Module 5 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency and demonstrate a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

But first, a brief anecdote:

They said the meeting would focus on “technology.”

We sat together (after a day of trying to help adolescents learn new things) and listened to step-by-step instructions on how to use each of our school’s tech tools.  The attendance tracker, the grade book, the google suite. 

To tell you the nasty truth, this busy, tired, first-year teacher was pretty annoyed.  I had lessons to plan and papers to grade, but was forced to sit there while a relatively small group of my colleagues learned how to pin tabs in a web browser, initiate a Google hangout, etc.  I didn’t need what they needed. I had hoped that this “technology” meeting would equip me with tools I might use to make English Language Arts come alive for the brooding teens I love so much.  But my colleagues – I really do love them very much – weren’t ready for any of that.  They wanted to know where the shared documents are hiding on the Google suite (Oh, well, you can find them under the “shared with me” tab.)

Here’s the problem with keeping teachers up to speed on technology: we all start in different places.  One colleague at my school is blazing a trail for kids with special needs to design and create products using 3D printers. At the other end of the spectrum, one dear teacher-friend of mine sincerely believes that data is deleted when she toggles between different sheets on Excel. The rest of us find ourselves scattered between these poles.

Standard 5 asks teachers to commit to their own ongoing growth in technological proficiency, and it asks them to demonstrate a vision of this for others. The vignette above shows, I think, both how overwhelming this can feel and how necessary it is. So here’s my personal question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency while demonstrating a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

And here are the partial answers I’ve picked up over the first 3 quarters of my first year:

“A classroom educator’s primary job is understood to be covering the assigned content and ensuring that students test well. Many educators do not have the information, the time, or the incentives to continuously improve their professional practice” (39).

1.) Beginners aren’t exempt from leadership, especially when it comes to technology.

While I might not lead the school in tech integration, this is a realm in which I can make a contribution.

At first, It was tempted to shrug off parts of this standard: “exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.” Who am I to exhibit any kind of leadership, especially when the guy down the hall just printed a chess set?! And I just got here!

But it was unfair of me to take this stance. I work with a bunch of knowledgeable sweethearts, and any success I have achieved in my first year was made possible by their help. Coworkers have shared curriculum, advice, planning methods, and grading systems. Some of the teachers who’ve been so helpful to me are the ones who asked about how to access shared documents and pin tabs.

I take for granted that these things come easily to me. If I’m intimidated by ISTE Education Standards, I can’t imagine how it feels to be the person who’s still a little overwhelmed by the Google suite. One way that I can begin to demonstrate vision for technology infusion is to first share my excitement and my knowledge of these little tricks.

There are a ton of knowledgeable and experienced teachers who are afraid of the bigger changes in ed tech because they’re struggling with the “regular tech” that new teachers [use]. The support needed among my school’s faculty requires relational initiative; while I’m not a world-class tech expert, I am pretty friendly. One easy step toward demonstrating a vision for technology infusion is to help even the playing field among faculty members by sharing my excitement and knowledge about these little tricks.

2.) Comfort with the technology of daily life does not automatically boost student learning.

This module’s reading pointed out that “Young teachers are similar to their students in that they… are comfortable interacting with digital devices and accessing the internet as their students are. Still, this does not mean they understand how to use the technology of their daily lives to improve their teaching practices” (44).

While it’s true that technology integration feels more obvious and organic to me than it does to some of my more seasoned teacher friends, comfort with technology does not automatically translate into increased student learning. The standard doesn’t ask me to be handy with a computer, it asks me to “make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.” If I want to leverage technology to support student learning, I need to explore “existing and emerging digital tools.” Fortunately, independent professional growth is easier than ever before. In her post about standard 5, my friend Marjorie shared about a curated list of teacher tech tools, available at ala.org.  They’ve even organized their suggestions into categories:  Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Manage & Organize, Social Networking & Communication, Content Resources, Curriculum Collaboration.  After just a few minutes of poking around, I found two resources I’ll likely use in an upcoming unit on the history of the US Presidency.

3.) Modern technology promises to make Professional Development easier than ever before.

I can see why some teachers roll their eyes at professional development. As my vignette above illustrates, trying to bring a diverse staff up to speed on a topic as broad as “technology” seems like an impossible task. With so many different levels of knowledge, experience, and willingness, it’s difficult for education leaders to help teachers “develop” together.

Our reading talked about the ways in which educators can personalize learning for our students (page 41), but the personal possibilities apply to teachers, too. We can leverage online trainings and resource sharing in order to meet individual teachers or departments in their area of greatest need. Schools can give their teachers access to webinars and tutorials that allow teachers to become proficient on the same tools at their own pace. (Oh! Look! I’m “demonstrating a vision of technology infusion” right now! I’m doing it!)

References:

AASL. (2016).  Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2015. Best Tools for Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/websites/2016

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology.  November 2010.  Transforming American Education:  Learning Powered by Technology.  National Education Technology Plan 2010.  Retrieved from: https://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf

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Module 4 Reflection – for EDTC6433

ISTE 4 deals with digital ethics and etiquette.  In a world where students have unprecedented access to both information and interaction, teachers must promote and model respect for the intellectual property and emotions of the masses.  My question for ISTE#4 is: How will I address/acknowledge digital dangers and promote and model digital citizenship in a one-on-on school setting?

In this module’s required reading, Ribble and Miller point to lack of empathy and audience size as two problematic features of internet communication.  The diminished emotional component of web interaction only adds fuel to the dumpster fire that is every adolescent’s deficient empathy (I love them! I cannot tell you why!).  The perceived distance between online life and real life make cyber bullying and plagiarism feel like small secret short comings.  It would be easy for a kid to feel like no one gets hurt by this stuff.

That’s why we have to teach them that cyber bullying does hurt people, can lead to bigger problems; that turning in an essay or a graphic made by someone else is like depositing their money in your bank account.  It’s stealing.

I’m addressing this in my classes.  I teach in a unique school with a one-to-one teacher-to-student ratio.  One of my students has watched me shudder at a nasty comment or two directed at groups I’m part of or people I love. The uniqueness of my teaching situation allows me the opportunity to talk through how comments spat out in private land on real readers.

A few of my students came to our school because they struggled with the social pressures of a larger school setting.  Even in the context of a personal teacher-student interaction, it’s helpful to have reliable, well-researched resources to lean on.  I’m a fan of the Ophelia Project, not only because of the free resources they provide, but also because the organization’s history has encouraged one of my students. They’ve provided lesson plans and a particularly helpful one sheet that have helped me think through what kids need to learn about cyber bullying.  The Ophelia Project resources agree with the major points from our required reading (as well as the ALA’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner, posted by a friend) in a handy format.

 

References:

AASL.  (2007). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.  ALA Guidelines and Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/AASL_LearningStandards.pdf

Miller, T. M. & Ribble, M. (year). Educational leadership in an online world: connecting students to technology, responsibly, safely and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17: 1. 137-145. Retrieved from: file:///E:/ARC/!Winter%202016/EDTC%206433/M4/Educational%20Leadership%20in%20an%20Online%20World%20-%20Copy.pdf

CYBERCOOL: 15 positively powerful lessons to teach digital citizenship and stop cyberbullying.  2010.  The Ophelia Project.  Retrieved from http://www.opheliaproject.org/cyber/CyberCoolMiddleSchool.pdf.

Cyber Bullying OneSheet.  (2011).  [OneSheet displays basic info on characteristics and contributors of cyberbullying.]  The Ophelia Project.  Retrieved from http://www.opheliaproject.org/facts/Cyberbullying%20OneSheet.pdf.

Feedback-infused instruction – a relfection on Content Methods

  1. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

Standard 4 calls teachers to use knowledge of their content, pedagogy, and their students to improve learning.  This standard (and sub-standards 4.1 – 4.4) reveals the complex web of interrelated considerations teachers much keep in mind – pedagogical approaches, instructional outcomes, lesson and unit structure, assessment methods.  I have learned that feedback is an important tool for improving student learning, precisely because it can meaningfully coordinate this complex web of teacher activities listed in Standard 4.

Feedback is often considered a component of assessment (it’s the stuff teachers write on student essays, they stuff students try and fail to read before they lose it).  Hattie and Timperley, in their systematic investigation of feedback’s power to impact student learning, have argued that “Feedback is among the most critical influences on student learning” (105).  They’ve also outlined several specific best-practices that will make feedback more effective; the author’s findings indicate that feedback plays a critical role in planning and instruction as well as assessment.

Based on Hattie and Timperley’s findings, I planned a 3-week poetry unit around a feedback strategy.  I wrote 1-paragraph timed write prompt, created a rubric for grading the timed-write, and planned instruction based on that rubric.  I had students write an analysis paragraph on Monday of our last week, based on the same prompt as the summative assessment.  I planned to give detailed, task-oriented feedback on this first round of paragraphs before the final timed-write at the end of the unit.

And then I came down with a monstrous cold.

The chief aim for my poetry unit was to test the degree to which my feedback would impact student performance on a summative writing task.  I didn’t get to test that.  The process of writing feedback did, however, highlight another important conclusion of Hattie and Timperley’s investigation.  I found that it’s much easier to write feedback that is sufficiently detailed and highly relevant to the assessment task when I have already been equally detailed and explicit in my instruction.  As Hattie and Timperley point out, “[Feedback] is but part of the teaching process and is that which happens second—after a student has responded to initial instruction.”  If my feedback is meant to evaluate their response to initial instruction, my feedback will be most useful (and easiest to write) if I use the same language as I’ve used during instruction.

As a classmate has pointed out, feedback allows teachers to embed instruction into the assessment process.  To that end, I’m eager to keep Hattie and Timperley’s findings in mind as I seek to plan units with a specific feedback strategy in mind.

A major aim of the educative process is to assist in identifying these gaps (“How am I going?” relative to “Where am I going?”) and to provide remediation in the form of alternative or other steps (“Where to next?”). (105)

Module 3 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #3 – How can I model and facilitate digital literacy for my 6th grade ELA students?

“Digital Literacy” – What’s that?

There are several definitions and alternative labels for digital literacy floating around in the education technology conversation.  I am thankful to Karon Dragon and Wasnieswski Ewa of the University of Alberta, who have provided the following summary:

Ranieri,  Calvani  and  Fini  (2010)  would  define  digital  competence  as  “the  capability  to  explore and  face  new  technological  situations  in  a  flexible  way,  to  analyze,  select  and  critically  evaluate  data  and information,  to  exploit  technological  potentials  in  order  to  represent  and  solve  problems  and  build  shared and  collaborative  knowledge”  (pg.542).  Martin (2009)  defines  e-literacy  as  “awareness,  skills, understanding  and  reflective  evaluative  approaches  to  operate  in  an  information  rich  and  IT  supported environment” (p. 97).

Flexibility, source analysis and evaluation, information synthesis, problem solving.  Awareness, reflection, evaluation.  Fortunately, much of this is already reflected in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Digital literacy is the term we’re using to adjust our notion of literacy according to how much more literature there is to be understood and sorted out.

With this definition in mind, he first step toward modeling and facilitating digital literacy should be to acknowledge the skills kids already have. As UCLA professor, Patricia Greenfield, has written,

The informal learning environments of television, video games, and the Internet are producing learners with a new profile of cognitive skills. This profile features widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills, such as iconic representation and spatial visualization.

In other words, the amount of time kids spend on their devices gives this generation a set of digital literacy skills unlike any we’ve ever seen.  Educators can leverage those skills by creating lessons, visuals, assessments and build on and reward those competencies.  To use just one example, iconic representation is useful for routines and other classroom communication.  If we leverage the fact that kids only need a symbol where we previously needed an explanation, we can reserve class time for the other skills involved in untangling a world wide web of ideas.

Untangling is a useful metaphor for what schools have always endeavored to help students do.  We set out the Odyssey, or Hamlet – or, if you teach 6th grade ELA – The Giver.  And we help kids pull out certain pieces to take a better look (analysis) and then arrange them in a meaningful order that will communicate some conclusion (synthesis).  The new literacy is the old literacy; there’s just a whole lot more text.  So we have to start setting out more texts at a time.  Which means that some of the time we used to spend close-reading novels will be spent close-reading the internet.

One difficulty will be keeping their attention.  This challenge of keeping kids on task is significantly altered when the ratio is 1-to-1, but it isn’t necessarily new or unique – or any more difficult!  Fortunately, it is easier than ever to track and respond to student tasks (programs like LanSchool let you monitor student screens).  Feedback is also faster and easier than ever before; using OneNote Class Notebook I can read work submissions in real time, and respond with feedback without shuffling through a pile of papers or a row of desks.

While technology has made broadened the realm of and demand for literacy, it has also provided some tools that promise to help us teach literacy more efficiently than we could before.

Reference:

Dragon, K. and Ewa, W. (2012). “Relationships between Digital Literacy and Print literacy: Predictors of Successful On-line Search.” Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012. (PP. 1755-1758). University of Alberta, Canada.  Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/992608/files/39077567/download

Greenfield, P. M. (2009).  Technology and Informal Education: What Is Taught, What Is Learned.  Science  Vol. 323, pp. 69-71. Retrieved from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5910/69.abstract

 

Classroom Tips – for EDU 6136, Content Methods

Gather ’round, my friends.  I mean, if you want to.  Here are a few things I’ve been trying out in order to make my alignment between outcomes, activities, and assessments more prominent for my students.

TIPS Alignment

And here is a page from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, for those of you who may not have interest in the TIPS handout but will likely still benefit from the sage words of a cartoon cat:

walk-long-enough color

Module 2 Reflection – for EDTC6433

I teach a Creative Writing elective. I chose to read Ellen Madden’s article on digital storytelling in search of a tech-savvy (ok, brag-worthy) instructional gimmick that might impress a room full of kids who would rather take their digital tech class again. But what I found was much more practical – and much more exciting – than a gimmick. Madden follows two teachers as they plan and implement a digital storytelling unit on The Outsiders. In this extremely practical overview of how we can use digital storytelling to target English Language Arts CCSS proficiency, Madden describes teacher approach, instructional methods, and the task of teaching the tech alongside the standards and the novel.

Let me explain why this is such a big deal. To start, here’s an example of something I’m trying to squeeze out of apathetic and underserved (but completely delightful) 6th graders in Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5 – Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

I want my students to be able to analyze one moment in an unfolding plot, and then tell me how it relates to the bigger picture. To comprehend a novel’s themes, students must drill down into key passages to analyze and make connections. So I might ask my students to analyze one chapter of the novel we’re reading right now, and tell me what that chapter contributes to the novel’s themes. How does the author use Chapter 9 to make some statement about friendship, or culture, or identity?

When I ask questions like this, I’m placing my students across the table from a text or author, in a posture of interrogation. This is great fun for a grown up with an English degree; I know what questions to ask. But many 6th graders aren’t great interrogators – they don’t always have specific questions about plot elements or character change. They aren’t interested in Socratic discovery. They are interested in making stuff.

In 2010, Grunwald Associates LLC reported that, “Teachers value digital media as instructional resources that empower them to engage student interest, promote creativity, and differentiate instruction.” It follows that, when I invite my students to create a digital representation of a text, I’m inviting them to sit next to – not across from – the author. Using a digital storytelling platform (my district uses Microsoft Sway) students look at the text and the author’s strategies as a co-creator.  This kind of creative imitation requires just as much analysis as interrogation, but it’s a great deal more accessible to kids. In other words, it’s fun.

Madden describes how the process of digital storytelling can be broken down into meaningful pieces which more explicitly reveal different elements of the story. The process begins with personal preference and individual goals – students choose the scene they find most compelling, and set out to convey that scene’s unique tone.  Students also manage their own learning throughout the process as they work to meet mini-deadlines, continually evaluating their progress.  Teachers can leverage these deadlines to blend instruction with assessment by explicitly tying all this creative activity to the technical concepts of characterization, setting, and juxtaposition.  Most importantly, students learn literary concepts by rolling up their sleeves and interacting with the text in a personal way.  As students create alongside the author, they confront a sincere need to communicate their ideas well. They are compelled to look more closely at what the author is doing – how the bullets flying in the background highlight the life-giving quality of friendship (or whatever). Re-creating the tone of a scene requires students to choose and consistently fold in repeated contributions to that tone – the way an author does.  They learn what tone is by “doing” tone – this is the very definition of authentic learning!

Resources:

Maddin, Ellen (2013) Teaching Literary Analysis with Digital Storytelling: An Instructional Approach [PDF]. Retrieved from http://encompass.eku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=kjectl.

Grunwald Associates, LLC (2010). Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology. Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/992608/files/39077531?module_item_id=8641931

Internship Reflection #1

4.2 All the instructional outcomes are clear, written in the form of student learning.  When teachers make learning outcomes clear, they promote higher student engagement and ownership of learning.  Clear learning targets allow students to focus on key lesson content as they engage in planned learning activities.  In the course of my internship, I have seen that the strength and clarity of learning outcomes (written and discussed as learning targets) is what allows my students to successfully engage with content and progress toward unit objectives.  In other words, learning targets provide the context that engages learners and makes activities meaningful (Ainsworth, 2010).

BlessingWay1During our recent novel study, I asked my students to draw a visual of a particular scene from the book, and to support this drawing with three quotations from the text.  On this particular day, I did not carve out time for my students to examine our learning target.  I believed that the parameters of the assignment would guide students toward learning outcomes.  This image shows one example of a student’s finished work.  The student drew a picture of the Navajo “Blessingway” Ritual and copied three quotes from the text, fulfilling the stated requirements of the assignment.  The quotations this student chose are from the chapter I assigned, but not all of them provide relevant insight into the visual. While the student did provide page numbers, they did not punctuate the quotations as one would when citing textual evidence to support textual analysis.

Through this experience, I saw how difficult it is for students to perceive the relevance of activities and to focus their efforts on specific skills without first engaging with a learning target.  In this example, the skills in question were visualizing text and supporting ideas with textual evidence.  While most students followed directions, they chose evidence that was only superficially related to what the image depicts, and neglected the punctuation I’ll be looking for on their essay at the end of this unit.  A learning target would have made clear that this assignment was more than a drawing and three quotes from the chapter, but an opportunity to practice writing an essay.  This has a significant impact on student learning; my students won’t likely read into the parameters of an assignment for bigger unit understandings unless I explicitly facilitate that process.  The more I can help my students understand unit objectives, the more they’ll be able to own their progress toward those goals. I can improve in this area by establishing clear instructional objectives, and then presenting activities as intentional practice of toward mastering those objectives.

Module 1 Reflection – for EDTC6433

My triggering event question for this standard: How can I use technology to promote authenticity among my grade 6-8 Creative Writing students?

The question I claimed to be researching was specific enough, but as I read articles looking for an answer, I spiraled out of control.  There’s a lot of jargon out there.  How can I be sure that implementing these technologies in the classroom will benefit students?  Education tech definitely sounds cool; kids will probably like this stuff, but will they learn more?  Or, to more specifically return to my question, will technology help my creative writing students begin to write more significant, more important pieces?  Will technology motivate better writing?

Three sources have shaped my thoughts on this question:

SAMR Duckworth Illustration

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

First: Angela Duckworth’s illustration of what’s called the “SAMR Model” clarifies that there are different levels of technology integration.  My quest for the right educational technology needs to be informed by this spectrum of integration.  Is the app or program in question a mere substitute for pen and paper?  Substitutes about, and these may not deliver the increased engagement and achievement they promise.  Duckworth’s model helped me pinpoint the level of integration I’m aiming for.  If I’m going to ask my students to work with something other than Microsoft Word, I want reasonable assurance that the technology will not merely enhance, but transform their writing experience.

So began a second movement in Module 1: the quest for statistical evidence of transformation!  As I mentioned, there’s a lot of jargon out there.  But I can’t assume that every article using the word “catalyze” promotes a learning technology that will transform a learning experience. Fortunately, a groupmate posted Marzano’s article on the use and effectiveness of interactive whiteboards.  While interactive whiteboards most likely won’t be the key to more authentic writing for my middle schoolers, the article highlights some valuable principles of technology integration that helped me sort out my thoughts on our Module 1 articles.  Marzano reports that “…using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement.” He unpacks the specific attributes of interactive whiteboards which boost learning, one of which is learner response devices (such as clickers).  These devices might be used as a substitute for the raising of hands or other formative assessment measures (thumbs up or down, fist-to-five), but thoughtful teacher application can make clickers a more transformative tool.

The resource most relevant to my question was shared by another classmate.  Writing Re-launched focused on using technology to transform writing instruction.  This article affirmed and powerfully justified some of the claims made in my earlier reading about the ways in which tech can increase motivation and engagement. The article (as well as several of my classmates) recommends requiring students to create and publish writing to a blog in order to raise the stakes on content and conventions.  This is a hard pill for me to swallow. My own bPortfolio makes me shut down; it brings out the very ugliest aspect of the writing process.  The pain.  (See timestamp on this post.)  So I hesitate to ask this of my students.

But as Greenhow et al have pointed out, I need to think about how kids express themselves these days. They aren’t finding their voice between the covers of their journal; they’re engaging in high-stakes identity formation on the world wide web.  Equally importantly, their jobs (or their graduate school programs, I’ll bet) will likely ask them to engage in dialogue over internet platforms as well.  Web writing is the most authentic (significant, relevant, real world) writing available.

So I’ll consider the blog thing.  Thanks for reading.

Reference: Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age. Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now? Educational Researcher. 38(4). 246-259.

Heitin, Liana. Writing re-launched: Teaching with digital tools. (2011, April 4). In Education week: Teacher PD sourcebook. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2011/04/04/02digital.h04.html

Proactive Burnout Prevention: The Life and Times of a Student Teacher

This workshop will be written in the future, by Kirsten A. Bennett, after she has accumulated an admirable time management record. She will share what she learned when she first used them during her internship back in December 2015.

Much is expected of teachers:  cover this list of standards, differentiate instruction for this range of learners, communicate with parents, and respond to every crisis.  It’s no wonder that so many teachers experience “burn out,” a condition Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison (2011) have described as “a hemorrhaging of the self” (p. 145).  Wendi Pillars (2014) identifies six common signs of teacher burnout: exhaustion, extreme graveness, anxiety, being overwhelmed, seeking[1], and isolation.  The kinds of people who become teachers do not like to admit that we identify with that list.  Many of us came to this profession because we consider ourselves exceptionally energetic, charismatic, empathetic, and optimistic; we prefer not to admit that doing what we love is making us into people we hate.

Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison (2011) have observed that since the term “burnout” came to the scene in 1974, over 6,000 journal articles have been written on the subject (p. 146).  Burnout is a huge issue and every teacher (and so many others) will experience burnout differently.  There is an equally diverse array of methods by which teachers can combat burnout.  Some experts recommend creating a mission statement or manifesto.  Others say the key to teacher survival is collegial relationships.  Unfortunately, the mention of these worth-while strategies will overwhelm many first-year teachers in what Ellen Moir (2011) has called “the survival phase.”  Moir has noted, “…new teachers are caught off guard by the realities of teaching.  “I thought I’d be busy, something like student teaching, but this is crazy. I’m feeling like I’m constantly running. It’s hard to focus on other aspects of my life.””

As a student teacher, I was especially disappointed to find myself always thinking about my feelings, my schedule, my health, my self.  But preliminary research on the topic of teacher burn out convinced me that “to be successful in the high-touch professions, we must continually maintain professional vitality and avoid depleted caring” (Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison, 2011, p. 4).  Experts agree that anyone who aims to care for others must, in some sense, care for self.  Self-care involves a thousand tiny things: an apple a day, a stroll in the park, a call to a friend, a cup of coffee in the quiet morning.  And every one of these things takes time.  To emerge from survival mode, we must make time for these elements of self care, in addition to the other tasks of teaching.  We must manage our time.

During my student teaching, the term “time management” felt like a disgraceful imperative: Get more done!  But time management is means more than working efficiently.  Time management is a more detailed system of approaching time which helps teachers protect our professional vitality avoid burnout. It’s a three-stage process of anticipating, observing, and reflecting on how you spend your time.

Anticipation – Make a Plan.  Good rebounders anticipate where the ball will bounce.  Good defense attorneys anticipate the prosecution’s argument.  Good students anticipate what will be on the test.  Good time managers anticipate where their hours will go.

Decide when you will sit down to make your plan.  For me, this is Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 9:00.  Fill out a detailed template of your weekly schedule with the meetings, obligations, grading, planning can you anticipate as you look forward to the upcoming week.  Moir (2011) has aptly pointed out that “Beginning teachers are instantly bombarded with a variety of problems and situations they had not anticipated,” but it’s also true that there is much we can see before the week begins.  Focusing on these known activities diminishes the sense of helplessness we feel when other activities surprise us.

See and measure the open windows.  Now that you know how much of your time is “free” you can move from saying things like “I wish I had time to exercise” or “We should hang out sometime” to “I’ll run during this one hour window on Tuesdays and Thursdays” and “Fridays at 7 I have dinner with my brother.” The decisions that you make about these windows will fuel productivity in the blocks – you’ll work to earn the plans you’ve made.

Observation – Watch yourself.  During the first few weeks of this new discipline, expect to see your schedule (and yourself) in a new light.  Now that you’re making more intentional decisions about how to spend your time, you’ll be more aware of what doesn’t go according to plan.  Let the pain be instructive.

I spent those first weeks of my new regiment with two copies of my schedule in hand: one I had filled out during Saturday morning planning time, and one that was blank.  I filled in the blank version throughout those weeks with my true “life and times.”  I recommend this practice to novice teachers because it shows us a glaringly instructive view of where your time really goes.  You’ll very likely find time you didn’t know you had, time that has been getting slurped up by time-vacuums like police dramas and online shopping.

The observation phase will show you some of the negative implications of your time management.  I resonate with what Shelley Sanchez Terrell (2014) has said of her own busy teacher life: “I was wearing myself out.  I realized I needed to strive for a better balance, because the stress was impacting my mood and the way I interacted with my students.  I didn’t want them to think they were the cause of my stress” (p. 100).  Some days, I don’t care about myself enough to do anything about my frantic schedule; but when I look at the way my frantic schedule affects my students, I do care.

Reflection:  A lack of reflection contributes to what Moir (2011) calls the disillusionment phase: “There is little time to stop and reflect on their experiences.”  Teachers can keep burnout at bay by engaging in meaningful reflection throughout the year, as the first item on your weekly planning time agenda.

Begin by holding the two versions of your schedule side by side and asking yourself some questions.  “These questions help us become aware of how we might be neglecting our health.  Being aware is the first step towards achieving more balance in our lives (Terrell, 2004, p. 99).”  The most important question, perhaps, is why?  For example:  Why did grading vocab tests take such a long time this week?  Why did I watch three episodes of this TV show when I could have been grading narrative assessments?  Possible answers: “Grading takes longer in the evening than it does during my 3rd period prep,” “When I try to work through lunch, I’m less productive after lunch,” or “When I don’t intentionally enjoy myself, I accidentally watch terrible television.”  By asking yourself why when you review your schedule, you can identify and replace many of the tasks that steal your productivity.

Other questions to ask as you reflect on your schedule:

  • Am I adopting unhealthy habits for the sake of my job?
  • How can I relieve stress on a daily basis?
  • What am I doing now that makes me happy?
  • When and where do I eat my meals?  How do these rituals make me feel? What impact do these rituals have on my overall well-being.
  • What un-planned activities make their way into your schedule?
  • Which tasks took more time than I allotted to them?  Which took less?

Meaningful reflection on time spent will inform next week’s schedule.  As you grow in this discipline, you’ll be able to replace the unnecessary tasks with more meaningful and rejuvenating ones.  You’ll find a logical place for things like optional professional development, conversations with other teachers, meal planning and preparation, and exercise.

 

Reference

Brown, D. (2012). Now that I know what I know.  Educational Leadership, 69:8, pp 24-28.  Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may12/vol69/num08/Now-That-I-Know-What-I-Know.aspx

Maurice, E.  (2012). Teacher Burnout: What Are the Warning Signs? EdUtopia.  Retrieved from:  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-burnout-warning-signs-maurice-elias

Moir, E.  (2011). Phases of first-year teaching.  New Teacher Center.  Retrieved from: http://www.newteachercenter.org/blog/phases-first-year-teaching

Pillars, W. (2014). Six Signs of—and Solutions for—Teacher Burnout. Education Week. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/05/20/ctq-pillars-signs-of-solutions-for-burnout.html

Skovholt, T. M., Trotter-Mathison, M. J. (2011).  Resilient Practitioner: Burnout Prevention and Self-Care Strategies for Counselors, Therapists, Teachers, and Health Professionals, Second Ed.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Terrell, S. S. (2015).  The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.

[1] Pillars defines this as Losing your creativity, imagination, patience, and enthusiasm for daily challenges. Craving reflection time and productive collaboration rather than group complaining.

Course Reflection: Edu 6134 – Professional Issues

According to Laura M. Desimone, professional development happens throughout a teacher’s work day, as they teach and reflect on lessons, read education journals, and interact with colleagues (Desimone, 2011, p. 69).  What Desimone calls “embedded professional development” happens both formally and informally – a principle vigorously confirmed by the student teaching experience.

Formal professional development happens in and outside of school.  Bi-monthly PD meetings offer training on a variety of topics from behavior intervention to formative assessment to methods of instruction.  Beyond the building, several professional organizations exist to provide networking and development for educators.  I researched three such organizations:  Phi Delta Kappa Washington, Washington Organization for Reading Development, and AVID.  Some findings are listed in the chart below.

Webquest prompts
Organization name Area of focus Membership cost (cite the student teacher fee if possible) Does the org. publish a journal or newsletter; if it does, is the content helpful, can you provide a sample title of an article or news item? Does the org. have a conference; if so, when and what is the cost, what is one of the session titles from a past or current program? Does the organization offer any professional development, if so, what kind? Does the organization use Facebook or LinkedIn?

 

State-level organizations
PDK

Washington

Publically funded education. The professional fee is $99 (includes processing fee), the student teacher fee is $56.50. I read a very helpful article in the Spring 2015 issue of Washington State Kappan, Thinking About Thinking About Learning: A Student Teacher’s Reflection on Student Voice, Metacognition, and Authenticity, by Lucie Kroschel. PDK has an annual conference.  The 2015 conference was about social justice and equity.  The website encourages those interested in attending to join PDK. In addition to annual conferences, PDK hosts events “Education and Food” events in June. PDK Washington does have a Facebook page.
WORD–

Washington Organization for Reading Develop-ment

Literacy and reading practices. $25 WORD Membership, $15 Membership for student teachers and first year teachers. WORD doesn’t have a publication, but International Literacy Association (affiliate) does.  Members receive this bi-monthly publication, Literacy Today Magazine. WORD had a fall conference this year, which seems to have been focused around the work of one author/speaker.  WORD membership gives entry to all WORD and Seattle Reading Council events.

$45 non-member event cost at door.

The Seattle Reading Council (an affiliate of WORD) puts on webinars.  The one currently featured on their website is called “Hooked on Independent Reading:
Motivate Your Students
with Assessment-Driven Goal Setting.”
WORD also has a Facebook page.
National-level organization
AVID Closing the achieve-ment gap. AVID membership happens at the district level, which means that the benefits are shared among many schools and teachers. AVID creates three publications – Access, an educational journal, and Year in Review, AVID’s annual status report.   Curriculum resources like AVID Weekly are also available to members. AVID has an annual conference

$555 for schools whose districts have contracts with AVID, $629 for those who don’t.

AVID hosts member events and open events.  Both focus on professional development and best practices toward closing the achievement gap. AVID has the best Facebook page I’ve seen in the course of this research.
Questions about one organization
Which organization seems worth joining and why? What is one way you could get involved?

My district has offered AVID as an elective for over ten years.  Several members of our staff attend AVID Institute each summer.  Most importantly, though, AVID makes a clear and direct difference in the achievement of students – which is the ultimate gold standard when it comes to professional development.  My involvement will begin with asking more questions and observing when I can in the AVID classes at my school.

Rate the organization using core features from Desimone (2011): 1-Strongly Disagree, 2-Disagree, 3-Neither, 4-Agree, 5-Strongly Agree
The organization provides content focus – e.g. emphasis on subject matter and how students learn 5
The organization provides active learning – e.g. opportunities to get involved 5
The organization provides coherence – e.g. consistency across teacher knowledge, beliefs, school goals 5
The organization provides duration – e.g. activities span across the year for at least 20 hours of contact time 5
The organization provides collective participation – e.g. teachers group by subject to form learning communities 5

Informal professional development taking place outside of school depends on what each educator can seek out for him or herself.  I can read articles published by organizations above, I can devote time to interpreting assessment data, and I can reflect on my teaching practice.

One of the happiest surprises of my internship has been the informal professional development that happens in the context of teacher friendships.  The teachers here at my favorite middle school have energetically asked about my course work and teaching practice.  I’ve been so humbled at the amount of support offered to me – so far, too humbled to accept much of it.  A social studies teacher I observed for a separate reflection offered to come observe one of my lessons to offer a second expert perspective.  A health teacher, during staff happy hour – we weren’t even at school – shared some really helpful constructive criticism of a lesson he’d watched me teach and offered to come back and see what I’ve been working on! Looking back on these conversations with our Internship Performance Criteria in view, it’s clear that I haven’t been making the most of an unusually eager and supportive internship environment.  If distinguished teachers seek out feedback from other teachers, I want to spend the rest of the year taking these friends up on their offers to come watch me teach!

It’s true that professional development is embedded in so many ways, which means that I’ll need to take advantage of every embedded opportunity to become a better teacher.

Reference

Desimone, L. M. A primer on effective professional development.  Kappan magazine, V92 N6, 68-71.