Why Teach?

proud teacher

I want to be a teacher because I love working with children with special needs. For ten years, I have been working with children in various disabilities as a babysitter, counselor, caregiver, and therapist. I have been working at my current job as an ABA therapist for children with autism for three years now. I love it, but I know I can do more and make a greater impact on the growing number of children with special needs being born today. Throughout my job as an ABA therapist, I have had the privilege of being on teams with several teachers of various levels of experience and specialty. Although these teachers are good at recognizing the difficulties these children face, I have noticed that some teachers are unaware of the support that parents need. I have also seen that some teachers lack the awareness to provide parents with resources and direction to help their child succeed in school subjects outside the structure of the classroom. I want to be a special education teacher because I believe I can bring my prior experience I have, working with children with disabilities, as a therapist.

I am currently a graduate student and plan to teach middle school special education for grades 4-8. I am excited be working with this age group because I work with many of these children currently and see the amazing and diverse range of abilities they all have. I know that because of my creative background, I can bring a fun environment and a new approach to teaching children. I have a huge passion for creativity, the arts, singing, dancing, and acting.

In applying to have a degree for teaching, I am reminded of all the amazing mentors I have had in my life that went above and beyond for my education. I remember my great 5th grade teacher who was incredibly supportive of me. He was always someone I could go to when I was being bullied or had problems going on with school. I continued to check in on his classroom after I graduated and went to high school because he always had such great advice. I also am reminded of a great history teacher I had in high school, who told world history in picture drawings scribbled all over her whiteboards. I remembered how awesome it was that I got to draw pictures in a history class. I remember the brilliant AP English teacher who would review my latest new poem I wrote over his lunch break and during group time in class, would call me over so we could discuss its improvement. He was also the teacher that, when I told him I wanted to be a doctor, told me, “Come back when you decide to be a teacher”. When people ask me why I want to teach, I think of being a teacher like those teachers that impacted me. I want to be inventive, supportive, understanding, flexible to the different personalities and study habits, and most of all, be just like the mentors I grew up with. I can’t wait to have my own classroom someday so that I can create a fun learning environment for kids to express themselves and have fun at school, as well as applying the knowledge I have through ABA to make these kids successful in every sense of the word.



R.O.L.E. Roadmap to Success


Being a fantastic teacher is a huge privilege, one that requires a huge level of time and caring. When I think of the amazing teachers I have had who impacted me, I feel like I should give my own students that same impact. When I think of becoming a teacher, it feels to me like a roadmap to success. I have my mountains and valleys, but this is such a unique journey, one that is just beginning, and it is so exciting. When I think about being an ideal teacher, four points come to my mind: responsibility, openness, teaching lessons for life, and teacher’s ethics and professionalism. I call this the R.O.L.E. roadmap to success.

The R is for responsibility. Being a responsible teacher is so integral. It is what you teach in the classroom, but also the strides in continuing your own education outside the classroom. This can be done through PLNs and professional development. PLNs are such an important way of gaining feedback through the peers in your field. There are many great avenues of this such as Twitter, Edutopia, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram. Research shows that having an established PLN leads in better emotional support of teachers, and in turn gives them confidence in presenting innovative ideas in their own classrooms. In the study mentioned in this podcast, PLNs had a positive impact on student learning and supported affective, social, cognitive, and identity aspects of teacher growth in those involved (Episode 17). PLNs are so effective in growth as a responsible teacher by providing the best education you can to your students. You also must continue your education through professional development. In Thomas R. Guskey’s article, he talks about the links between professional development and student learning and how they positively correlate. This is something that is necessary to being a teacher. Being a lifelong learner yourself makes you a greater teacher. In the study mentioned by Guskey, workshops were present in the positive correlation of student learning and professional development. When follow-up and sustained support are also present, it is even more likely. It is also important to use outside experts to give input. Coupled with professional development, outside experts are an important aspect of professional development because they see perspectives you don’t see yourself. In being a responsible teacher, you have to be able to open yourself up to input and feedback from other professionals to improve yourself, because that improves the learning of your students, which is the purpose in the first place.

The O is for openness. It is important for a teacher to be aware of their biases before they enter a classroom, assess themselves, and put those biases aside. As students in our own society, we develop bias all the time, but it is important to know that those biases are rarely true. In fact, most of them are blanket statements over a whole group of people that is simply unfair. As teachers, we have to be open to new students, minorities, children with disabilities, and other groups of students we may have. Diversity in a classroom is an extremely positive thing. In a study done by WISELI, it showed that diversity in classrooms has a positive impact on both the minority and the majority student base. It showed that “diverse working groups were more productive, creative, and innovative than homogenous groups” (WISELI). A national study of student learning also found that classrooms with more diversity led to more critical thinking in in-class and out-of-class interactions between students (WISELI). It is so easy to fall back on what you think you know, rather than let it slide. In order to make students and teachers more aware of the invisible bias they have, Harvard created a test called the Implicit Association Test, which tests bias. It is important as teachers to be open to our students of all backgrounds, put bias aside, and recognize that interactions between different types of students fosters learning, and contributes to the success we have as a country. As teachers, we must foster that growth and creativity inside and outside the classroom. We need to be open to unique types of students, unique languages, and unique perspectives inside the classroom as well.

L stands for lessons for life. As a teacher, you teach one subject, sometimes multiple subjects, and you hope that your students retained the information for the end of the school year’s exam. What do you want your legacy to be? What will you teach that won’t be forgotten? Many people have called this the hidden curriculum. In a school, students learn 70% of what they learn in a classroom, the other 30% is school rules and socialization (Spies). When 30% of what a child is learning is nonacademic, it is important for teachers to model appropriate behavior and attitudes. To create a great hidden curriculum, it is important for teachers to reinforce positive attitudes and utilize positive behavior reinforcements. By creating a classroom of positive behavior and firm rules, a teacher can teach to this hidden curriculum in an indirect way that positively affects the students in his or her class. Another way a teacher can teach a lesson for life is through bullying prevention. Bullying is a huge problem in schools, and teachers are struggling more today with how to prevent it. It is important as teachers, especially a special education teacher like myself, to recognize who can be a target of bullying and respond by educating students about bullying. Cohn-Vargas recommends to create a dialogue between students and get students involved in bullying prevention through student-led antibullying assemblies and rallies. By preventing bullying and showing other students what they can do to stop bullying, you can create lessons for life in kindness towards others. The lessons we teach in school that are nonacademic shape students for life and it is important to create positive curriculums to emulate constructive environments to foster the values and beliefs that will shape them into better people years down the road.

The E stands for ethics. As professionals in teaching, it is important to always keep in mind the ethics surrounding yourself and your students. Catherine Ballard says that “if you are a part of a profession that is governed by a code of ethics, you must know and live by that code because others will hold you to that standard, and they will judge you by it” (Ballard). It is important to always understand this and take it to heart. The NEA published a code of ethics and Texas also posted the Texas Educator’s code of ethics. It is important to know these ethics to protect ourselves and also the rights of the students. One specific right that is protected which must always be thought of are the protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This is the Federal law that protects students’ educational records. Teachers can be aware of this by locking up written gradebooks and signing out of computers with personal information on them. Another way a teacher can be ethical is by respecting student’s individual rights to freedom of speech and search and seizure. It is important for educators to recognize their boundaries as designated by the school, the state ethics codes, and the federal ethics codes. These different approaches make you an ethical teacher by protecting student’s rights and knowing the code of ethics for teachers.

In order to be the best teacher you can be, it is important to recognize the ways you can R.O.L.E. with it. Being the ideal teacher means being responsible, open, teaching lessons for life, and being ethical. You can be a responsible teacher by continuing your education and establishing professional PLNs that create a strong personal development program for you. You can be open by educating yourself on the benefits of a diverse classroom and puting your personal biases aside. You can teach lessons for life by establishing positive behavior support programs and preventing bullying in your classroom. You can be an ethical teacher by respecting your fellow teacher’s rights and student’s rights as protected by the code of ethics and FERPA. When all of these are put in practice in a classroom, it creates success, and the ideal environment for me as a teacher. Through this, you can only continue on the road to success to becoming better.

Ballard, C. (2003). What Does it Mean to be Ethical? Quest, 14-16.

Cohn-Vargas, B. (2012, April 03). 5 Ways to Stop Bullying and Move into Action. Retrieved December 10, 2016, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/stop-bullying-create-upstanders-becki-cohn-vargas

Episode 17: Teacher PLNs with Torrey Trust, Jeff Carpenter, & Dan Krutka [Audio blog review]. (2016, July 20). Retrieved from https://visionsofed.com/2016/07/20/episode-17-teacher-plns-with-torrey-trust-jeff-carpenter-dan-krutka/

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Guskey, T. R., & Yoon, K. S. (2009). What works in professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(7), 495-500. Retrieved from http://outlier.uchicago.edu/computerscience/OS4CS/landscapestudy/resources/Guskey-and-Yoon-2009.pdf

Spies, C. (n.d.). Learning for life, learning through life: The hidden curriculum in early childho… Retrieved December 10, 2016, from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/03/16/learning-life-learning-through-life-the-hidden-curriculum-early-childhood-education.

WISELI – University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2010). Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings [Brochure]. Author.

How Can Assessment Support Student Learning?

Most people have taken several forms of standardized testing in our lifetime, and never think anything of it. It is just something you do all the time because people are monitoring your progress. Linda Darling-Hammond, from Stanford University, says Americans are the most “overtested and underexamined in the world” (Comprehensive Assessment). What a crazy thing to think about. As a child, standardized testing was so normal, but as new research shows the vast types of intelligences and differences in learning, how can a teacher say a standardized test, written one way, to produce a four-answer possible solution, tests complete knowledge? The key to providing adequate assessment for students is recognizing the limits of standardized testing and increasing diverse tests and performance assessments that prepare children to think creatively.

Standardized assessments are severely limited in how they test students. Though attempts have been made to make them unbiased and account for diverse populations of students, a simple question with four answer choices does not accurately depict learning. Students are diverse thinkers, with several different intelligences and ways they learn. Standardized tests fail to account for children who have grown up through inadequately funded schools, or in low-income houses. Regardless of these findings, some educators and administrators believe standardized testing is the only way to teach kids.

Michelle Rhee was a DC Chancellor of the school system in Washington D.C. who saw this problem in the school system. Rhee was appointed by the Mayor of Washington D.C. to be a changemaker to turn around a school system with low ratings of achievement. She believed in standardized testing to not just test students in a classroom, but the teachers as well. She put their job on the line for their student’s achievement. She wanted to create a culture of accountability within the school system. She fired 22 teachers the first year after the students weren’t making big enough strides. At the end of the year, the schools with the biggest gains in academic achievement were given monetary incentives ranging from eight thousand to twelve thousand dollars. Though some of these scores went from 8%-42% gain in achievement, it was never investigated. The principal from one of the schools, Noyes High School, which previously had one of the highest gains in achievement before the principal left, saw test scores drop 40% after security measures were in place, showing that some teachers had changed test scores (Frontline).

One thing that was puzzling to me was that the administrators and teachers were rewarded for essentially doing their job. These monetary incentives not only left the door open for cheating, but also was a form of temporary compliance that Alfie Kohn talked about. Alfie Kohn is a critic of reward systems that create a “temporary compliance”. Creating a reward system implies that it isn’t something interesting, and is a form of manipulation (Kohn). He says that the reward of a situation is the learning. He argues this mostly in terms of students and receiving grades for their work, but I think it can also apply to the teachers in Washington D.C. Providing incentives for teachers to do their job, that is currently not increasing student’s achievement scores, further perpetuates the stigma that teaching these kids isn’t interesting.

The other thing that this left open, was teachers who were having trouble were being punished rather than supported. What the tests couldn’t show was that some of the teachers needed training and didn’t have the means of attaining it. One principal remarked that 30% of the teachers in his school needed improvement. Many of the teachers, one council member noted that she knows that almost 50% of the teachers believed that some students can’t learn at high levels (Frontline). Since No Child Let Behind was enacted in 2002, standardized tests have been mandated for all schools. The premise behind it is one of succeeding and providing a measure of college readiness. Since 2002, research in the way students learn has come farther, and laws have yet to be adjusted. This test, which is biased, failed to account in Washington D.C. for the students that had drug addiction and poverty in their own families. It also didn’t account for the teachers needing support and feeling unsuccessful in their classrooms.

One type of assessment that some teachers have utilized is performance assessments. Because standardized tests lack the ability to determine a child’s determination, drive, communication and leadership skills, performance-based projects have become more popular. These tests also solve many of the teaching feedback issues that come with assessments by providing immediate feedback on their students’ comprehension levels. Independent study projects have also been pushed forward as a way to encourage students to learn something personally interesting, while presenting it to teachers to be graded (Comprehensive Assessment). The issue with standardized tests is that they are “short-sighted” and don’t reveal the full picture of the student. One teacher in the Comprehensive Assessment video said,

“A lot of teachers and administrators in their understandable concern about these high-stakes tests are making a mistake when they say ‘Teach to the test. Teach to the test. That’s what we have to do.’ There is no evidence to show that you raise test scores by teaching worse. There is no evidence to show that when you teach for an in-depth robust performance where you have high-quality local assessment that your test scores suffer. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. High quality local assessment is what we need to pay attention to.” (Comprehensive Assessment)

So the question is this: What assessments would you use as a teacher to help your students learn in their own unique way?



Comprehensive Assessment: An Overview. (2010, August 05). Retrieved November 10, 2016.

FRONTLINE. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/education-of-michelle-rhee/

G. (2013, September 05). Alfie Kohn on Oprah. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6wwReKUYmw

Student’s Privacy Rights Under FERPA Case Study


There are many ethical dilemmas that happen every day in education. Although the Texas Code of Ethics does well at creating a black and white standard of what is acceptable, sometimes situations happen that teachers need to be aware of when it comes to student’s rights. Here is an example of a situation that could happen:

“The math teacher assigned homework the night before, and the next day, he decides to allow the students to “trade and grade” the assignment.  This process allows for the students to trade papers with one another while the teacher calls out the answers.  Some teachers believe this saves time as well as helps reinforce skills learned. However, a struggling student feels embarrassed because they continue to perform poorly on assignments and other students are making fun of the student because of it. That afternoon, a parent calls to complain.  The parent claims that a classmate grading his/her child’s work is a violation of their right to privacy of personal records.”

The law that the parent is addressing is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It says that educational records of students need to be kept private except with the written consent of the parent. The dilemma is if peer grading constitutes a violation of the FERPA student privacy laws. This relates to the Texas Codes of Ethics standard §247.2 3.31 that says that “the educator shall not reveal confidential information concerning students unless disclosure serves lawful professional purposes or is required by law”.

So did this teacher violate laws? Short answer is no.

In 2001, the Supreme Court Case is Owasso Independent School District vs. Falvo was a similar situation between a school and a student. The court upheld that although FERPA does say that educational records are to be protected unless a parent discloses the information, peer grading does not constitute educational records until they are in the gradebook. This would suggest that peer grading is a legal way to grade papers as well as help the students learn. Even though peer grading is an acceptable form of grading, there are alternatives to learning that the teacher could implement in the future.

A teacher could stop peer grading and after personally grading the papers, review the graded work with the students. This option is probably the most efficient in terms of solving the parent’s problem, but it has a few setbacks. This option could create twice as much work for the teacher because the teacher would have to independently complete grading and then take time out of class to review the graded work for the students.

A teacher could also assign number ids or utilize an iclicker program. This would be effective in creating an anonymous environment in the classroom and all the students would still be doing peer grading. The downside is that it will take longer to grade and input graded work into the gradebook because of the ids. Another further advancement is clicker technology to in the classroom (See https://www1.iclicker.com/ ). Students are given a number that corresponds to a name in the teacher gradebook. It is a quick way to check success in the classroom and which students need more assistance. (see link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvmqI4lu55c ) With the iclicker program, teachers can spend less time grading quizzes. As far as economic costs, the main cost would be for the iclicker program to be implemented in the classroom. In my research, it looks like the software is free. The only costs are that of the remotes, which are 50$ apiece. That would be a one-time cost of $1000 in a classroom of 20 students, where quizzes can be done quickly, effectively, and teachers could monitor progress easily in both individual and grouped data.

As a teacher, I would combine the possible alternatives. I would effectively end peer grading for assignments done by students and would grade them myself. Because this option has the possibility of providing much more work to me as a teacher, I would petition the school for an iclicker program in the classroom. This would allow me to be an effective teacher, while respecting the parent’s wishes for anonymity of their child’s grades on homework. I would also be able to use the program to allow for real time polling in the classroom during lectures and to engage students in learning through technology. By making this decision, this would conform to both §247.2 3.31 because it would create the most anonymous environment for grading student’s assignments. As an individual who teaches children in a middle school classroom, I commit myself to the privacy and safety protected under student’s rights. I have implemented a plan of privacy for children in the classroom and assume responsibility for the consequences that my decisions may incur in the future. With this implementation, I believe students will learn more successfully without the need to feel embarrassed by their work.


Code of Ethics. (1975). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Owasso Independent School District No. I-011 v. Falvo. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2001/00-1073

Texas Administrative Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4

What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Teachers?

Teachers of integrity. Bullying. Ethical responsibilities of teachers in education have been in the limelight for years. Teachers have many responsibilities to their own professional staff and their students. The most important jobs that a teacher has are to teach the students and provide a safe environment for the student. The NEA and the Texas Code of Ethics outline many rules that teachers must follow in addition to that. Among the teacher’s ethical responsibilities are to not falsify records, engage in deceptive practices against the school, no alcohol on school property, keeping private records private through FERPA, not discriminating against students, not abusing students in any sense of the word, and refraining from inappropriate communication with students (Texas). Though the NEA and Texas Code of Ethics both talk about ethical responsibilities of teachers, the NEA references general guidelines to be followed in the ways of commitment to the profession and the student whereas the Texas Code of Ethics goes into more detail regarding specific policies and the responsibilities that a teacher must uphold to the school itself.

Teachers have the responsibility of keeping students’ records private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is similar to HIPAA for medical records. It says that parents have a right to access their child’s education records and amend them if they are believed to be inaccurate. The teacher side of that is thferpa-special-education-ieps-600x600at teachers need permission to disclose any personally identifiable information from education records (Family). This means that students and their work have a certain right to privacy under the law. Teachers have the responsibility to show grades only to that student, keep proper documents and information about students such as IEPS or 504 plans in a protected space not accessible by other students.

Teachers also have an ethical responsibility to the safety of their students, which amasses most of the teacher policies in the Texas Code of Ethics. One way teachers can protect students is through prevention of bullying. Even through the growing resources for awareness and education, bullying is a problem in schools that still exists in schools today. Bullying can be both perpetrated by boys and girls, but most of the time it is against the same sex of the bully in a show of dominance. Sometimes it can also be against the other sex. When it was published in 2011, Rodkin’s article reveals that 60% of 5th-7th grade girls reported being bullied by boys, and an astonishing 38% of them were sexually harassed.

This week, when researching bullying and the teacher’s ethical responsibility to help, I was reminded of my own experiences in school. I was bullied for 4 years in middle school. I faced a group of girls who teased me for how ugly I was because I wore glasses and a headband. Most of the bullying for two years was emotional bullying, being left out of things, and not invited to any parties when all the other girls were. In the last two years, it turned to sexual harassment every day by a group of boys in my grade. It eventually peaked when I was hit in the face by a male classmate and had a black eye for the next few days at school. My dad had to fight to get this boy suspended because the principal didn’t want to rub elbows with the secretary, who was his mom. I spent the rest of the year in 8th grade getting bullied nearly every day, feeling alone, and hating school.

One thing that bothered me in school was that I felt like I had no ally in my own teachers or my classmates. All this bullying happened in the open but the teachers never talked about the bullying in the classroom or created an environment to fix it. Rodkin talks about bullbullying-cartoonying and the different the many ways that teachers can prevent bullying by asking students about bullying, asking students about their relationships, changing classroom structure, utilizing antibullying curriculums, and recognizing some of the causes of bullying too.

To combat bullying, teachers should know about bullying and the potential for it to happen in their own classroom. They can ask students about bullying and gauge their knowledge of bullying in general. They should know the indicators of a bully or a potential bullying situation through knowing which students dislike each other and what students are at risk to be a bully or be bullied. They can ask students about their relationships with students at school to also gain knowledge about the class.

Another way teachers can prevent bullying is using the environment in the classroom. A teacher can pick leaders who are good models of appropriate behavior and have them be leaders inside and outside the classroom to prevent bullying (Rodkin). Teachers can also stay informed of ways to teach antibullying curriculums to be able to feel competent to teach about it or present media about bullying that is relevant to the student and their age. Being able to do this will encourage the teacher to promote all classmates being good friends and to stand up against bullies. Rodkin talks about the last way that teachers can tackle bullying: by understanding that bullying may be an outward expression of an inner struggle. Some bullies have other things going on at home and have anger problems. It is important as ethically responsible teachers to get to know the students and their struggles they may have.

Though ethic responsibilities for teachers is a list of almost thirty different guidelines, they can be summed up into few words: integrity and safety. Being a teacher of integrity will promote a more respectful environment in the classroom and promoting safety and kindness will minimize bullying and other forms of abuse. Many schools today have made great strides in trying to rid the classroom of bullies, and granted middle school for me was a little over a decade ago, but there is always room for improvement. Empowering teachers to feel competent to tackle bullying and be aware of the struggles of their students will promote a safe classroom, and maybe one day, bullying will never be something I must tackle with my own child.


Code of Ethics. (1975). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

H., & H. (2015). {ABCs of IEPs} F is for FERPA. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://adayinourshoes.com/FERPA-IEP-Special-Education/

Rodkin, P. C. (2011). Bullying — And the Power of Peers. Educational Leadership, 69(1), 10-16.

Stop Bullying Cartoon [Cartoon]. (n.d.). In Cartoonaday.com


Texas Administrative Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4