Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 5: Patriotism & Foreign Policy  
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Workshop 5

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Teacher Perspectives: Evolution of her teaching style

Alice Chandler: When I started as a teacher, I was just like anyone else 25 years ago. They expected you to use the book and the rubrics that they gave you. There were certain things that you had to cover. There was no leeway. They gave you end-of-the-year exams, so you had to teach the students based on what they were going to be tested on. Over the years I began to see that there was a little bit more that I needed to be doing. In fact, it was the students that said, "Ms. Chandler, we're tired of just reading and responding. Can't we do something else?" So I really began to understand that there are students that have other strengths and there are other ways of learning and you can still cover all of the material. At Ellington, I can bring in the arts. I can bring in any of the other academic subjects.

I evolved as a constructivist teacher about five years ago when I worked with a program called “The Integrated Curriculum Development Program” here at Ellington that was funded by the Smithsonian Institution. We wrote curricula and one of the courses that we had to take was based on constructivism and how you would bring it in and the realistic ideas behind it. We read books by people who believed in that particular method of teaching. Subsequently, I knew that it worked with me well, because I liked writing about it. Therefore it made it easier for me to develop lesson plans, and it allowed me to use both sides of the brain. So I found that not only was it good for me and it allowed me to be more of a teacher, but also it brought reality to my students. It gave them something they could grasp, that they could use their strengths with, and go out in the real world and use.

It was hard for me to change from being a traditional teacher to one that is more of a risk-taker because administrators in many schools do not necessarily view [constructivist methodologies] as teaching. AP courses teach from the textbook so that the students are able to pass the exam at the end of the year. Standardized exams are based on reading and that’s the only means of learning that some administrators and supervisors see. What made me change were my students. I found that they were more motivated. They were more willing to work, and really, they did learn. They were learning from what was practical as opposed to what the editor or the publisher feels is practical. I feel confident here at Ellington because they encourage using an integrative method of teaching. However, if I had to go to another school, it might not be something that would be appreciated. Another school may want the textbook approach. I am at the point where I seldom use the textbook except as a reference.

If the administration expects you to be a textbook person, often that's what you have to do to get a pretty good rating. As you get older and feel more comfortable and can step outside the box, it becomes easier, and they don't challenge you. Here they let me pretty much flow as long as they know that I am teaching. I don't use excuses. I do hall duty. And I think all of those things also help them allow me to be more creative in the classroom.


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