Reflections on My Professional Practice

Alida J. Lucas

May 2006

The key to reflection is learning how to take perspective on one's own actions and experience…that leads to purposeful learning --derived not from books or experts, but from their work and own lives.[1] Personally reflecting on my teaching and coaching practices has helped my work to become directed, realistic, and purposeful.

Highlights of my Career

Teaching is my second career. I began my teaching career later in life after spending 15 years working as a Flight Attendant for United Airlines. By the time I entered the teaching profession my family was complete. My 3 children were already well entrenched into the public school system. One of my twin boys had been diagnosed with an auditory learning disability and Attention Deficit Disorder in first grade and was receiving special education services through a "pullout" program. I began my teaching career teaching 4th grade in very middle class school (Decker). Because of my son, as well as my degree in Child Development I began teaching with very strong beliefs about the necessity to differentiate the curriculum for struggling learners. Soon I was seen in the community as a strong advocate/support for not only these special learners, but also for their parents. As more and more parents began requesting me for their struggling learners, I found it necessary to "put my money where my mouth was", and find new and innovative ways to manage my classroom, as well as differentiate my curriculum to meet the needs of my students.

After 6 years of teaching 4th and 5th graders at Decker, I was given the opportunity to change the course of my career. I was asked to come and teach 2nd grade in an "inner city" school (Pueblo). This school site had and continues to have lots of challenges. Approximately 95% of the student body consists of 2nd language learners (Spanish speaking) and qualify for free lunch. In addition, I was hired as a Teaching Teacher Specialist. As a Teaching Teacher Specialist I was expected to not only manage a regular classroom but I was also expected to mentor both new and experienced teachers in best teaching practices.

Mid year of my 2nd year at Pueblo, I was asked by the principal to help design as well as to teach in a new school. This school was to be a school within a school for struggling Pueblo 1st and 2nd graders. These students had to be testing at least 1 year below grade level in reading, not be a candidate for special education, and not have any severe attendance issues. The Village Educational Resource Center (VERC) was designed as an intervention school and the 1st elementary alternative school in the state of California. The idea behind the VERC was to enroll students for up to a maximum of 1 year in an intensive intervention program that focused in on the basics of reading, writing, and math (number sense). Because the VERC was considered an Alternative school, we did not have to use the state adopted curriculum/programs. We were allowed to adopt and use a curriculum as well as programs that we had specifically chosen to address the needs our struggling student population. Lessons were directly taught in a 5-step lesson plan and interventions/differentiation strategies were used based on student/class needs.

After spending a year and a half at the VERC, I left the classroom to take a job as a Reading Coach/Teacher Specialist. My job was to assist school sites by working directly with K-3 teachers at our lowest performing schools--assisting them with meeting the requirements of the federally funded Reading First Grant. The grant required teachers to directly and systematically teach reading to K-3 students using identified key skills/concepts (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, & comprehension) as well as research-supported methods considered pivotal to reading development. My job was to cognitively coach and support teachers in the use of these strategies and methods.  The beginning steps of the coaching process often involved teacher observation and reflection, next steps included the sharing of strategies, modeling, as well as planning that would eventually lead to new and more effective teaching and learning opportunities for our students.

With the possible ending of the Reading First Grant in Pomona, I accepted a job as a district Teacher Specialist (TS) in the area of English Language Development (ELD). As an ELD/TS it is currently my job to assist in training, coaching, and supporting K-6 teachers in instructing our very large 2nd language learner population in Pomona.  I work with teachers to not only effectively implement our adopted English Language Development programs, but to also in finding ways to expand those lessons/strategies into the other content areas.


I have done many lessons and presentations throughout my career. Click here to see some of my PowerPoints converted to HTML. Here are some of my lessons and supporting documents.


Reflecting on my Growth and Change as an Educator

Early on I discovered that what teaching practices/lessons that had been successful with my 4th and 5th graders at Decker, did not work as well with my 2nd graders at Pueblo. First of all, after assessing my student's reading levels I discovered that ALL of my students were reading at the pre-primer level except for 2 who were reading at the 1st grade level. Interestingly, these 2 students were special education students with active IEPs. I had 2 newcomers to English in my class, who literally did not know enough English to even do the basics in class. So although my Decker teaching experience should have prepared me for teaching at Pueblo, it did not. Even though I was already well versed in differentiation for different levels of students, I was not prepared to deal with an entire class of students reading far below grade level who were mostly second language learners. It was obvious that most if not all of my students were lacking the basics skills that were necessary to meet 2nd grade standards. So, after some reflection, I developed a plan to teach the basics of reading, writing, and number sense. I took what I already knew about differentiation and added a lot of small, leveled group instruction in reading, writing, and math. Because in California we are still required to teach grade level content standards, with the help of my grade level colleagues, we carefully "unwrapped" the current 2nd grade Language Arts and math standards into their most basic student friendly components, thus making them more attainable. Because most of my students were 2nd language learners, I added a lot of visuals as well as the use of computer and SmartBoard technology. To further support classroom learning, I managed to get my hands on an extra set of leveled readers that I sent home to help with reading practice. Many of my students did not have books at home to practice their reading. I met with parents whenever possible in order to mentor them in how to best to support their children at school and at home. Since I am not fluent in Spanish, I had many of my school to home communications translated to Spanish. Very slowly, my students began to improve that year. Although most were still not reading at grade level at the end of the year…they had made good progress towards that goal.

I took these teaching practices/strategies and experiences with me when I transferred to my new teaching position at the VERC. Again after reflecting, I felt challenged to adapt my teaching to meet the needs of my students.  Therefore I added a direct instruction model, as well as lots of manipulatives to my daily lessons. One week into my new assignment, I was asked to teach a lesson that was to be filmed and played for the then Governor of California.

When I left the VERC to become a reading coach, I was again forced to evolve and grow in my practices. Although a lot of what I already knew as effective teaching practices were confirmed though Reading First, I was now required to become an "expert" in the 5 areas of reading instruction that were identified as critical to effective teaching. In addition, I learned about the importance of checking for understanding, providing additional "wait time," and appropriate reteaching as part of the direct instruction model.

I am currently working with teachers as a Teacher Specialist in English Language Development. As such I am in the process of developing best practices in this important area. Formal Evaluation for 2006


 Reflective Practice Equals Enhanced Practice

In teaching it is easy to play the "blame game". Teachers lament that their students do not succeed for a myriad of reasons, none of which are usually related to actual classroom instruction. Teacher's often tend to blame lack of student success on things outside of the teacher's control like lack of parental involvement, lack of administrative support, and too many standards to teach etc. Focusing in on things that one has no control over will lead to frustration and in my opinion to teacher burnout.

With federal No Child Left Behind legislation driving education in this country, there is more and more emphasis on teacher accountability. Now what teachers teach on a day-to-day basis in the classroom is assessed by a yearly mandated "high stakes" test. In California this test does not take into consideration ANY social or economic reasons for student failure. Therefore in order to be successful good teachers have no choice but to reflect on their teaching, and make changes that are necessary to meet the learning needs of their students. Self-reflection has to be on going, linked to classroom practices, and should always lead to positive changes in instructional practices. In Pomona we assess our students 4 times a year (District Wide Assessments). These assessments are standards based and used as a way to gauge how well students will do on the yearly "high stakes" California Standards Test (CST's). Three times a year teachers meet in grade level teams to analyze this test data and to plan instruction. The idea is that teachers can target in on what is working in the classroom as well as what it not working. This allows for teachers to reflect not only on their teaching practices but also gives them the opportunity to share and grow from this reflection.

In my school district we always begin our school year by setting goals and formally writing process objectives. These process objectives are written from the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. After writing  process objectives, teachers meet with an administrator to review, discuss and reflect on their objectives from the previous year as well as to discuss any changes that will be made to the current year's objectives. As defined by Osterman and Kottkamp in their book Reflective Practice for Educators, the purpose of this type of reflective practice is to develop a critical awareness about our own professional practice.[2]  Thus through this process teachers have the opportunity to personally examine their growth as educators and to develop iways to continue to positively develop in their craft. "The key to reflection is learning how to take perspective on one's own actions and experience…that leads to purposeful learning --derived not from books or experts, but from their work and own lives."[3] Personally reflecting on my own teaching and coaching practices has lead to positive changes in both my classroom and out of classroom practices


Primary Influences of the MSEd Program on My Practice

I think that this program provided another vehicle for self-reflection and growth. Many research based ideas and strategies presented in this program have been used to help strengthen my basic foundation and beliefs as an educator. In addition, I have used these foundational ideas and strategies to help me in supporting and coaching other teachers in my job as a Teacher Specialist.

I think that the single most important thing that I learned from this program is that there is always more to learn. Although education is rooted years of research, history, and tradition, it is not stagnant. It is a living thing that continues to grow and evolve in the same way that our students continue to grow and evolve. It is our job as teachers to also grow and evolve in positive ways. However, I think that it is important to say that when dealing with ways to change and evolve we need to be judicious…carefully and continually evaluating and adopting ideas and philosophies that are good for our students. Our students are depending on us to not just be current in our educational practices, but to also be selective about which of these practices we apply in our classrooms.


My Philosophy of Educational Practice

I think that first and foremost, I believe that ALL students can learn and that it is our job as educators to find the sometimes elusive key that will open the door to learning for ALL of our students. I also believe that neither teaching nor learning can be done in isolation. Support must be enlisted from administrators, peers/colleagues, parents, and even the students themselves. It is a partnership where everyone, including the student, has a role and therefore is responsible for the outcome. I think that educators must also maintain high expectations for their students because students learn as little or as much as their teachers expect. Teachers must be "life-long" learners, always willing finding new and or different ways to perfect their craft.  Beyond teaching the basics, it is vitally important to teach our students how to think, reason, and effectively problem solve. These are "life skills" that support students in being self-directed and ready to meet, as well as to adapt to the demands of our ever-changing world.

Resumé and More About Me

This is my current resumé and a few of my favorite pictures.

Where I am Headed From Here?

As a life-long learner, I am constantly setting, reflecting, and adjusting my educational goals and objectives. My current educational goals include:


Advice to Others Entering the Teaching Profession

In my job as a Teacher Specialist, I often have the opportunity to give advice to new teachers. These are some of the ideas that I share with new teachers.

Teachers should have:

o      A knowledge of how children/adolescents development

o      A sense of humor

o      A love of children and of the profession

o      A "never give up" attitude

o      Good communication & negotiation skills

o      The desire and the ability to collaborate with your staff, administrators, & parents

o      Empathy for ALL students & parents

o      The ability to multi-task

o      The ability to "think on your feet"

o      The ability to admit that you don't know it all and seek help

o      A desire to be a lifelong learner

o      The ability to laugh at yourself

o      Great management skills

o      The ability to discipline with love and respect

o      The ability to give yourself permission to make mistakes

o      A positive attitude

Teachers also need to remember :

o      Stay away from gossip and negative staff members

o      Seek out positive and supportive colleagues

o      Make time for yourself and your family

o      Find good ways to reduce stress.

o      Act as role models for their students

o      Dress for success

o      Important words of wisdom: Children Will Listen

o      ALWAYS teach with Enthusiasm, Sensitivity, Heart, Humor and most importantly PASSION


[1] Amulya, Joy. 2003. "What is Reflective Practice?" The  Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT. 26, May 2006 <>

[2] Osterman, Karen F. and Robert B. Kottkamp. 1993. "Reflective Practice for Educators Improving Schooling Through Professional Development." 26 May, 2006 <>

[3] Amulya, Joy. 2003. "What is Reflective Practice?" The  Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT. 26, May 2006 <>