Now that I am officially a teacher, it was time for me to something about the professional development plan I wrote at the end of the Master’s program.

The first component of my plan is intended to help me get a better handle on both differentiating instruction for special needs as well as on developing a teaching style that would meet the needs of (most) children seamlessly. My mother and other teachers had recommended 4MAT training as something that had been useful to them in their careers. So I found out that they offer online courses (useful, since the commute time is often prohibitive for me), and that two were offered this summer – a 6-session course and a 4-session course. I opted for the longer one (of course) since I think that more information can generally only be good.

I am so very glad I decided to do this! I am refining my understanding of and, in great measure, learning solidly for the first time, the way that the brain works during the entire learning cycle from experience through personal ownership of the information. Unfortunately, the Master’s program I was in did not give me the support I needed to make significant progress in understanding how to move from the theory of the learning cycle to the implementation in multi-modal or whole-brained instruction. The 4MAT course is doing this, and making a huge difference in how I think about my own instructional planning and presentation.

A real bonus is that this particular course is being taught by Dr. Bernice McCarthy herself, linking this course directly to some of the great educators of the 20th century. Her descriptions of her process as she developed the 4MAT system and the conversations with and support she had from people like Kolb and Eisner along the way help me make sense of things. Her excitement over the intersection of neurophysiology and education theory makes the discussions interesting as well as current.

This week, the homework is to begin to use the 4MAT cycle to plan a lesson. First hurdle: finding a lesson I want to teach! I am choosing grammar, specifically punctuation, since it’s something that so many students struggle with in middle school, and was also a sticking point for the students in the 5th grade. I am going with use of commas as a first point for instruction because those are the most common punctuation marks that are mis-used by middle school.

The framework for lesson planning is different from the “reverse engineering” idea promulgated by Wiggins and McTighe in their book . I am not sure yet which one will feel more comfortable to me, but the 4MAT seems to more completely consider the entire learning cycle.

Yes, I had intended to avoid study this summer, but this was an opportunity I felt I had to take! Next year, perhaps, I will go back and review and refine mathematics concepts so I am better able to substitute in math classes!