Ashley Hall's Professional Education Portfolio

K-12 Certified Music Educator

Substandard H


Facilitation of learning and achievement of all students (in accordance with the SBE Universal Education Vision and Principles), including the ability to:

h. Exercise informed judgment in planning and managing time and resources to attain goals and objectives;

When reflecting over the Professional Standards for Michigan Teachers, I was instantly drawn to this standard. I believe the ability for a child to learn is not only in the hands of the educator, but completely capable of adaptation and development through those educator’s hands. Of course identifying a standard that promotes educators to become facilitators of learning and achievement for all their students would enthrall me! It was sub-standard h, however, that caught my attention and brought me some perspective on an incident that occurred recently in Mrs. Goheen’s class at the Albion Public High School while I was teaching a lesson this past month…

For my lesson plan, I worked cross-curricularly with elements of history, music, and literature and prepared a lesson plan for a 10th grade English course preparing to finish the novel Of Mice and Men. I intertwined factual information regarding the Great Depression with the reflective quality of Woody Guthrie’s protest genre music, followed up by identifying how the themes present in the novel Of Mice and Men relate to what was happening during the Great Depression, the time when Guthrie was writing and performing his music.

I started the class out with a brainstorm activity worksheet with the word, “The Great Depression” in the middle of a central bubble. I gave them approximately five to eight minutes to create as many branches as they could off of the central word, writing down any word, theme, idea, or event that they felt may be related to the Great Depression. From these branches, I wanted the children to find four specific themes from which we would continue to branch out of when we came together and combined our individual brainstorm sheets to create one classroom brainstorm sheet (now a reference sheet) for student use. The themes I was looking to have the students identify were; the dust bowl, the crash of 1929, family/poverty, and government/jobs. Knowing that these students had just started the Great Depression in their history courses, I felt the lesson plan would be able to be adequately completed to a descent level.

When I asked the class to start volunteering answers, the first word to come up was “poverty.” Excitedly, I put in up on the board in its own branch off the central bubble. The next few words followed a similar theme; starvation, job loss, death, being poor. Again, I wrote these words excited on the board, thinking how thoroughly these students were to pick one topic and complete this bubble before moving on the next theme. However, new words didn’t start coming to me; the students stayed on the topic of poverty and its related consequences. I began prompting them to help them form new ideas of words I wanted, such as “What was happening out west with the farmers? Their crops? The weather?” Still, nothing.

Because the effects of the Dust Bowl were the influencing factors in both John Steinbeck’s novel and Woody Guthrie’s music, I really needed the students hit that topic. Again, I knew they had covered it in their history class earlier this week, but they still weren’t getting it. I then gave up the word as an idea for a bubble, saying, “Hey, what do you think about the Dust Bowl?” and still, no takers. I then proceeded to write it on the board and begin loosely discussing it. Their eyes were blank and the frustration of my lesson plan not going as I planned was beginning to crush me. I needed the students to understand this theme; otherwise the rest of my lesson plan would seem null and void. I continued, soon moving onto a video clip of Woody Guthrie that helped recapture some of the classes’ attention.

It wasn’t until after I had taught the entire lesson plan, left the school, then being reflecting on what happened and why until I realized something very important I didn’t take into consideration before beginning work on the lesson plan for this group; and that was their background. Nearly every student in that school is part of the Albion community, a community that suffers financially and is ridden with poverty, crime, and suffrage. It wasn’t until then that I realized an adequate theme for them would be something more along the lines of poverty, and not the Dust Bowl, because it was something many of them so strongly related with in their own homes or the homes of their family and friends.

When I teach future lessons within the Albion community schools I know now, more than ever, to remember that I need to adapt my lessons to include and work with the resources that I know my students have the most experience with. In doing so, it will make the newer experiences with which they are not so familiar, less of a traumatic, stressful moment and more of a informed, facilitated learning moment.

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