Tina Repetti-Renzullo - McKinley School
The Teaching Profession
Teaching is a dynamic, demanding, and rewarding profession. Each classroom is a microcosm of our larger communities and within that space the hopes and aspirations for our future prosperity are cultivated. There is constant interplay in a classroom between individual knowledge, experiences, learning styles, social relationships, and curricular goals. It is the teacher’s ability to integrate these variables that creates daily opportunities for success. In addition to deep content knowledge, teachers should know how to motivate, inspire and challenge their students so that they move beyond the comfort of performing acceptably and into the power of accomplishing excellently. Planning lessons, analyzing student work and progress, collaborating with other teachers, and enhancing one’s own knowledge - all require work beyond the school bell’s ring. Teachers should reflect upon their instructional practices and consider the needs of their students on a constant basis. Being charged with the education of our youth demonstrates the ultimate trust and confidence of our communities. It is edifying to know that a teacher’s work enhances the economic and social vitality of the community. Yet, what holds the greatest reward for a teacher, is witnessing the intellectual and personal growth of students and the moments when their expressions reveal a new confidence in their abilities.
I strengthen the teaching profession by providing collegial support grounded in a personal conviction to fulfill my potential. I believe our efficacy as professionals is enhanced by joining together and assisting each other, so I engage in collaboration in many ways. On my campus, our grade level team gathers formally for bi-weekly meetings. We analyze student work and assessment data, establish differentiation and modification plans to meet the needs of our students, and pool our resources – in order that our talents are shared not only with our own classes, but with all of the children in our grade level. I approach these meetings with a spirit of partnership and an acknowledgment of my own accountability to each member of my team. My colleagues know my strengths and limitations and I know theirs. The cohesion and trust that has developed within our group is evident in our willingness to recognize areas of need, to work towards solutions, and to support one another’s best efforts to implement them.
Beyond my school site, I collaborate with twelve other kindergarten teachers in a professional learning community. As co-leader of our group I guide our work around language arts instruction. I have been able to share my best practices, to learn new strategies, and to delve into topics which concern our local population. We worked specifically on creating tools for writing instruction and we developed genre-specific rubrics for use as instructional and evaluative instruments. It was our goal to norm our expectations for student writing and to enhance the writing abilities of our students so that, upon entry into first grade, they would be prepared to use the characteristics of different genre in their writing. Our work was successful and we will continue to refine these tools this coming school year and then share them with the rest of the kindergarten teachers in the district.
Early in my teaching career, I benefited from the mentoring relationships I formed with seasoned teachers. Their willingness to share their experiences and to be constructive critics enabled me to quickly learn how to manage my classroom and meet the demands of teaching. I have since had the opportunity to mentor other teachers as a BTSA Support Provider, as a Literacy Coach for teachers from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and as a Curriculum Resource Teacher for teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade. This past year I welcomed a veteran teacher into my room for the duration of the second semester and helped to improve her instructional delivery and classroom management skills. Each of these positions had its unique approach and presented its own challenges but the intended outcomes were always to enhance the teacher’s practice and to improve student learning. It is very gratifying to encounter teachers I have mentored and hear of their ongoing success.
Teacher accountability and the evaluation process is certainly a hot topic and one that currently divides school administrators and teacher unions. As professionals, teachers are hired to do specific jobs and it is appropriate for employers to evaluate and teachers to be held accountable to the quality of their work. The instruments used to make that evaluation should measure teaching practices and effectiveness using fair and objective means. The current evaluation form used by my district utilizes the California Standards for the Teaching Profession as the basis for rating teacher effectiveness. I think this format could be enhanced in two ways. Currently, teachers are rated as either “satisfactory,” “needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory.” By adding a fourth rating of “exceeds standard”, the opportunity for encouraging, acknowledging, and rewarding exceptional work is provided. Secondly, adding numerical values and weights to each of the evaluated standards and assigning numerical ranges to each evaluation rating would allow a quantified analysis of a teacher’s performance. The weights would define the degree of importance of one standard compared to another, while the ranges would delineate a teacher’s level of accomplishment within the standard. These expansions to the current format would make clear the standards and expectations by which accountability is implemented and judged.