If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you are about to embark on the hardest journey of your teaching career thus far. You got this, friend.
I’m going to take you step by step of a few things I wished I had known before I started edTPA:
(As I’m telling you my tips the two things you should know about me are that I am an overachiever and perfectionist. I know I’m not alone in that, I’m writing these tips because I see you!.)
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1. Trust Your Professors
This was the first lesson I learned at our edTPA Kickoff meeting via Zoom. We were going over rubrics, grading, the fact that this is the last step we needed to take in order to get our degree. If we didn’t pass our degree would be delayed and we would have to extend the time we were working on edTPA while teaching full-time in our classrooms. (No pressure or anything.)
I was FREAKING. OUT. Until one of the guest speakers said, “All you need to do is trust your professors. This isn’t their first rodeo and their job is to help you.” And that’s when I could breathe again. Think about how much you love your students and want them to succeed. That’s (hopefully) the way your professors think about you! The edTPA graders are there to help you grow, not to watch you fail.
2. Change Your Mindset
As I mentioned before, I’m pretty high strung. If someone tells me there’s a 5 on the rubric, but I only need a 3 to pass – I shoot for the 5 anyways. I’m a big believer in the expression, “Shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Well, that saying doesn’t exactly apply to edTPA. In other words, if you think, “I’m going to try to get 5s or even a 4, because even if I mess up a little bit, it will bring my score down to a 3.” I’m here to tell you, just stick to the three.
The reason I say that is because I had a professor who had been an edTPA professor and grader for many years. She told me in one of our tutoring sessions that in her career, she had only seen a handful of 5s. That’s not consecutive 5s across the board, it’s a 5 in one category/task. I stressed for MONTHS about trying to get a perfect score and it didn’t do me any good! When I heard my professor say that, I gave myself permission to take a step back and focus on getting what I needed instead of the crazy ideal that I wanted.
3. Meet With Your Professor As Often As You Can
If your professor is holding a workshop, even an informal one, go! If your professor is offering appointments to help students during office hours, sign up! These meetings with my professor were crucial to helping me pass edTPA. Even if it was just so I could show her what I was working on and get the pat on the head I needed to keep going. I had so many misconceptions about edTPA and my professor really helped clear them up for me so I could do my best work. Sometimes, I was the only one that showed up to informal workshops and got hours of one on one time my professor had already carved out into her schedule and it was awesome. Just like we tell our students, “Don’t feel silly or dumb for asking for help. The smartest people are the ones who ask the most questions.”
4. Your Goal is NOT to Entertain Your Reader
There are people who are paid to read over commentaries and tasks, they are called your edTPA readers.
This was a challenge for me because I love writing! Blog posts, journal entries, newspaper articles, you name it. My brain was thinking, “I’m going to make this interesting and fun to read so I stand out. That way I’ll at least get points for creativity, right?” Wrong. I ended up deleting HOURS of work after my professor read my commentaries because she said all I need to do is stick to the rubrics. That is all the reader is going to be looking for, they aren’t looking for the best essays.
That being said, you do want a HAPPY reader. Yes, there is a difference. A happy reader is one that looks for bolded key words (the same ones that are bolded in the rubrics) so they can look at the rubric and your commentary and check things off as they go.
5. Video EVERYTHING!!!
My professor had over 100 students to help the semester I was working on edTPA (she is a rock star.) That meant I had to wait a long time for feedback and video feedback took the longest because she had to watch hours and hours of her students’ edTPA lessons. I videoed everything in my lessons, including the really boring parts where students were just working on packets I had made. Every time my students saw my video camera come out (which was just my iPhone) they would say, “Oh it’s time to do Miss Scott’s homework!”
I submitted what I thought would be perfect for the rubrics and waited a few weeks until I got feedback that the videos actually didn’t match up with the rubrics. At this point, it was a week before I had to submit edTPA to the graders. I didn’t have time to recreate my lesson and video again. (This wouldn’t work either, because the kiddos had already had the lesson so they wouldn’t have been as engaged.) Luckily, because I had videoed everything, I could pull other parts of my videos and resend them to my professor. It was one of the best choices I made during this time.
Side Note: Don’t be discouraged from submitting a video if it doesn’t look perfect. I was filming during the Corona Virus pandemic and submitted a video of a student handing me a can of Lysol they forgot their mom had sent with them in the middle of me giving instructions. The second video, I had a student yell they were bleeding. The graders know that real-life situations happen.
I hope this helps! If you’re about to start your edTPA journey, you are going to do awesome! Just remember, you don’t need to get a perfect score to be the perfect teacher for your students!
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