My year at the School of Education has fundamentally shaped how I think about, feel about, and practice education. I came into the program knowing that I wanted to be the best educator I could be, but I did not have a complete understanding of how I might accomplish that goal. While working alongside an array of accomplished fellow graduate students and underneath a series of similarly impressive professors, I have become more prepared to grow as a teacher when I become a licensed practitioner. One year ago, I was introduced to the four strands of the School of Education Conceptual Framework. The design is for me to have gained competency in content knowledge, reflective practices, collaborative interactions, and educational leadership. When I first came into contact with the Conceptual Framework, I did not fully understand the merits of its four strands. Now, having completed my student teaching experience at Phoebus High School, I am beginning to appreciate how important these strands will be to my goals as a teacher in the future.

I built my foundation as a content expert years before I entered the School of Education. Entering William and Mary, I completed every social studies course offered at my high school in Barrington, Rhode Island, including AP US History and AP World History. During my time in high school, I decided that I wanted to become a social studies teacher. I was inspired by the brilliant content experts who created wonderful, discussion based learning environments. I resolved that I should use my time at William and Mary to further my interest in history and government and then focus my pursuit of educational studies to a fifth year in the graduate program. I brushed aside my general requirements in my first year as an undergraduate and spent the next two years taking mostly social studies courses. In the history department, I took a litany of American history courses and became fascinated by the role of education in the development of antislavery ideologies in the North before the Civil War. My third year as an undergraduate, I completed an honors thesis on that very subject, finding interesting evidence to support my suspicions that students were learning antislavery ideologies in their time at school. As I wrote my thesis, I learned a great deal about how to communicate my findings to the general public, a skill that would help me tremendously as I teach this year and in the future.

If there is one consistent thread through the program at the School of Education, it would have to be the art of the reflection. Every class and every professor has emphasized the vital importance of constant and useful reflection. When working as a teacher, those who do not reflect do not improve. Unlike many other jobs, teachers have only occasional observations from superiors - they are, for the most part, their own boss. To improve, a teacher cannot ask a manager to give suggestions. A teacher must simply ask himself how to improve. This is a difficult skill to develop, but I think the School of Education has given me the temperament to be reflective as a reflexive instinct. As a observe students during my teaching, I am continuously wondering how I might better their learning experience. I am aware of the process of education, and how reflecting allows me to always adapt my teaching to fit the needs of my students. Going forward, I will always be a reflective practitioner because I know that it pays dividends for my students.

Unfortunately, collaborating as a student is becoming a lost art. All too often in college, professors assign only individual work and students can feasibly receive an undergraduate degree without ever having collaborated to complete an assignment for a class. This is definitely not the case with the School of Education. Despite the fact that designing collaborative assignments is far more difficult, professors strove to create a collaborative environment. At my student teaching experience, I collaborated constantly with my cooperating teacher and my special education co-teacher. We designed lessons together, created behavior plans as a team, and collaborated for effective professional development. Additionally, I attended a great deal of meetings with other teachers and administrators to hone my ability to benefit as much as possible from all of my time as an educator. While at school and at home, I work to collaborate and learn from my peers. Aside from that, I also have been able to attend many meetings with parents and other family members. I learned during these meetings how to communicate with parents and work with them to help improve their student's learning experience.

Educational leadership is an important aspect of any teacher's professional aspirations. Each educator enters the profession with a certain set of ideas as to how to improve student outcomes. During my time at Phoebus High School, I worked alongside an educational leader. She took my under her wing and showed me how she came into the position she holds as a respected teacher in her district. The first rule for educational leadership is quite clearly commitment; the more committed we are as teachers, the more our students and fellow professionals will come to respect us as leaders. Without commitment, a leader simply has a title. My cooperating teacher also became a school leader because she built strong relationships with other teachers and administrators. She does the intangible things well: remembers birthdays, celebrates holidays, thanks everyone, and happily helps anyone who needs her assistance. However, she also is well read in educational policy and advocates for her beliefs when she thinks it will help her students. I have learned much from her guidance, and I feel that I will be able to be an excellent educational leader when the opportunity presents itself.

Reflecting upon these four pillars of the School of Education has allowed me to focus my experience as a teacher into a culminating thought. The art of teaching is the art of preparation. As teachers, we must make our job look easy by knowing our content backwards and forwards. As teachers, we must do our heavy lifting after school, when there are no students around and we have time to reflect on the successes and failures of our day's work. As teachers, we must use every collaborator at our disposal so that when our students arrive at the bell, we are not working alone but with the combined efforts of many. As teachers, we must reflect on our profession and lead other teachers to better pedagogical practice. Our students will never know about this work we do, nor should they. Our job is to create a learning environment that welcomes all students into the classroom. I feel prepared to do so in my future teaching.