It has been a BUSY, and an exciting semester. So much has happened, and I could write about so many things, but I will focus on a few highlights of my time for this Fall 2016 Semester Reflection. It has been full of learning experiences for myself and my students.
The Fall 2016 semester has ended, and we survived! Although I am still on the same mission of teaching students, and pushing them to be their best, I found a new educational “home” this fall. After three years of working part-time in higher education at a two-year college, I took an even bigger leap of faith, and began teaching full-time as faculty at a four-year university this fall. Not only was this an opportunity to work in my specialty area of literacy, but I am finally working in a college education program that prepares students for careers in teaching.
I received a great education at my alma mater (Kansas State University), and I owe it all to my professors for inspiring me to be a caring, innovative, and attentive teacher/educator. The kind campus, and small community allowed me to fall in love with higher education in my undergraduate years, an then I later gained the confidence to pursue a career as a professor during my graduate school years.
After, a very challenging time, early this past summer, I dug really deep into writing professionally (published two articles and a book this year), and began to apply for faculty jobs all over the country. I found that I didn’t have to go far– 27 applications later, I ended up where I graduated from (Texas Southern University) with my Ed.D in 2013. Though I had a tough (but valued) time working toward my Doctorate at TSU, it was the last place that I thought I would begin my four-year faculty experience.
Having only attended this HBCU as a working (full-time) Doctoral student has allowed me to come in with a perspective of one that was an “outsider”. I was only there on weekends or after business hours, and I did not get exposed to much of the culture as a student who attends in the tradition manner. It has been a totally different experience (in a good way) seeing Texas Southern from an undergraduate perspective. I have learned so much, yet have much more to learn and look forward to in the next semester. I have made it my mission to share as much positive news that I can–as the university seems to garner more attention for “bad press” than the abundance of good that is taking place. I have been gracious for the opportunity, and I have put in a LOT of work to provide students with a quality experience with me as their professor this semester.
Faculty Retreat: Things became official when I was asked to attend a faculty retreat at Top Golf with the College of Education faculty. It was a hot (90+ degrees at nine in the morning), but fun times. Although I worried about attending a retreat with professors who have served as mentors and teachers to me, they treated me with respect, and greeted me as if I were one of the family. This event let me know that the semester was going to be an “adventure”, and I was happy to see the competitive spirit of the faculty and staff that I was joining.
Courses Taught: This semester I taught Content Focused Teaching in Reading (RDG 301), Diversity in Reading (RDG 401), and Reading Skills Development (RDG 302). Content (301) was the most difficult to teach, as there is an extensive amount to cover (PreK-8th literacy development and teaching practices), and I was not able to plan the course in a interactive/project based manner (my teaching style) in time before the start of classes. RDG 302 presented a challenge, as it was a larger class, and I am used to a more personable approach. The diversity course (RDG 401) was most natural to teach, as a big part of my career has been devoted to fighting for and promoting social justice, and working with ELL’s. None of it was easy, but I walked away with many positives, and also left room for improvements next semester.
Clinical Practice Seminar: I was asked to develop and present a seminar, “Write Away: Integrating Writing Across the Curriculum” in mid-September that was to get clinical practice students (student teachers in the field) to understand how to integrate writing across the curriculum. It was a huge success, and I really loved hearing of the various backgrounds represented, and the various teaching experiences the students were being exposed to in their last semester as students, getting prepared to take on the world of education. It gave me hope to look into their excited eyes, and see the joy and ideas that they are ready to implement in their new careers.
Read for the Record: My RDG 302 students took part in this yearly event sponsored by Jumpstart. Although hesitant at first (due to the activity being outside of their class time, and it being a group project), the students went to Gregg Elementary and Reynolds Elementary (both Houston ISD Schools) and shared mini-lessons that they created using the book, “The Bear Ate my Sandwich” by Julia Sarcone-Roach. They read the book and shared activities with students in Pre-K – 1st grade. In all, 160 students and adults from our literacy advocacy activity contributed to the 1,352,648 people around the world who read for the record on October 27th. The response from the staff at both schools was excellent! They were impressed with the creativity and professionalism of our students. In return, most of my students really LOVED this activity, and they appreciated that it allowed them to get a glimpse into their future career.
Fall Into Reading Book Swap: This event was planned by myself and the TSU-ATPE (Association for Texas Professional Educators) President and representatives. It was facilitated by the students in my RDG 301 course. The TSU students provided fun activities related to fall, such as creating turkeys, bookmarks, and the candy-corn farm. It was very well received, as we had over 160 PreK3- 1st graders in attendance from the TSU Lab School and St. Mary’s. We had two guest authors (Valerie Peterson-Kelly and Meena Dhanjal ) provided by Barnes and Noble Sugarland. They also provided us with an abundance of books, games, and toys. Last, but not least, we were graciously gifted 150 books by the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. It was a busy, but great time!
Course Projects & Assignments: My teaching style consists of real-world application, and cooperative/collaborative learning. One of my favorite assignments that the students worked on was in RDG 302- the Big Five Group Assignment. This assignment allowed the students to compose a presentation (digital) of the “Big Five of Literacy” and find resources that accompany each element. In RDG 301, one of the aspects of literacy that we explored genres, and instead of giving presentations, the students shared their presentations using centers (or stations). For RDG 401, the students created and recorded a video of their own personal “TED Talks”, after exploring eight other education professionals’ personal TED Talks. The students found this assignment pretty challenging, but it was very interesting to see their perspectives on diversity issues and reading education.
Technologies Used: I always try to implement a new technology teaching tool into my instruction each semester. This semester, I used Padlet to create interactive vocabulary word walls (that the students could contribute to). I also used Kahoot as a means to deliver practice quiz questions via smartphone in a fun, delivery that is a “game-like” style (I plan to use this a LOT more in the upcoming semesters).
Semester-End Faculty Meeting and Luncheon: Instead of closing out the semester with a regular meeting, our closing faculty meeting for the entire College of Education was not only informative and reflective, but shared the celebrations and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and students. We closed it out with great food, and a little bit of dancing!
Graduation: On December 10, 2016, I was able to participate in the Fall Commencement Ceremony for the Fall 2016 graduates. The last time (3 years ago) I attended graduation, I was a graduating student. It was an honor to stand with faculty this time around. The speaker, Mayor Sylvester Turner, had a word that really stuck with me. Our accomplishments as students, are not only a celebration for ourselves- it represents all of those who helped to get us to our goal. He stated, “Never get so high, that you can’t look low”. We should always look back, and help those behind us. It was a full-circle moment, and this semester I am thankful for those who “looked back” to help me.
Although this post mainly is filled with positives, I have privately noted my areas for improvement, and I’m looking forward to becoming better in the Spring!