April 2009
Vol 6 No 4

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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.6 No.4 April 2009

Cover Story by Alfie Kohn
When “21st-Century Schooling” Just Isn’t Good Enough: A Modest Proposal
Are we serious about educating students for the global competitive economy of the future?

Earth Day Special Article:
GE Project Plant-A-Bulb
Give the planet the gift of flowers for Earth Day....

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
The Tools for Success

»Actively Involve Every Reader—Ten Easy Ideas! Sue Gruber
»Motivating Children Leah Davies
»Multiple Working Hypotheses Todd R. Nelson
»Eliciting vs. Punishments Marvin Marshall
»The Busy Educator's Monthly Five Marjan Glavac
»Tattle Tales and Classroom Helpers Barbara Pressman
»Tips for Travel to France or Italy with Students Josette Bonafino
»Too Much Parent Involvement? Can It Be? Dorothy Rich
»Return to Sender & The Neon Necklace Rick Morris
»Be Your Own Mentor: Reflect Hal Portner

»Getting Your Students' Work Published Alan Haskvitz
»At Risk Students: Victims of Miseducation and Failure Bill Page
»Teachers – Healing Broken Lives Graysen Walles
»Get Smart! Doodle! Tim Newlin
»A Dozen Ways to Build a Caring Classroom Community Susan Fitzell
»April 2009 Writing Prompts James Wayne
»Using Photographs To Inspire Writing VI Hank Kellner
»Quality in School Systems Panamalai R. Guruprasad
»Problems With 9th Grade Euclidian Geometry Stewart E. Brekke
»Multisensory/Kinesthetic Alphabet ActivitiesJeanine Horner

»Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes Barb Stutesman
»Today Is... Daily Commemoration Ron Victoria
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Teacher Blogs Showcase
»Guided Reading in Kindergarten (printable)
»Printables - Happy Earth Day, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands, Portable Word Wall, Earth Day Every Day Award, Bringing Choices to Light, and April - May Calendar
»Photo Tour: 3rd Grade Classroom, Red Creek, NY
»Lessons, Activities, Theme ideas: Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Paul Revere, Spring, Easter, more!
»Featured Lesson: Outdoor Activities/Nature
»Meet Bill Martin Jr. and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Creative Quotes from Shakespeare, Massive Ant Colony Uncovered! AMAZING science!, Tim Hawkins - Cletus Take the Reel, Lovefield, and Dolphin Bubbles: An Amazing Behavior
»Live on Teachers.Net: April 2009
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers
»Wisdom for the pain? Why Did You Do It? Why Pursue National Board Certification?


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Editor in Chief: Kathleen Alape Carpenter
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Cover Story by Alfie Kohn

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Alfie Kohn, Graysen Walles, Hal Portner, Sue Gruber, Leah Davies, Todd R. Nelson, Marvin Marshall, Marjan Glavac, Barbara Pressman, Josette Bonafino, Rick Morris, Bill Page, Tim Newlin, Susan Fitzell, Alan Haskvitz, James Wayne, Hank Kellner, Dorothy Rich, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, Stewart E. Brekke, Panamalai R. Guruprasad, Jeanine Horner, Marie Smith, Carol Goodrow, Jennifer Goldstein, and YENDOR.

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Hal Portner
Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Be Your Own Mentor:

How to mentor yourself, and monitor your own professional growth.

by Hal Portner
Regular contributor to the Gazette
April 1, 2009

This article originally appeared in the the June 2003 issue of Teachers.Net Gazette

Material for this article is adapted, with permission from the publisher, from Portner, H. (2002) Being Mentored: A Protégé's Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin Press, Inc.

When a teacher reflects on her or his professional practice with the objective of learning to teach better, the teacher and learner are the same person. Read the previous sentence again; it has very powerful implications. It means that you have the way to mentor yourself, and the opportunity to monitor your own professional growth.

It's June -- the end of the school year. As a teacher, you've experienced quite a bit over the past nine or ten months. You can probably relive many of your experiences in your memory and reflect on them in your thoughts. Chances are, however, that you will learn more from reflection if you do it in writing. Here's how.

Keep a Professional Learning Journal

Get yourself a notebook, steno pad, or bound blank book and write your reflections in it. There are several ways to format a professional learning journal and you can certainly devise your own. In Dumont, New Jersey, for example, new teachers are encouraged to enter lesson plans, examples of student work, and notes from workshops into a portfolio, then write reflections on their portfolio entries.

Another commonly used method is to divide the pages of a notebook into four vertical columns and label them respectively:

What & Why | What Happened | Reflections | The Next Step

The first two columns can be kept as a diary, i.e., written directly after the event while events are still fresh in your mind and emotions. In the first column, succinctly and objectively record what action(s) you did or did not take, and why you did or did not take it. In column two, indicate what happened as a result of, or in spite of, what was or was not done. Include impressions, feelings and anecdotes as well as objective data.

The third column, Reflections, is where learning takes place. Reflections benefit from "aging," so wait a bit before looking back at what happened and what your feelings were at the time so that you can process what you wrote in light of subsequent experiences and expressions. So, in the third column, write down why you think things happened the way they did and what you did or did not do that contributed to the outcome --- successful or otherwise.

Column four -- The Next Step -- has to do with reflecting on how you might adjust or modify your approach in order to do it better next time or how you might use the experience to reinforce what you already have done. All too often, folks will do a great job reflecting, but not translate those reflections to action. There is much more to say about translating reflections to action, so I will devote my next month's Gazette article to column four: The Next Step.

Focused Reflection

Margaret M., a mentor-teacher in California's Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program (BTSA), reports that her protégés who gather evidence from students, reflect on that data, and modify practice accordingly, move ahead much more rapidly than those who do not focus and reflect on student data. Based on her experience, Margaret offers the following advice and observations.

  • The basis for reflection must be student work -- objective evidence --otherwise reflections are based on perceptions that are not always accurate.
  • Reflection can be built into your day. You can even do it while commuting.
  • Always ask yourself the big questions:
√ What did my students do well today?

√ What did I do to facilitate their learning?

√ What did my students have difficulty with today?

√ What could I have done to prevent that difficulty or to correct it once it surfaced?

I would add these to Margaret's list.

  • Pay attention to the things that you did or did not do, why you did or didn't do them, and what happened as a result.
  • Contemplate how you can use the experience you are reflecting on to improve.
  • Critically examine the implications of your experiences.
  • Be clear about why you make particular decisions.
  • Pay attention to the results of your decision-making.
  • Analyze your actions, motivations, and outcomes in order to learn to teach better.

Make reflecting a regular strategy in your career-long mission to learn to teach better. After all, what you learn through reflection, you learn from a master teacher -- yourself!

For a printable version of this article click here.

» More Gazette articles...

About Hal Portner...

Hal Portner is a former K-12 teacher and administrator. He was assistant director of the Summer Math Program for High School Women and Their Teachers at Mount Holyoke College, and for 24 years he was a teacher and then administrator in two Connecticut public school districts. From 1985 to 1995, he was a member of the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Bureau of Certification and Professional Development, where, among other responsibilities, he served as coordinator of the Connecticut Institute for Teaching and Learning and worked closely with school districts to develop and carry out professional development and teacher evaluation plans and programs.

Portner writes, develops materials, trains mentors, facilitates the development of new teacher and peer-mentoring programs, and consults for school districts and other educational organizations and institutions. In addition to Mentoring New Teachers, he is the author of Training Mentors Is Not Enough: Everything Else Schools and Districts Need to Do (2001), Being Mentored: A Guide for Protégés (2002), Workshops that Really Work: The ABCs of Designing and Delivering Sensational Presentations (2005), and editor of Teacher Mentoring and Induction: The State of the Art and Beyond (2005) – all published by Corwin Press. He holds an MEd from the University of Michigan and a 6th-year Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in education admin¬istration from the University of Connecticut. For three years, he was with the University of Massachusetts EdD Educational Leadership Program.

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