Using New Technologies to Communicate with Parents

It is important for teachers in any grade level to be aware of new and evolving technologies and processes. Living in the digital age of the 21st century, we have an obligation to make sure our students are knowledgeable about the Internet, computers, and electronic devices, and how to use them productively. Technological skills are important to have in a significant percentage of job settings including medicine, engineering, architecture, research analysts, software developers, and many other professions.

ISTE Standard 3 discusses how teachers should exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society. Being able to transfer current knowledge to new technologies, to collaborate and communicate with the community using digital tools, and to model effective use of such tools to support research and learning are critical skills for all teachers to have.

As a future elementary teacher, I am especially interested in learning about the various ways to use technology to communicate with parents and students outside the classroom. Keeping open lines of communication with parents has been shown to have a positive effect on student learning and achievement. O’Brien’s Edutopia article (2011) discusses a survey done by the National School Public Relations Association that indicates parents clearly prefer Internet communications, including emails, an online parent portal, e-newsletters, websites, and a telephone/voice mail system. Face-to-face meetings with parents are especially important but digital tools can supplement this information. Knowing whether parents have easy access to email, computers, or other electronic devices is important.

According to Pescatore’s Edutopia article (2014), the first step to determining which digital tools to use is figuring out the classroom needs, resources available, and goals to be addressed. Understanding what parents want to know is essential to providing a tool that they will use and appreciate. A colleague of mine shared an interesting article about the characteristics of parent-teacher email communication. According to Thompson (2008), the most common email topic was student grades, followed by scheduling meeting dates and times, and health issues including obtaining homework while the student is gone. Thompson (2008) also concluded that parents and teachers emailed less frequently than one might expect, with teachers typically spending 30 minutes to an hour per week communicating with parents via email. Email can be convenient for communicating at any time when people are available, however if an immediate answer is required, email can potentially be slow if the teacher or parent is extremely busy.

Teacher-parent email topics by frequency (Thompson, 2008)

Teacher-parent Email Topics by Frequency (Thompson, 2008)

Remind could be a potential solution to this problem. Remind is a texting service that teachers and parents can use to communicate quickly. Remind does not require the sharing of phone numbers, so this information can remain private if necessary. Teachers can quickly send messages to parents reminding their students to finish an assignment or to return paperwork for a field trip.

Figuring out the purpose of the communication is another consideration. I began to wonder what other digital tools are there available to use besides email? Do I want to simply provide information to parents via a classroom website? Do I want students and parents to be able to contribute to the communication? According to Pescatore (2014), a few options for one-way communication tools include Pinterest, eNewsletters, and photo sharing sites. Two-way communication tools include blogs, Google drive, social media such as Facebook or Twitter, and even live-streaming applications such as Skype.

Kumar and Vigil (2011) assert that the Net generation, people born after 1984 who have grown up with digital technologies, should have the knowledge and skills to make the connection between technology, subject matter, and pedagogy, and be able to implement educational technology activities in the classroom. However, research indicates that undergraduates show limited or no transfer of technology familiarity to academic environments (Kumar & Vigil, 2011). Kumar & Vigil’s study surveyed 51 undergraduates in the college of education at a large private university and found that 98% used online videos, 68.6% used photo sharing, 52.9% used online forums, 47.1% used blogs, 40% used wikis and podcasts, and 32% used Google Docs in informal settings. However, respondents did not typically transfer this knowledge and use to educational settings. The graph below shows the large gap between using blogs, wikis, and podcasts informally and in educational settings.

Informal and Educational Use of Technologies (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

Informal and Educational Use of Technologies (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

I have maintained two personal blogs for informal use and this professional blog over the past decade, but I never thought about using a blog in an elementary classroom setting. The idea of creating a blog for my classroom and having my students involved in writing posts that parents can then read sounds interesting. I came across a blog written by a teacher and author that discusses ways to use technology in the classroom, including blogging. Ms. Ripp has written several posts about why students should blog in the classroom, how to do it, challenges you might face, and internet safety issues. She uses KidBlog, which seems like a safe, yet sophisticated way for students to blog about what they are learning and parents to observe.

I am very familiar with most digital tools mentioned above, however I haven’t thought much about using them in an educational setting. There is a lot of potential for richer activities for students to patriciate in that involve new technologies. On the continuum of integrating technology in education below, I believe I fit in the adaption and appropriation phases.

Continuum of Integrating New Technologies in Education (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

Continuum of Integrating New Technologies in Education (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

One issue will be determining which ideas are the best to focus on and implement properly and how much time I have to spend on these technologies. Another issue is making sure students don’t feel left out if they do not have internet access or access to digital devices at home. It is important to make sure we expose all students to the vast array of technologies available in the 21st century, so that they can be future researchers, engineers, and teachers for the next generation.

References:

Kumar, S. & Vigil, K. (2011). The net generation as preservice teachers: Transferring familiarity with new technologies to educational environments. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27, 4, 144-153.

O’Brien, A. (2011). What parents want in school communication [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-involvement-survey-anne-obrien

Pescatore, G. (2014). Parent communication toolbox [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-communication-toolbox-gwen-pescatore

Thompson, B. (2008). Characteristics of parent-teacher e-mail communication. Communication Education, 57, 2, 201-233. doi: 10.1080/03634520701852050

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ISTE Standard 2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

ISTE Standard 2 states that teachers must design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments. Specifically, teachers should incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity, enable students to manage their own learning and assess their own progress, as well as address diverse learning styles.

This complex standard has many facets and implies that digital tools are necessary for all teachers and students to use. One potential issue with this standard is that not all schools can afford to provide such expensive tools for each classroom or student. For example, iPads, laptops, Kindles, and other technology tools are incredibly expensive. However, according to a 2010 survey conducted by Grunwald Associates LLC and PBS, “teachers spend 60% of their time using educational resources that were either free or that they paid for themselves” (p. 6). Despite the cost and lack of funding, teachers seem determined to provide as many technological resources as possible for their students.

60% of teachers use free resources or pay for resources themselves

60% of teachers use free resources or pay for resources themselves

I have always enjoyed games and remember playing The Oregon Trail and Math Blasters in elementary school during computer lab period. This made me curious about how game-based learning could satisfy ISTE Standard 2. According to the survey, 56% of teachers value web-based interactive games or activities for student use in school and 54% of teacher report using Web-based interactive games (PBS & Grunwald Associates LLC, 2010).

Teachers Value Many Types of Digital Resources

Teachers Value Many Types of Digital Resources

I found an article on edutopia that discusses ways to use games to enhance learning for upper elementary and middle school students. Game-based learning isn’t simply students playing games in your classroom for fun. Nor do games substitute for the teacher. Games can be a useful AND fun activity that helps students get engaged with learning and relating games to the real world and real life events.

According to Farber (2016), games can be a shared experience, similar to taking the class on a field trip. An example is the game Minecraft and how students learn the mechanics of the game in order to survive. This can be related to how pilgrims had to understand their new environments when settling in a new area. Next he discusses games as text where the student would make choices that affect and tell a story. These stories can then be related to historical events that are similar. Finally, Farber (2016) talks about games as models. For example, the board game Pandemic illustrates how disease can travel via networks all around the world, which relates to how disease spreads during plagues like the Black Plague.

This article led me to search for benefits of game-based learning. In addition to games providing a different learning tool for addressing different learning styles, games provide motivation and engagement for students. Peters (2016) asserts that games include rules, definite objectives, measurable goals and competition, and promote a sense of achievement for all participants. Students have goals that they try to accomplish and assess their progress over time. Games also provide immediate feedback for students about whether or not they made a good decision. Peters (2016) also discusses how games promote cognitive growth, digital literacy, and skills development such as hand-eye coordination, spatial skills, and fine motor skills.

Another colleague suggested using a whiteboard called a Promethean board for interactive “calendar time” each day in order to satisfy ISTE 2. This whiteboard would provide students with a collaborative way to discuss the date and weather, as well as talk about the calendar and planning. While not a game by itself, I could see this tool benefiting student learning by providing a stable and predictable environment.

I think that games, whether web-based or not, can be an engaging and helpful tool for students to learn. It is important for game-based learning to incorporate all aspects of the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework in order for the activity to be as beneficial for students as possible. I will need further research to determine how to incorporate assessment methods into game-based learning.

TPACK Model

TPACK Model

References:

Farber, M. (2016). 3 Ways to use game-based learning [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-ways-use-game-based-learning-matthew-farber

PBS & Grunwald Associates LLC. (2010). “Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology.”

Peters, J. (2016). 5 Main advantages of game-based learning [web article]. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/129304-advantages-of-game-based-learning/

ISTE Standard 1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

ISTE Standard 1 states that teachers should facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity. The standard further states that teachers should model creative thinking with technology and promote student reflection using collaborative tools in both face-to-face and virtual environments. As a future elementary teacher, I wanted to consider how my third grade students could use technology to enhance student learning and creativity during literacy instruction in particular.

One way to enhance literacy instruction is to use technology such as digital storytelling to assist students during various stages of the writing process such as planning, drafting, and revising. According to Robin (2008), digital storytelling involves combining information or stories with various types of multimedia including computer-generated text, videos, music, and images that can then be played on a computer, shared online, or even burned to a DVD. Digital storytelling can help promote technology skills including digital literacy, global literacy, technology literacy, visual literacy, and information literacy. As students participate in digital storytelling they “develop enhanced communication skills as they learn to conduct research on a topic, ask questions, organize their ideas, express opinions, and construct meaningful narratives” (Robin, 2008, p. 224).

One research study about the effectiveness of digital storytelling indicated that students thought more deeply about their story and were able to clarify their thoughts before and during the process (Sadik, 2008). Furthermore, “digital storytelling provided a unique opportunity for students to acquire new media literacy and IT skills” (Sadik, 2008, p. 502). The study also found that students were dedicated to the task and took pride in their digital stories (Sadik, 2008).

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

Writing narratives is an important skill for elementary students to learn. Many students struggle with planning before beginning to write. Once they start to write, they have a difficult time writing down all of their thoughts in the correct order and with an appropriate amount of detail. Bogard and McMackin (2012), explain how students can use technology at all stages of the writing process during writing workshop. First, students map out on paper the key points of their story with drawings of important events. Next, students can use Livescribe Pulse Smartpens that contain a camera and a microphone to record their drawings of various points in the story and also add audio narrative. Students collaboratively discuss their audio recordings of their stories and revise and edit. Finally, video editing software such as iMovie and PhotoStory can be used to provide visuals such as images, photos, video clips, and scanned pictures as a final creative touch to finish the personal narrative.

Click the link below for an example of a digital story that talks about how math is important in everyday life. While not an example of a personal narrative, the basic principles of digital storytelling are the same.

http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/view_story.cfm?vid=93&categoryid=6&d_title=Mathematics

Another technology to consider for promoting student learning and creativity is using iPad apps for creating stories. A colleague of mine indicated that iPad apps such as Rory’s Story Cubes, Write About This, or Mad Libs could be useful for engaging students with technology to promote their literacy skills (Lee, 2013). I think that incorporating some iPad app use in my classroom would be a good way to make literacy fun for students who may not enjoy it much. However, I would want to carefully monitor student use of such applications to ensure that they are being used appropriately and productively.

I had never really considered using digital storytelling or apps in my future classroom. Now I believe these technology resources could be very useful for promoting student creativity, engagement, and collaboration. One shortcoming of using digital storytelling is the amount of time spent up front becoming familiar with the technology myself and then making sure students are able to effectively use it. I could see it being a very time-consuming process to implement in the beginning. In the long run however, this technology allows for significant redesign of a historically paper and pencil task of writing a narrative, which can greatly enhance student learning and creativity during literacy instruction.

References:

A Day Without Math [web video]. University of Houston Education. Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/view_story.cfm?vid=93&categoryid=6&d_title=Mathematics.

Bogard, J. M. & McMackin, M. C. (2012). Combining traditional and new literacies in a 21st-century writing workshop. The Reading Teacher, 65, 5, 313-323. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01048 http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=a9h&AN=70857266&site=ehost-live

Lee, D. (2013). iPad apps for creating stories with primary children. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 42, 1, 23-27.

Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Practice, 47, 220-228. doi:10.1080/00405840802153916

Sadik, A. (2008). Digital storytelling: A meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56, 487-506. doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9091-8

The 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling [website]. University of Houston Education. Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27&sublinkid=31.

EDU 6942 Autumn Experience Course Reflection

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

Program Standard 5 is very important to consider as a future elementary teacher. Teachers need to be aware of each student in the classroom and what they might be going through when they are not at school. Child abuse inside or outside of school can be very harmful to student self-esteem, self-regulation, and academic achievement. Fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment is especially important when dealing with issues of child abuse or neglect.

According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (2010), “In 2005, 3.3 million reports were received by CPS agencies in the United States alleging that children were maltreated by their parents or guardians. Nationally approximately 1,460 children die each year as a result of maltreatment” (p. 1). These staggering figures indicate how important it is for teachers to be able to recognize the warning signs of abuse or neglect, as described below in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and Neglect

Figure 1 – Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and Neglect

In EDU 6942 Autumn Experience, my mentor teacher indicated that in her approximately ten years of experience, she had to report suspected child abuse twice. She said that typically her responsibility has been to contact the school nurse, principal, counselor, or other school administration to report suspected abuse.

Seattle Public Schools requires that all school employees report suspected cases of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation by any person to the appropriate school administrator. A district official must report to child protective services (CPS) or other law enforcement agency within 48 hours (Seattle School District Superintendent Procedure 3421SP, 2012).

It is important for students to be able to trust their teacher and feel safe, valued, and welcomed in the classroom. I believe in being a warm and caring, yet firm teacher that has high expectations of all students in order to foster student grit and resilience. According to Bondy, Ross, Gallingane, and Hambacher (2007), “protective factors that bolster resilience are social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy, and a sense of a bright future or purpose” (p. 345). In addition:

Elements of a positive psychological environment stressed by Patrick et al. are strongly grounded in respectful relationships, meaningful tasks, and the teacher insistence necessary to guarantee each child an environment of care, calm, support, and respect where he or she will succeed. (Bondy et al., 2007, p. 345)

Getting to know my students as individual people and what their interests are is important for building a good relationship. When the classroom environment is positive, well-managed, and inclusive, students can thrive and academic achievement increases. Students should be able to trust their teacher to be a responsible adult, notice when something might be wrong, and address it.

The next step in my journey of becoming an elementary teacher is ensuring I am providing a safe learning environment for my students by recognizing signs of abuse or neglect. Building a trusting, caring relationship with each student is very important. I hope to be a good role model for them and teach them empathy, compassion, caring, and respect.

References:

Bondy, E., Ross, D. D., Gallingane, C., & Hambacher, E. (2007). Creating environments of success and resilience: Culturally responsive classroom management and more. Urban Education, 42, 4, 326-348. doi: 10.1177/0042085907303406

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Procedure 3421SP. Child Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Prevention. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Procedures/Series%203000/3421SP.pdf

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. (2010). Protecting the Abused and Neglected Child: A Guide for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved from Canvas.

EDU 6989 Professional Issue Report: Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is a real problem for schools in the United States. Teachers, especially new ones, are susceptible to feelings of stress, loneliness, and low self-esteem. Teacher stress has many negative consequences including adverse effects to teacher health, negative thoughts and attitudes towards the education system, poor job satisfaction, and increased rates of leaving the profession. According to Prilleltensky, Neff, and Bessell (2016), anywhere from 30% to 50% of new teachers leave within the first 5 years of entering the career and 20% to 33% of new teachers leave within 3 years. These large rates of attrition have a huge financial cost to districts, states, and the teachers themselves. In addition to financial costs, teachers who are experiencing high amounts of stress or burnout do not teach as efficiently and can even influence how students feel about the educational experience. Poor teacher motivation can negatively influence students, causing further disinterest and lower engagement (Shen, McCaughtry, Martin, Garn, Kulik, Fahlman, 2015). It is important to understand teacher stress and how it leads to burnout, recognize the negative effects on students, and discover potential ways to alleviate the causes and symptoms.

Numerous studies have been done on teacher burnout. “Schaufeli and Enzmann (1998) noted that teachers represent the largest homogeneous occupational group investigated in burnout research, comprising 22% of all samples” (McCarthy, Lambert, O’Donnell, and Melendres, 2009, p. 283). Some teachers may be more prone to burnout than others, depending on their personalities. McCarthy et al. (2009) hypothesized that teachers are more susceptible to burnout symptoms if they believe the demands of their job are outweighed by the amount of resources they have to cope with those demands. To test this theory, McCartney et al. (2009) performed a study of 451 teachers in 13 elementary schools within a large urban region in the southeastern United States. They measured the teachers’ burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) test. The MBI, developed in the 1980s by Christina Maslach and others, measures three aspects of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion is defined as a depletion of one’s emotional resources while depersonalization means distancing oneself from others. According to McCarthy et al. (2009), depersonalization for elementary teachers could mean the development of negative, callous, and cynical attitudes towards students and the school environment. Personal accomplishment is a reduced sense of efficacy and devaluing of one’s work with others (McCarthy et al., 2009).

Through a complex analysis of two years’ worth of data, McCarthy et al. (2009) concluded that “teachers’ experience of stress appeared to have little to do with the differences between the various elementary school contexts” (p. 296). Furthermore, what made the most significant difference was the individual differences between teachers, suggesting that the biggest predictor of burnout was individual perceptions of the balance between resources and demands (McCarthy et al., 2009). It is interesting that another finding from this study was that the longer a teacher worked at a particular school, the more at risk they were for having burnout symptoms (McCarthy et al., 2009). The authors speculated that perhaps tenured teachers are given more non-classroom responsibilities, more difficult students, or other administrative functions not typically given to teachers in their first year of service. Another finding suggested that in order to combat depersonalization, teachers need to be given more support from school administrators, such as through morale-boosting events outside of school and even a mentor program. It is apparent in this study that no matter how long a teacher has been in the profession, they are still at risk for stress and burnout.

A recent article by Prilleltensky et al. (2016) explained that risks and protective factors take place at the personal, interpersonal, and organizational levels. On a personal level, feelings, of isolation, inadequacy, and anxiety can be offset by things such as a support network, a mentor teacher, increased self-efficacy, mindful medication, and a growth mindset. Interpersonal risk factors include relationships with students, parents, and colleagues. To combat these potential problems, teachers need to have better classroom management skills, elicit student voice, communicate regularly with parents, and share ideas with fellow colleagues. At the organizational level, risk factors include role clarification and policies and practices that are outside a teacher’s power to influence. Protective factors at the organizational level include workload clarification, understanding the principal’s expectations, and enhancing teacher voice and choice.

Prilleltensky et al. (2016), also note that novice teachers are especially prone to anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy at the personal and interpersonal levels. New teachers often do not know anyone in the school and have a difficult time making friends or sharing ideas about teaching. Sometimes their friendliness can be met with frustration or negative feelings from other teachers who may be burned out themselves. Prilleltensky et al. (2016) reference a growing body of research supporting the idea that teacher mentoring and induction programs can increase novice teachers’ efficacy, job satisfaction, and retention. In fact, “first-year teachers who had a mentor in their field were 30% less likely to leave the profession at the end of their first year teaching” (Prilleltensky et al., p. 107). Stressful conflicts with parents and students themselves adds to the emotional burden thrown on teachers.

At the organizational level, new teachers are often placed in tough classrooms without proper professional support. Unfortunately, many teacher preparation programs do not equip teachers for daily classroom demands. Furthermore, teaching is inherently emotionally intense and the school system is not organized in a way to support new teachers (Prilleltensky et al., 2016).

While numerous studies have been centered on teachers’ own characteristics, “few have explored the connection between teachers’ burnout and students’ motivation via their own perceptions of teachers’ behavior and emotional well-being” (Shen et al., 2015, p. 520). The theory is that as teachers become increasingly burned out, their classroom preparation and involvement in classroom activities decreases while student criticism increases. Thus, students’ sense of efficacy in school can decline, reducing their intrinsic motivation, and eventually diminishing learning and engagement. Shen et al. (2015) conducted a study of over 1,300 high school students and their 33 physical education teachers in 20 high schools from two school districts in a Midwest metropolitan area to investigate the relationship between teachers’ burnout and students’ independent motivation. Teacher experience in this study ranged from 8 years to 30 years.

Results showed that physical education teachers’ “burnout was negatively associated with students’ autonomous motivation” (Shen et al., 2015, p. 527). There could be a few possible reasons for this connection, including: 1) emotional exhaustion may discourage teachers from realizing the relevance of physical education and therefore they did not provide students with convincing instruction, and 2) teachers might be uninterested in setting goals for students or allowing them to choose activities they find interesting (Shen et al., 2015, p. 529). Further study is needed across a wider variety of school populations and subjects to determine the link between teacher burnout and student motivation.

These studies point to the fact that teachers could benefit from instruction on fundamental skills such as stress and time management, relaxation training, and coping skills. One such skill called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) might be helpful. According to Gold, Smith, Hopper, Herne, Tansey, and Hulland (2009), “MBSR is based on training attention through straight-forward, secular, meditation techniques” (p. 185). When dealing with stressful thoughts or events, teachers using MBSR attempt to reduce emotional reactivity and become more attuned to logical thinking. Gold et al. (2009) performed a study of nine elementary teachers and two teaching assistants at six schools to determine the effectiveness of MBSR training at reducing teacher stress. Participants completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales test before and after the MBSR training. The training occurred over 8 weeks with sessions once a week after the school day for 2.5 hours. There was also a 5-hour session on a Saturday between weeks 5 and 6.

Results showed that most teachers were emotionally distressed, scoring above the clinical threshold for depression, with eight scoring in the clinically significant range in two of the three subscales (depression, anxiety, or stress) (Gold et al., 2016). After the MBSR training, only four scored within the clinically significant range on any subscale, with only two being mildly stressed (Gold et al., 2016). Several participants had positive things to say about the training such as “I wish I’d known about it 30 years ago” and “It has been helpful for me to notice unhelpful thinking patterns and nipping them in the bud” (Gold et al., 2016). It is difficult to make a generalization about these results given the extremely small number of participants, no control group, and no follow up of the long-term effects of the training. However, at least in the short term, MBSR training may prove useful for some teachers to reduce their personal anxiety, stress, and depression by increasing their coping abilities.

It is essential that educators around the country realize the seriousness of teacher burnout. Personal, interpersonal, and organizational factors can have a huge impact on how a teacher handles stress and loneliness. New teachers especially are prone to these negative feelings and may not have the training or support they need from their school or teacher preparation programs. Coping strategies such as the MBSR approach, other cognitive behavioral approaches, and having a good support network can help alleviate the symptoms of burnout. Teacher working conditions and classroom environments must be improved. For the sake of all educators and students, there needs to be more of a balance between the demands and resources of classrooms, more support for teachers with challenging students or situations, and perhaps even mentors assigned to new teachers. Recognizing teacher burnout is the first step in the long road to improvement.

References

Gold, E., Smith, A., Hopper, I., Herne, D., Tansey, G., Hulland, C. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (mbsr) for primary school teachers. Journal of Child & Familiy Studies, 19, 184-189. doi: 10.1007/s10826-009-9344-0

McCarthy, C. J., Lambert, R. G., O’Donnell, M., Melendres, L. T. (2009). The relation of elementary teachers’ experience, stress, and coping resources to burnout symptoms. The Elementary School Journal, 109, 3, 282-300. doi: 0013-5984/2009/10903-0004

Prilleltensky, I., Neff, M., Bessell, A. (2016). Teacher stress: what it is, why it’s important, how it can be alleviated. Theory Into Practice, 55, 104-111. doi: 10.1080/00405841.2016.1148986

Shen, B., McCaughtry, N., Martin, J., Garn, A., Kulik, N., and Fahlman, M. (2015). The relationship between teacher burnout and student motivation. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 519-532. doi: 10.1111/bjep.12089

EDU 6989 Observation Reflection

As part of my field experience class at Seattle Pacific University, I observed several teachers at B. F. Day Elementary School over the past two months to gain a better understanding of the curriculum, culture, and the daily life of teachers there.

Demographics

B. F. Day is located in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. It is the oldest continually operating school in the city. The “building is a designated historic landmark having undergone state-of-the-art renovation in 1991” (About B. F. Day Elementary, 2016). It is a relatively small elementary school with approximately 330 students and 21 teachers. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI, 2016), for the 2014-2015 school year, about 58% of students are Caucasian, 12% are Asian American, 10% are Hispanic, 8% are African American, and 12% are two or more races, making the student population moderately diverse. Approximately one-third of students quality for free or reduced-price meals, 16% are transitional bilingual, and 13% qualify for special education (OSPI, 2016).

Curriculum and Teaching Styles

B. F. Day uses the “mini middle school” system where the 4th and 5th graders have several teachers throughout the course of the day. This program is meant to help prepare them for the transition to middle school. I mostly observed the 4th and 5th grade literacy, science, and math teachers, but I also observed the physical education teacher and the art teacher. After my observations of the “mini middle school,” I am not convinced it has a positive effect on students. Instruction time is lost with as many as three transitions a day, not including transitions for recess and lunch. The students also have four or five different teachers who all have different personalities and ways of managing their classrooms. Expectations are different almost every hour depending on which teacher the students are with at that time. Additional observations in future years would help determine the effectiveness of the “mini middle school” program.

The curriculum included math, science, and literacy/social studies as the core subjects, with art and physical education on alternating days. In the math classroom, not once did I see learning targets shown anywhere, essential questions being asked, or instruction occurring. This may be an unfair assessment, given the fact that my observing was very sporadic and I generally spent the majority of the time with the science and literacy teachers. However, I frequently observed the math teacher handing out worksheets rather than actually teaching. Most of the students expressed boredom with math and were frustrated that they were forced to do so many repetitive worksheets they felt would be irrelevant in their futures.

In stark contrast, the literacy teacher had learning targets for the week posted on the board, as well as references to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Reading. I graded a few worksheets and papers for her during one of my observations using the rubrics provided by the CCSS. She also used rubrics for the end of unit projects students completed and scored them on a scale of 0-4. It appeared that she used this information to improve her instruction for the rest of the unit and for future years. She also often had students turn and talk to their neighbor about answers to questions and other topics. This teaching technique seemed to work well at gaining student interest. Students were also interested in the social justice unit in their literacy class. Many liked the fact that they could choose a book from a list of books provided related to a social justice topic.

The science teacher often used PowerPoint presentations to give direct instruction, which usually included a learning target. No standards were referenced. Students seemed interested in science, especially when doing experiments such as the erosion and deposition of soil. It is unclear to me how he evaluated student progress and achievement. In general, if an experiment did not go well or the students appeared to be confused, he would simply revisit the experiment the next day to correct any errors or misconceptions. He often used sentence starters as a way to get the students to start writing a summary about a topic such as erosion and deposition. I assume he graded these summaries and took that information into account when working with particular students, but again it was hard for me to make a fair judgment based on the short amount of time I spent observing.

Child Abuse Prevention

Child abuse prevention and reporting is a critical aspect of being a teacher, counselor, principal, or other professional school employee. As part of Seattle Public Schools, B. F. Day follows Board Policy 3421 adopted in April 2012 by the district with regard to reporting child abuse:

All professional school personnel who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has experienced abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall report such incident to law enforcement or the Children’s Protective Services Staff at the first opportunity and in no case longer than forty-eight (48) hours after the finding of possible abuse or neglect.

I am sure these guidelines are reiterated at the beginning of every school year with training occurring every three years after initial employment.

Culture

Rules and expectations are posted in the hallways and in classrooms and are reinforced by faculty and staff daily. B. F. Day is in the first year of implementing the social and emotional literacy program called RULER, which stands for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotions. They also utilize a school wide curriculum called Second Step to teach social skills. I saw posters about these programs in the hallway and in classrooms, but never observed them being referenced by teachers. I often observed students misbehaving in the hallways, in classrooms, and on the playground. Students are expected to transition between classrooms quietly and in line order, however many times students were talking and continually out of line and had to be corrected.

I generally observed good behavior in classrooms, however the math teacher struggled to maintain order in her room. On my first day of observing, I walked into a chaotic classroom where the teacher was doing very little to control her students. The math teacher asked me to help two girls with their math worksheets in the hall outside the room. The girls continued talking and were off-task the majority of the time I tried to help them. Once one of them tore up the math worksheet right in front of me and refused to do it. There seemed to be no consequences for their actions. Needless to say, the math teacher had no idea how to gain student interest in math and failed to keep students in line. She is taking a position at a different elementary school next year.

The other classrooms I observed were much better behaved. The literacy teacher indicated that she set behavior expectations at the beginning of the school year and students seemed to respect her more than the math teacher. As part of her behavior plan, she set up a classroom meeting one afternoon a week for her 5th grade classes. Every student had to compliment at least one person for something and all students were given the chance to discuss important topics such as playground issues, school or community events, and their personal lives as they felt like sharing. Students took this classroom meeting seriously and really enjoyed discussing topics.

The science teacher also set up classroom meetings for the 4th grade classes, which they appeared to enjoy. For general classroom management he used a computer/cell phone app called ClassDojo. This app allows the teacher to quickly award or take away points for each student based on their behavior. Students can gain points by being on-task, participating, and helping others. Points can be taken away for off-task behavior, talking out in class, or other distracting behaviors. At the end of the week if all students had at least 15 points, the teacher would allow them to play on the playground for the last 15 minutes of class. I think this was a great motivational technique for maintaining student engagement and behavior.

As for the faculty frustration, it was clear that the literacy teacher did not appreciate the lack of control the math teacher had over her students. During lunch I would often sit in the teachers’ rooms while they worked on their lessons for that afternoon or answered emails. Sometimes the other 4th and 5th grade teachers, with the exception of the math teacher, would join us and talk about how their day was going. Often I heard lamenting about how they wished the day or week was over and that it was summer break. Other times they felt energized about how well a lesson went that morning or how a certain student was successful at something. They seemed ever hopeful that things would get better, which was encouraging.

In summary, the school culture seemed to be one of rowdy and sometimes disengaged students, as well as frustration among the 4th and 5th grade faculty, mostly in relation to the math teacher and particular students egregiously misbehaving. It is unclear whether the students I observed were as disengaged in prior years or whether their rowdiness was a result of a poor math teacher.

As for my overall experience, I enjoyed getting to know the teachers at B. F. Day Elementary School. They welcomed me, a complete stranger, in their classrooms and allowed me to assist with experiments, grade student work, supervise the playground, inventory science kits, and perform many other tasks. B. F. Day has a handful of dedicated teachers and I am hopeful that next year’s math teacher will be an immediate improvement for the 4th and 5th graders. I hope to have a chance to revisit the school in the future. Having this chance to observe a local school gave me a better understanding of how classroom management can impact the learning environment. Building positive relationships with students and other faculty, clearly communicating expectations and enforcing them, as well as creating a compelling curriculum can make teaching incredibly rewarding.

References

About – B. F. Day Elementary. (n. d.). Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://dayes.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=2199&pageId=35328

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1120&reportLevel=School&year=2014-15&yrs=2014-15

Seattle Public Schools Board Policy No. 3421. April 4, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://www.dayes.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/Migration/Departments/HR/3421.pdf

Course Reflection: EDU 6150

4. 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.

4.1 Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy – Teacher’s plans and practice reflect familiarity with a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches in the discipline.

Program standard 4.1 clearly summarizes the basic function of teaching. It is essential for teachers to have good lesson plans that include a variety of teaching practices such as varied instructional methods and activities, multiple ways for students to practice new information, opportunities for formal and informal assessments, and student reflection. According to Marzano (2007), using formative assessments to check for understanding and provide feedback to the student are essential for learning new information correctly. Figure 1 gives examples of informal assessments that can be used to inform instruction and modify lesson plans as necessary for maximum student learning.

Figure 1 - Informal Assessments (Koetje, 2016)

Figure 1 – Informal Assessments (Koetje, 2016)

One of the projects for EDU 6150 General Inquiry, Teaching and Assessment Methods was a complete lesson plan. I drafted a 4th grade geometry lesson where I incorporated informal assessments, various activities, practice opportunities, and ways for students to reflect on their own learning (see Figure 2). My plan includes an informal assessment with students answering questions as I circulate the room. I also asked for students to indicate their level of understanding the new material by using 1-3 fingers at a few points after my initial presentation.

Figure 2 - 4th Grade Geometry Lesson Plan

Figure 2 – 4th Grade Geometry Lesson Plan

After receiving feedback, I’ve realized that my plan does not include any informal assessments during my initial direct instruction, which is where many students may misunderstand key ideas and concepts. Also, my first draft lesson plan tries to cover too much information, which means I need to “chunk” the material into smaller parts to enhance learning. According to Marzano (2007), our working memory can only hold so many pieces of new information and I need to be able to break information down into manageable chunks for my students.

In summary, I learned to apply my knowledge from the content from this course by creating my own lesson plan. Knowing effective pedagogical practices will enable me to make better lesson plans for my future elementary classroom. Figure 3 shows an excellent summary of reflective questions to ask myself as a future teacher to ensure I am using a variety of pedagogical approaches. I intend to review the information I learned from this course in the future in order to incorporate as many of these great ideas as I can so that my lesson plans are effective, promote student engagement and understanding, and create a positive classroom environment where all students are supported.

Figure 3 - Reflection Questions (Marzano, 2007)

Figure 3 – Reflection Questions (Marzano, 2007)

References:

Koetje, Kirsten. (2016). EDU 6150: General Inquiry, Teaching, and Assessment Methods, Week 4: Reviewing Modules 1-3 and Standards Paper [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://learn.spu.edu/webapps/login/.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.