Year-End Review by Paul Brownlow : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Year-End Reflections

Submitted by: Paul Brownlow

It is hard to believe my first year of graduate studies are complete. I was not sure I should enter the program because I had just finished my undergraduate studies three years ago. Although the class work has been an added struggle to my busy life, I am happy I decided to learn with other fun individuals. My writing and computing skills have improved because of my studies in computers and thesis writing. I have also been enlightened and gained new knowledge from the readings and presentations we have had on leadership, quality, drugs, the Meyer-Briggs test, and the effects of alcohol on children.

The readings we did this year helped me reflect on my own life and teaching. Although the Utne Reader was not the magazine of my choice, I did find some articles I could relate to. One of those articles was The Stuff of Life by Scott Russell Sanders from the November/December 1998 issue. I liked this article because it dealt with living a simpler life. After reading the article, I evaluated my daily routine and realized I could slow down some if I prohibited myself from buying unnecessary items.

Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey and The Quality School by William Glasser were my favorite readings of the year. Their books gave me some great insights and ideas to use in my classroom. My focus this past year was to make the high school band team oriented by giving the students leadership roles. Empowerment and quality were terms used by both authors which I copied to develop a successful environment for work and learning. All of the readings and reaction papers over the year helped to make me a better writer. Before, it took me hours to write a paper that was suitable. Now, I am able to organize my thoughts into a paper I can feel good about sharing with others in a reasonable amount of time. In addition to our written reactions, I would like to have more interactive discussions within our group. I always thought live discussion was a major part of a Masters Degree program because it allowed people to critically think and communicate new ideas amongst professionals.

Computer courses 5412, 5413, and 5414 aided me the most in my teaching. When I began these classes, I felt I was a capable computer user. After each course, I could not believe all of the new things I could do with the computer. For example, Dr. McCarthy gave me the tools to add graphics to my word processed documents. Now, parents of my band students find my letters more inviting and read them before throwing them away. Record keeping, databases, mail merging, electronic portfolios, and rubric development are other topics I learned about and plan to use this upcoming school year. I was hesitant to put my grade book on computer because I was not sure if it could organize the information I needed for each student. After previewing several pieces of grade book software, I found one flexible enough to work for me. With that software, I also want to keep detailed records, so I can send out personalized mass mailings to inform band parents of their childs progress. To help monitor each students progress, I will use rubrics and electronic portfolios.

Guest speakers were another segment of the Wednesday evening sessions. Our first class began with the Meyers-Briggs test. I do not usually like taking these tests because I do not feel the information is useful. However after taking that test and discussing it, I realized the information was useful to me because, as a teacher, I must be aware of all the different learning styles present in my classroom.

The local professionals also presented pertinent information to us. I heard helpful data from Dr. Hardwig on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect. Some of the teachers in our class said they knew of students having those symptoms. Darryl Wallers presentation on drugs was enlightening and scary. I did not realize drugs were so prevalent in International Falls. It made me wonder how many students were using drugs during the school day. David Rigdons discourse on leadership was also well received. I saw how ideas he presented coincided with those of Covey and Glasser. For companies and schools to be successful, there must be an existent system of trust and empowerment.

Barb McDonald began teaching us the finer points of a thesis. Several class times covered designing a study, choosing the subjects for our study, and beginning the literature review process. Those tasks were sometimes confusing and frustrating, but my understanding of the thesis process is much clearer. With Barbs help, I am certain I will be able to write a competent thesis.

The favorite classes for most of us were at the job site. Ladds hands-on teaching made us all respect a trade we depend on. There were numerous things we had to remember and calculate as we built our small building. Ladds patience encouraged us to keep forging ahead on a project that was new for most of us. That time out of the classroom helped us to relax and visualize another learning style in action.

Reflecting on the past year made me realize how much I have accomplished and learned over a short period of time. My computing and writing skills are put to use quite often, while I know my thesis writing ability will be tested extensively next year. Right now, a sense of anxiety enters my mind whenever I hear the word thesis, but I hope that feeling subsides after I start writing. The part I will miss most from the Wednesday evening classes is the camaraderie we had with each other. That fun-filled learning environment made me excited to come and learn.

-- Anonymous, July 10, 1999

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