Self-Evaluation and Study of Instruction

Always in search of brighter ways of 'lighting fires' beneath my students, I eagerly seek recommendations from my colleagues, administration, family, etc.  In fact, some of my most valuable critiques originate from the people I try to please the most, my students.  I enjoy surveying them as to the effectiveness of a lesson, my delivery of the content, and my ability to provide fair and adequate assessment of their work/performance.  Constantly flowing with ideas for 'neat,' or 'nifty' lessons and activities, I bombard my classes using round-a-bout conversations in addition to straight forward surveys.  Having the opportunity to teach all grade levels at Dover Air Middle School, this affords me the ability to receive criticism from every student enrolled in our program.  Though some students are extremely difficult to please all of the time, many have expressed their appreciation for my willingness to even 'consider' their suggestions.

Many of my ideas also originate from conversations with my husband who recently left the Economics classroom to pursue a second graduate degree in Library/Media Science.  His vast knowledge, desire to reach every student at the secondary level and improve research/writing across the curriculum as well as his ability to implement effective instructional technology into lessons and units makes him an excellent resource for consulting.  It is not unusual for us to 'talk' education every minute that we are together -- not only do we enjoy each other's camaraderie as educators, but we respect one another for our varying styles and philosophies of education.  Approaching education from a 'storytelling' perspective, the passion and excitement that Marc displays while addressing any of the aforementioned areas is truly infectious; this ability is crucial in a curriculum that can, oftentimes, be 'boring' or dull.  I have learned more about history, culture, countries, and economic principles from my husband than I have from my educational endeavors throughout my high school and post-secondary studies. 

Nonetheless, my content knowledge and instructional philosophy continues to be shaped utilizing formal assessment tools as provided from my graduate studies at both the University of Delaware and The College of New Jersey (the UPDATE team is required to complete quarterly reflections of their instructional practices).  Asking my students to maintain sketchbooks of their thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and images in each Visual Art course and to document design processes for problem solving challenges, reflective thoughts, new practices, tools, and materials, I feel compelled to 'visually' evaluate my daily tasks and instructional concerns as well.  I have emerged as a life-long learner, evaluating every aspect of my personal and profession encounters.  Seeking to extract meaningful relationships across disciplines, I frequently utilize these reflective journal entries and published self-evaluations to assess such issues as gender equity, curriculum content, instructional delivery, student achievement, parental communication, and community involvement.

Suggestions and professional evaluations from my administration, immediate principal to District Office personnel, likewise, have had a profound effect on my teaching in the past.  Presently, I welcome these valuable insights, comments, and criticism as avenues that will ultimately lead to my students' increased achievement and my becoming a better teacher, individual, and student of one's own teaching.  Approaching education through active problem solving, James G. Henderson writes, "... good teachers must be experts in time management, discipline, psychology, instructional methods, interpersonal communication, and learning theory - and they must practice these competencies under the watchful eyes of 20 to 30 demanding customers" (Henderson, 2). [1]

As a facilitator of critical thinking applications and real-life contexts, I forever seek ways to make education relevant to my students; I want them to declare ownership of their experiences in Visual Art and Technology Education, and want them to grow and mature from these encounters.  Strategies that I use with one group of adolescents may not necessarily be effective with another.  However, through continuous research and inquiry of my students, parents, colleagues, and administrators, in addition to gaining professional training in instructional programs, I have been able to immediately adapt, modify, and extend my instructional reach to 'touch' as many children as possible -- regardless of these efforts, I do recognize that I can always improve and complete my tasks with a greater efficiency.  Understanding 'how' a child acquires the information product and knowing 'how' to supply and deliver that product remains as a crucial educational goal of mine so that my consumers do not feel 'short-changed!'

I am always humbled by parental comments and praise for granting their child(ren) special experiences.  It is especially difficult to accept when I have so much fun at my job!  Please share these special parental notes with me.

[1]  Henderson, James G.  Reflective Teaching: Becoming an Inquiring Educator.  New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.