While at Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, where I studied foreign service and Latin American studies, I took only a handful of education-related courses.
Those courses provided important background information on different philosophies of second-language acquisition and teaching methodologies. (Thanks Dr. Sanz!) This was useful to me in my preparation as a Spanish teacher, as well as in the work I did teaching Spanish while completing my undergraduate coursework. However, I was in college at the time and my focus was on learning, meeting professor’s expectations, and having fun as a student. As you can imagine, I spent little time thinking about being an excellent teacher between club events, social gatherings, and homework. I was distracted!
Today, as I struggle to balance work life and graduate coursework at Johns Hopkins School of Education, I find almost all of my studies pertain directly to my teaching. Each assignment offers the opportunity to apply my learning to my teaching practice. For this reason, learning about tenets of effective teaching while working as an educator helps me transcend from philosophical understanding to direct application in the classroom. In other words, my studies at Johns Hopkins are exponentially more effective because I am concurrently teaching and learning.
Family engagement is an excellent example of the direct application of my studies. Building meaningful relationships with parents is an essential part of students’ academic success. According to Evanthia Patrikakou (2008) in her article, “The Power of Parent Involvement: Evidence, Ideas, and Tools for Student Success,” it is important that teachers engage in proactive, consistent, and personalized communication with families (p. 5). Teachers should provide families with more positive than negative feedback about students, as well as practical suggestions for expanding learning at home (Patrikakou, 2008, p. 6). Given that knowledge, I am working to write a newsletter for each new unit with practical suggestions for parents on how they can work collaboratively to increase student outcomes from home. Furthermore, I am designing learning opportunities that bridge the gap between school and home though interactive homework and classroom presentations with parent involvement (Patrikakou, 2008, p. 3). These sorts of assignments and family engagement projects are much more meaningful because I can work to improve instructional practice as I learn new strategies. There is no lag in time between my learning and my application of new ideas and strategies. Had I taken a two-year gap in my teaching career to dedicate to graduate coursework, I would never have experienced the same benefits as taking classes while teaching.
To teachers or professionals taking coursework while working: How has your experience been with integrating your coursework into professional work?
Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you. Like, share, and comment!
Work Cited: Patrikakou, Evanthia N. (2008) The Power of Parent Involvement: Evidence, Ideas, and Tools for Student Success. Retrieved from http://www.centerii.org/