End of the Trail, Beginning of the Journey...
Organizing the core elements of my professional life as an educator into a single comprehensive document, structured as a professional portfolio, has truly been a growth experience for me. All of the thoughts, ideas, passions, and perspectives were in my head somewhere, but it was both challenging and rewarding to examine them in depth and state them in so many words. The portfolio itself was originally created as part of the Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning program at Nova Southeastern University, which I completed in 2003. Since then, I have continued to grow as a professional educator. This growth is reflected by the updated artifacts and professional portrait information.
In referring graduate students to my portfolio as a reference and example, I realized that it was sorely in need of an update. Every element of the portfolio has been updated, and the structure has been streamlined and improved. Like the original creation of the portfolio, this revision process has been challenging and rewarding, as I have taken another reflective look at my teaching and professional career in education. I did decide to keep the same pictures, since I looked younger five years ago.
The artifacts created and included in this portfolio include a wide variety of teaching tools implemented in my classroom. Each artifact was used in at least one of my music classes or in my work with the MATL program. Taken collectively, the artifacts demonstrate professional capability, creativity, and significant professional growth. Those artifacts used directly with my music students, such as the individual reflection and the brainstorming web, elicited strong responses from my students. They helped create a more interactive, student-centered environment in my classroom. The problem statement guidelines and graphic organizers are creative approaches toward addressing the needs of my graduate students in an online delivery system. Some of the most dramatic growth I have experienced in recent years has been through the incorporation of the World Music Drumming curriculum, as evidenced by the website and sample set I created to facilitate the curriculum.
The creation of this portfolio has been an important part of discovering, implementing, and evaluating new teaching tools in my classroom. I have seen a dramatic increase in the motivation, cooperation, and reflection skills of my students through the implementation of new ideas. In order to do so, I challenged myself to step away from the routine, away from the mundane, and to embrace new instruction and assessment strategies whole-heartedly. While this was sometimes uncomfortable, it allowed me the opportunity to grow in ways I had not thought possible prior to creating this portfolio. The portfolio itself was not the means of this transformation, simply a catalyst and reflection of the process.
In creating the Hyper-text Markup Language (HTML) version of this portfolio, I stretched myself from a technological standpoint as well. Prior to creating the portfolio, I had limited experience with HTML design. I had originally planned to create my portfolio the old-fashioned way, piling a stack of paper documents into a three-ring binder and attempting to form a creative structure for the whole thing. After looking through the course materials for Action Research in Practice (a course which focused on portfolios as tools for professional development) and viewing examples of digital portfolios, I was inspired to take my limited knowledge of HTML design and create my own. During the process, I became intimately familiar with structuring an HTML document, incorporating images and other files, and including assignments and artifacts in the document. Other technological challenges I faced during the creation of the portfolio included learning how to burn the file to CD-ROM and developing a cohesive theme for the portfolio itself.
One of the most important aspects of the portfolio creation process was the emphasis on personal reflection. As I prepared each artifact for inclusion in the portfolio, I reflected on the process of implementation as well as the effect the artifact had on my teaching and professional development. In a broader sense, I reflected on the past, present, and future status of my career as an educator as I put together a new résumé, revisited my philosophy of teaching and learning, and developed my goals for both teaching and professional development. While this reflection was a requirement of the MATL program, I saw the value of the process as I worked through the past year. My greatest inspiration for continued reflection was from my students: as I observed their increased enthusiasm and awareness of their own learning, I was inspired to personally develop a more reflective view of my teaching and professional development.
In the future, I will continue to develop this portfolio as a living document, a portrait of Matthew Reece as a professional educator. Having seen the value of reflective analysis, I will continue to regularly and rigorously evaluate my own teaching and professional development. I will also regularly revisit my professional goals and evaluate my progress toward meeting them. I would also like to include a multimedia section in this portfolio, incorporating audio and video clips of my teaching and of my choirs’ performances.
Throughout the portfolio development and revision process, I have grown as an educator and as a musician. I hope to continue this growth, and this portfolio will be a helpful tool in demonstrating and evaluating my continued professional development.
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the
inexpressible is music.