In the four and a half years I have been running this site my frequency of writing has fluctuated up and down. I started this site with lofty goals of becoming a major film news site doing an extreme amount of aggregate blogging. I tried and maintained to write at least three to five posts a day for well over a year. Over the years I refined down my writing into more focused op-ed pieces about stuff that really peeked my interests, coverage of film related events I attended, and reviews of every new theatrical film I saw each calendar year. As you may or may not know I am a full time social science teacher in El Monte High School District. It is my number one profession, a career I hold very dear to my heart. Over the last two years I have been working towards my Clear Credential. It has been a long process with constant reflection and assessment of not only my students but of myself as a professional educator. It is a process that has finally reached its climax and I wanted to share with you my readers the other side of my writing, my educational side. Below I have included a reflection letter to readers on my last two years as a preliminary educator in BTSA working towards my Clear Credential.
The BTSA induction process is something that new teachers are required to do, it is something that most of us begrudgingly do but the process is effective and meaningful in a number of ways. Much like Daniel Larusso in the 1984 Academy Nominated film “The Karate Kid,” he complains as Mr. Miyagi has him paint the fence, sand the deck, or wax the car like we teachers complain through the stages of portfolio evidence for BTSA. Later as Daniel sees the benefit of the hard work he’s put in on various tasks that may have seemed meaningless beforehand, he learns that he has mastered a skill set necessary to becoming a strong martial artist just as we do reflecting on our time in the BTSA induction program. I thought it important to recount some of the ways this formative assessment process pushed me for you the reader but also for myself to reflect on the BTSA process and how it has made me a better teacher who is ready to advance to board clear certification.
One, it holds teachers accountable for the lives they will be teaching. Gauging our students’ successes and accomplishments is a vital aspect in teaching and this process has helped in knowing when and where to assess and re-assess. Not only that but it has pushed me to create new and innovative ways to reach students so they make connections with the content being covered. For instance my inquiry was based on trying to get students to think critically about the content being taught while also making personal connections with the material. I used political cartoons as one strategy to do this. After pre-teaching students on a particular subject like Imperialism or the Russian Revolutions, I used political cartoons to have students make connections with that content. These political cartoons and the questions I created are designed to make the students think about the content they’ve learned and apply it. At the start students needed a lot of assistance finding connections but the more times we did it and through use of modeling and peer discussions the students began to make the connections on their own without leading questions. The BTSA process pushed me to push my students, it gave me a pattern or procedure to gauge their understanding and growth and that has ultimately made me a better educator.
Two, it gives teachers a clear road map to becoming an effective teacher by teaching us ways to self-assess and collaborate with others in our own profession or departments. Not that our credential programs did not teach us these methods but BTSA allows new teachers to practice them while working with additional aid that is worked into the program. Personally, I love the interaction we have during professional development. I have learned some awesome ideas from my peers and I would like to think they feel the same way. Professional development is a vital aspect to teaching and reflecting on our development with our peers is extremely important in us growing as teachers.
Three, the program pushes teachers to not only assess ourselves and our process of teaching but it also has us assess the students and what we are teaching them. The program pushes us to ask ourselves questions that we may never had if this program wasn’t in place. Much like any parent trying to teach their children manners, the BTSA program is teaching educators how to ensure we are teaching at our highest potential and that we are getting the highest potential out of our students. Going back to my political cartoons strategy, I could have very easily given up on the assignment after the first time attempting. The results were not the best, some students made connections, most of them I had to spoon feed the material. I felt like I made the connections for them instead of the other ay around. Students need to internalize the material in order to get the most benefit from it. So I didn’t give up, I pushed and kept at it. Soon students were excited on political cartoon days, sure it was a day they did work, but it was also a day I saw students come out of their shells. Students became engaged and really thought about what each political cartoon meant. You could see through both informal and formal assessment that the students were making connections about material. This inspired me as an educator, I could see real growth and influence this inquiry forced me to evaluate. Again like my Karate Kid analogy, I saw the importance of the steps my BTSA mentor was pushing me through like Daniel Larusso saw the importance of what Mr. Miyagi was teaching him.
Four, the process holds us accountable for our teaching. Teachers have a very important job and it is essential to make sure that teachers realize this, we can’t just go through the motions with our classes, it is not fair to the students we have on our campuses. That said this process made me a better teacher because I was forced to think about what I wanted from my students outside of learning the basic California adopted standards. How can I make them better students/citizens but also make myself a better educator. As a new teacher we have the background and the understanding of what we are supposed to do but the BTSA process pushes us in the right direction. Just like we model correct behavior for our students, the BTSA program models how we should push ourselves as educators and how we will be held accountable for our teaching. All of the pieces that we do are part of holding ourselves accountable, moving forward I plan to continue to hold myself accountable. I want to continually ask myself if my lessons and assessments are pushing the students enough. I want to find and utilize the best strategies that will better my students understanding of the content. It is vital that as I move forward in my career that I continue to assess myself as well as my students.
Trevor C. Schoenfeld
I wanted to publish this letter for two main reasons. One, I wanted to let my readers know what Schofizzy has been up to. I have not been updating nearly as much as I would like in 2012 and a big reason for that is my career, teaching. These last two years I have really put my all into developing new strategies and making the learning experience in my classes unique and meaningful for the students. Teaching is first and foremost for me but that doesn't mean I don't want to continue sharing my passion for film. Which brings me to reason number two, I am not going anywhere. I want to continue writing and sharing my thoughts on film with anyone who is willing to listen and or read. Yes you may not see me updating to the site as regularly as before but I intend on continuing to bring you my own brand of journalism on film. Stay tuned and thanks for reading...