Today as I am ready to “wrap-up” my renewal GLAD coursework, I need to catch my breath to pause and look back at the learning this course has gifted me. I am a linear and large picture thinker so I would like to start by sharing my professional experience using a timeline of both my initial expectations and the actual learning I acquired through this process.
When I decided to join the renewal process as I shared in my initial introductory video, it was my desire to be up to date on the latest GLAD instructional strategies, to learn about the new research that may have been influencing Project GLAD, the integration of remote learning via the use of technology to provide instruction and last but not least, how current Project GLAD was addressing matters such as equity, culturally responsive practice and anti-racist practices.
Well, it was no surprise that Project GLAD once more did not let me down. From the content and design viewpoint, they showed cohesiveness and consistency. These elements scaffolded my new learning no matter what pathway (lessons), I could have selected. Every module had rich lessons with plenty and relevant resources. The course had many familiar and new topics, so the content would deepen my current understanding, and open my mind to anything new.
Module 1 brought up the concept of equity. The statement “To achieve equity, you must define what you mean by equity” challenged my definition thus deepened my reflection. Dr. Noguera guided my thinking when he discussed fair inclusion, self-biases examination, challenging preconceived ideas about students’ success or failure being related to ethnicity, culture, race, and socio-economic status and to take into consideration historical forces that created systems that intentional or unintentionally have been established, creating the inequitable settings we now have and continue to negatively impact many of our students. My equity idea broadened and gained depth. I feel more equipped to better point out inequalities and call to action whenever systems may seem to perpetuate inequitable practices that will only harm our students. I have the opportunity to engage in this work when setting policy in my role with my state on the as a board member, and of course in my own instructional practice in the classroom.
It is in Module 2, where I addressed my instructional practice. This work tied equity with distance and blended learning. Due to the nature of my instructional setting, and to enhance my learning around technology, I chose to learn about the SAMR model from Dr. Ruben Puentedura. His proposed framework affirmed and enriched my way to plan my instructional units. This work called me to make sure student’s voice was present at important moments of instruction while fostering metacognition applying critical thinking. Right here, a clear connection was made. It was obvious that to support my students’ voice, they needed to be engaged in our learning. And to be engaged, their instructional setting needed to be safe, hence the previous module content about equity weighed heavily. How much was I already doing? To answer this question and to analyze my teaching from the equity and from my use of technology perspectives, I selected a unit that I had previously created and delivered. Dr. Puentedura’s framework showed me the different outcomes technology can provide when used in varied ways. It made me wonder if I was making the best use of technology. Did I just use technology to substitute the “look” of the delivery of my instruction? Had I augmented the use of my applications to give my teaching or assignments a different function? Was technology allowing me to modify any prior class interaction? or Had I even consider utilizing technology to redefine how my students could give their voices and guide their learning? I must confess that at the beginning of this self-analysis I felt unease. Gladly through the process I was reassured that my work reflected that I took into consideration many of the important elements of equity and my use of technology was quite commending. I am not suggesting that I did not need to improve, because like in everything I knew that there was a learning curve for me. I was able to identify and recognize places for improvement, especially around the level of redefining my use of technology. This learning opened new venues for me to incorporate learning from this unprecedented times and take them to my future instructional settings for all students.
All students are ours! At least in my view, this is what all educators think. We want to support and/or guide them all. So, to be true and effective to all my kids, I needed to expand my understanding of an age group I have not taught for a very long time nor I knew much about. Adolescents! Module 3, too integrated content from previous content. I found myself weaving critical elements as I worked to meet the goals of this module. I fell in love with the brain research presented in this lesson. It allowed me to establish immediate connections between the behaviors I was witnessing and hearing about from my colleagues, and the rationale of such behaviors. This work ignited my thinking on the huge importance of social emotional learning and culturally responsive practices when teaching our teen students. I decided to involve professional collaboration with my colleagues. I contacted, my coach partner and her collaborating teacher because I knew they had embarked on an innovative project to better serve teens using equitable instructional strategies in distance learning. I wanted to approach their work from three angles. 1. Collaboration. 2. Instructional Practice and 3. Reflection on student impact. We had extensive conversations about their practice, identifying the strengths and areas of growth. I was able to share with them my learning about brain research, use of technology (SAMR framework) and how to possibly integrate their method of instruction and my proposed ideas. I feel that each video showcased their professional intentionality of the great work they are doing. It was easy to point out connections between their current practice and the learning from this coursework. We were able to identify areas of growth, especially around student participation where I think I would like to apply my new learning but especially the SAMR framework. I think that planning together could strengthen the still general ambiguity of “not knowing where to go” as the collaborating teacher would often say. I am foreseeing a more detailed structure that will hold and enhance our instruction to share it with many more teachers in our district.
I am optimistic and hopeful of the future to come. I have enjoyed this course. My anticipation of the learning I was hoping to obtain, was satisfied. I appreciate how Project GLAD has continued to adjust and be proactive to the constant change our educational field seems to be constantly facing, because change seems to be the only constant. All I have left to say is thank you for the great and well-crafted work that many educators, and I am certain many more will continue to experience, only to benefit the whole reason of our work- OUR KIDS!