Sunday, March 8, 2015

Teaching with Poverty in Mind - Chapter 5 Reflection

Teaching with Poverty in Mind
Chapter 5 reflection

Jensen identifies five themes from his research that drive change within the classroom.  The first is standards based curriculum and instructions.  Academic standards are a defined set of skills and knowledge that all students are expected to learn at specific grade levels in each specific content area.  Standards simply define what students need to learn.  Curriculum and instruction define how the standards are to be taught.  The two must align to assure that all resources, instructional practices, and assessments are available to meet the requirements of the standards. 

I do believe our school is heading in the right direction.  Things to take a good look at to assure standards and curriculum are aligned are the resources available to teachers and training in evidence-based instructional practices.  The textbooks currently used at the elementary school are very outdated and appear to be the main resource available to teachers.   As for training in instructional strategies, the opportunities are there.  Since I returned to North Dakota, I have attended a couple of conferences that had presentations on instructional strategies, which were very enlightening.  So the teachers just need to be provided the opportunities to attend these conferences.

Jensen also writes about the achievements of the North Star School in New Jersey.  He identifies the feature of teaching to mastery as one of the features that lead to this school’s success rates.  This school has developed formative assessments that are administered every 6 to 8 weeks with feedback given to teachers in an easy to read format.  Teachers would need to have a plan of instruction or an instructional road map for the school year to ensure that students learn the skills/concepts being assessed. Pre-assessments to determine students’ current levels of instruction are also completed. Teachers are not left on their own to decide what additional or alternative instruction is needed.  Teachers work with instructional coaches to make decisions as to what are the best interests of each student.  Students who come from low-SES environments may achieve at a slower rate because of so many other stressors in their lives, but they can succeed when instruction is formatted correctly for them; when all of this is developed, it works very well. This is the same system used in the school I taught in before coming back to Rugby. 

A quote that I have appreciation for:
“America’s educational system today is more of a boot camp for high-stakes testing to measure the strength of an educational organization than a place for children to learn about the world or themselves.”  

Jensen identifies standards as the most visible measure of a school’s success.  Standards are here to stay. Standards are simply standards, and it is up to each teacher to present them in a manner that keeps students engaged and thinking.  Let us never forget that we are teaching children .

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Chapter 4
Teaching with Poverty in Mind

Where are we at as a district in your mind - reflect on the steps we are taking what are the next steps?

Looking at the Five SHARE factors.

Support of the Whole Child. 
 Academic and alternative tutoring programs.  At the elementary school there is before and after school tutoring programs for students who need help completing daily assignments.I have a great appreciation for the standards based report cards used by the kindergarten teachers. They tell so much more about a child's learning than letter grades.

Academic career, or mental health counseling.  Each school has a counselor to address the mental health of students.  We also have a school psychologist that is on-site 2 days a week and possibility more in case of emergencies. 

Access to medications – both schools have secretaries that have been trained administering prescribed medications.

Childcare – to my knowledge there is no current availability for this.

Community Services, life skills in finances, health, and housing, medical care psychological care, and transportation, reading materials, transportation – I am currently not knowledgeable of how the district in involved in these services. 

Hard Data:  We do have state and district assessments and that data is analyzed to improve instruction offered to students.  We have set a goal as a school to improve student engagement. 
A data team to gather and analyze data for the purpose of making instructional changes would be a good step to take.  It would also provide for intervention to be put into place before a child fails or falls through the cracks. 

Accountability:  I do feel that grade levels and content area teachers have worked together to use data in instructional decision-making.  We have PLC’s where collaborative efforts are taken to assure all students receive quality instruction.

Relationships:  Classroom and school activities are designed to encourage students to develop positive relations with peers and teachers.  The current attempts with teachers identifying students with whom they have established relationships with will be interesting to follow. Several teachers have implemented the PBIS approach to classroom discipline.  There is also a peer mentorship program being implemented at the high school level.

Enrichment Mindset:  There have been activities that insight curiosity allow for emotional engagement on the part of students and encourage bonding among peers.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Teaching with Poverty in Mind - Chapter 3 Embracing the Mind-Set of Change

Teaching with Poverty in Mind
Chapter 3: Embracing the Mind-Set of Change

One of the most interesting ideas I get from this chapter is that the brain can and does change.  Eric Jensen presents different studies that have collected evidence to support that brains change, and there are ways that new genes can be expressed based on our actions.  There are activities, such as learning about music and language training, which have positive effects on developing brains.  There are also activities that show negative effects on the brain.  Therefore, in the classroom, we must find ways to incorporate and focus on the gaining activities and limit the losing activities. 

This book emphasizes the importance of early childhood education as a way to improve the brain’s functioning.  Strong pre-k programs and afterschool programs for K-5 have proved to be the most effective programs for changing the brain.  This book presents a study done on middle school students that examined how interventions helped develop practical intelligence (58).  The study found that thinking skills can be taught, and the students involved in the study demonstrated improved performance in the four-targeted areas.  A key here was that teachers were trained to deliver instruction that emphasized the five metacognition areas of knowing why, knowing difference, knowing self, knowing process, and revisiting.  If we want change in schools, teachers must be offered the opportunity for learning and growth; this will lead to the change in mind set that is needed for students to see themselves as competent students.

Another section in the chapter that really caught my attention was that of the brain’s operating system.  Jensen identifies the academic operating system as:

o   The ability and motivation to defer gratification and make a sustained effort to meet long-term goals 

o   Auditory, visual, and tactile processing skills

o   Attention skills that enable the student to engage, focus, and disengage as needed

o   Short-term and working memory capacity

o   Sequencing skills (to know the order of a process)

o   A champion’s mind set and confidence

Most low-income students that come from low-income environments have operating systems that allow them to survive their circumstances but are not geared toward being successful in school.  Teachers should see developing an academic operating system as part of their jobs because these skills are necessary for students to succeed.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Teaching with Poverty in Mind - Chapters 1 & 2

The one thing I really ponder is the stats from our school.  Twenty-five to thirty percent of the student population is categorized as poverty level; however, only 43% of these students are currently on the radar reports.  So, we should be asking what is working and keeping the other 57% off these reports. Why are they succeeding while others are not?  Is there a strategy, support system, or attitude that can be provided to those that are not succeeding?  How and why are 57% of these students successful?

There is nothing that says a student who is living in poverty doesn't want to learn.  These students have to overcome enormous disadvantages.  Many suffer from medical conditions simply for lack of adequate health care or a means to pay for health care.  Their living conditions are often very substandard.  These students may go without adequate nutrition, a warm place to stay, or a safe place to play.   Unlike their counter parts - middle and upper class students - these students arrive at school with a desire to make life better, but have so many basic life needs unmet that they must deal with first.  So when we see these students reluctant to engage or appear to be distrusting of our intentions, it is not for a lack of value for education, but rather from repeated failure or a true feeling of hopelessness. As educators, we should be working at leveling the playing field and equalizing the inequalities with tolerance and empathy.

 There are a few slides in Mr. McNeff’s slide presentation, found on his Twitter feed, that we did not get to in class. One in particular one that strikes me is entitled “Parent Lottery.” I have come to know this as the “Ovarian Lottery.”  Warren Buffet coined this term as a response to a question regarding birth and what kind of world would he want to live in.  Buffet (2013) responded,  One catch — just before you emerge you have to go through a huge bucket with 7 billion slips, one for each human. Dip your hand in and that is what you get — you could be born intelligent or not intelligent, born healthy or disabled, born black or white, born in the US or in Bangladesh, etc. You have no idea which slip you will get. Not knowing which slip you are going to get, how would you design the world?” Not all students are lucky in the ovarian lottery, but as educators, we can provide these students with the skills and the knowledge they need to overcome the adversity they face due to the luck of the draw.