in order to learn how I can play a small, but significant part in trying to change how people view each other.

Another class that I took was Computers in Education (5413). I was familiar with computers and the Internet enough to use it minimally. This course built upon the knowledge I already had. I was introduced to the software, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and HypersStudio, which will be useful tools as an educator. I was introduced to many Internet sites that I will be able to utilize and learned the "ins and outs" of the various search engines. I now feel much more confident in my ability to utilize technology.

Overall, it's been a productive year. It's interesting to reflect upon all of the learning experiences I've had and realize that I've grown personally and professionally. I have learned a lot about prioritizing my time, and have found that the more I learn, the more I want to learn!

-- Anonymous, May 16, 1999

Moderation questions? read the FAQ