My Professional Growth Narrative

'I give the same advice to all new teachers. Pretend you know what you are doing.'

My greatest growth during student teaching: This would have to be my confidence. Going into student teaching, and especially the months prior, I was extremely nervous. I was fretting about what I would wear, what the students would think of me, how my lessons would go….I had even gotten to the point of stressing about my feet smelling bad. (Yes, I was really anxious). But once I started teaching, let go of my insecurities, and focused on my positives, I realized that I really did know what I was doing and I really could do this.

Stepping into my first day with a big smile and head held high, I learned that a confident face (even if you don’t feel it inside) makes all the difference. When I acted with authority and assumed authority, students gave me authority. And when I believed I was a teacher, my students did too. This has been my biggest growth. Now if anyone asks me about who I am or what I’m doing, I proudly say, “Yes, I am a teacher. Yes, I’m loving student teaching.”


My greatest professional challenge: This would definitely be learning Standards-Based Grading. Heading into my second placement, I had no idea what SBG meant or even stood for. I had to not only learn the grading system, but also accept it. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the grading system in both the middle school and the community. There were parents who weren’t educated on how it worked; there were parents dead set against it. There were even teachers who didn’t advocate for it, and my greatest challenge has been navigating through that, learning how to assess students, and implementing the grading system for my own assignments and projects.

sbgquestionsAt first I was hesitant about SBG, and if I’m being honest, I still am. There are aspects I don’t agree with–for example the late work policy, or the re-do opportunities–however, I love how SBG has challenged me, as a teacher, to generate individualized feedback and teach to every single student. I have been more personal with my students in grading. I have learned what they truly know and therefore been able to help them succeed through re-teaching. I could tell you what specific standards my students excel at and what ones they struggle with–and that in itself speaks for SBG and it’s benefits.

Though I am not a 100% advocate, I have learned to accept and implement the grading system. This has challenged me and allowed me to be, in my opinion, a better teacher. And I am thankful for that opportunity.


"I need a good book on classroom management. My class went from The Learning Channel to The Jerry Springer Show in one week."

My future plans/goals: As I complete my final weeks of student teaching, I think the one area that I still struggle with the most is behavior management. I feel that there’s a fine line between being a teacher whose classes students enjoy, and the tough teacher that no one respects. I want to skate on that line between fun and firm without losing out on either of the positives.

To help me with this, I plan on pursuing some classes or professional development in the area of behavior management. I think it’s important for me to learn how to be a successful teacher that demands respect, but still has an engaging, social classroom.

There are hundreds of resources online as well as workshops, classes, and webinars. Even with a busy schedule, this is something that I can do and I’m excited to keep bettering myself and my future students.


Marisa Donnelly-small (1)My name is Marisa Donnelly, born and raised in suburban Chicago and currently living in Northern Iowa. I have always been passionate about writing and reading. I wrote my first short-story at age eight featuring me and my pet guinea pig, Peanut, as the main characters stranded on a desert island. As an eight-year-old, I was driven to write by a teacher who bought every student a notebook and said, simply, ‘Write’. That was my first inspiration and what really made me want to be both a writer, and especially, a teacher.

Since that class, I’ve filled twenty-three different composition notebooks, own and post on five blogs, and currently carry at least three journals/diaries with me at all times. I’ve been published in several literary magazines: Crusader of Waldorf College, Catfish Creek of Loras College, The Tenth Muse of Clarke University, and one that is nationally-recognized, The Briar Cliff Review of Briar Cliff UniversityI also have blog posts published on Thought Catalog, PuckerMob, and Lies About Parenting.

In 2014, I was granted the Alpha Chi National Honors Society Research Grant to attend writing workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival of the University of Iowa. I attended two workshops, one in poetry and one in short-story writing in the summer of 2014. Currently I am free-lance writing and student teaching.

Writing is my passion, and I hope to inspire my students to write. In the Spring of 2014, I worked with middle school students in both writing and reading with the hope that I could influence them to think positively about English. For the past five years I have also worked as a writing tutor in Waldorf College’s Writing Center.

Not only am I passionate about writing, but I also play college softball. This past May marked my ninth and final year of playing, but I hope that I can pursue the sport through being a coach—thus the reason for my coaching endorsement.

My plans now that I have graduated are to finish student teaching and pursue a full-time teaching career as well as obtain my MFA in Creative Writing.

I am excited to continue my future in the education field and plan to be a successful teacher for any grade level or classroom in which I am placed.

Involving Parents

I know that students do better in the classroom when there is parent involvement; this is why I am going to communicate effectively with the parents of my students. When I talk with parents, I will include a student’s successes and triumphs in the classroom, as well as a student’s weaknesses and problems. I plan to have a conference at the start of the year to both introduce myself to the parents and have the parents get to know me. I will give an overview of myself as a teacher, my goals for the semester or year, and my teaching style. I will also gather parent emails and phone numbers from this initial conference, so that I am prepared if I ever need to speak with a parent about a compliment or concern.

In the beginning of the year, I will have my students fill out an inventory sheet to familiarize myself with their names and their involvement in and out of the classroom. This will give me an opportunity to gather all parent emails and phone numbers.

Other ways that I will involve parents in the classroom is through opportunities for involvement, such as chaperones for a fieldtrip or something outside of the classroom to involve parents. Another involvement option would be a website. With a website I can post information about my lessons, unit, and any other information a parent would be interested in knowing. This will help to keep parents involved in their children’s education. I will also hold a number of conferences throughout the year to keep the parents updated on their child’s progress.

Through these involvement strategies, I plan to be a teacher that not only educates but also communicates on a professional level.