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.

Special Education

Special education has always been foreign to me. I remember being separated from the kids who needed special education in elementary school. The special needs kids rarely interacted with kids in the general education classrooms. However, in the 1990’s, full-inclusion became the norm in public schools. There are so many factors, including individual, environmental, and social, to consider when discussing whether a special needs student should be included in the regular classroom and for how much of the school day. The individual education plan (IEP) team for that student should be well aware of the student’s strengths and weaknesses and what would be ideal to help the student grow, learn, and become as independent as possible.

In the end, what is best for the special needs student is what should be most important. This includes not only how well we can boost their intellectual performance, but also their social and emotional health. Being separated from other students can be detrimental to their social development. According to Noddings (2006), “Building relations of care and trust in the classroom is part of an ongoing critical lesson in human relations” (p. 103). This should include special needs children. It is also important for kids in the general education classrooms to be exposed to a variety of individuals so that they can learn how to accept and learn from others who are different.

However, the special education system is not without its own controversy and abuse. Some students will attempt to abuse the system by avoiding classwork or homework and claiming their disability as a cop-out. Unfortunately, parents of special needs children are also not without blame. According to Evans (2008), “Some parents confuse making life easier with making life better for their children. Too often, parents feel that protecting their child from the rigors of academic demands is in his or her best interest” (p. 330). It can be difficult for IEP teams, teachers, and counselors to argue with the parents of special needs students.

A special needs student should be given every accommodation necessary in order to have equal access to an activity. I intend to work to the best of my abilities to accommodate any special needs children placed in my future elementary classroom.

References:

Evans, Dennis. (2008). Taking Sides: Clashing Views of Controversial Issues in Teaching and Educational Practice. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Noddings, Nel. (2006). Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Academic Standards and Technology in the Classroom

The United States education system and academic standards have been a hotly debated topic the last several decades. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, attempted to hold all states accountable for the performance of their schools with little assistance in determining how to improve poor-performing schools. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing according to state standards, annual performance tracking, improving teacher qualifications, as well as changes in funding. The responsibility to develop academic standards and assessments was left up to the individual states. Fifteen years later, NCLB has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and many states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math.

I have yet to fully understand the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and how they differ from prior standards. CCSS seem to be the closest thing to national standards the United States has ever had. I think it’s a good thing to be able to evenly measure academic abilities of the majority of students in the U.S. (some states have not adopted CCSS, including Texas). At the same time, teachers need to quickly become familiar with the new standards so that they know what their students are responsible for learning. I struggle with knowing how much flexibility I will have as a future teacher. On one hand, I like the idea of knowing what I will need to teach, but on the other hand, enabling students to have a choice in what they are learning can be beneficial. According to Noddings (2006), educators have a choice to either work with the student’s internal motivations and interests with proper guidance, or to externally motivate them to provide incentive for them to learn what we think they should learn that will benefit them in the future. It is important for teachers to recognize student interests and encourage them, but at the same time make sure students learn critical academic skills that will open up more possibilities for their futures.

Another controversial topic is the use of computers and other electronic devices in schools. While computer games can help build social skills including collaboration, team work, and being part of a community, they can still be misused and deprive students of more enriching activities (Evans, 2008). According to Evans (2008), “as a result of increase time spent with computers, video games, and TV, the current generation of elementary students will experience an estimated 30 percent fewer face-to-face encounters than the previous generation” (p. 308). Learning through human interactions is so important, especially for preschool children. It is also important for older children to know how to use technology responsibly and ethically. Just a few weeks ago at a school I’m volunteering at, I saw students abusing their access to iPads in their math class. They were supposed to be playing math-related games, but several were on YouTube listening to music or generally wasting time on other applications. If not monitored, students will abuse electronic privileges, and it is our job as educators to teach them appropriate ways of interacting with them.

References:

Evans, Dennis. (2008). Taking Sides: Clashing Views of Controversial Issues in Teaching and Educational Practice. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Noddings, Nel. (2006). Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

EDU 6526: Learner-Centered Approaches

As a future teacher, it is important for me to reflect on student personalities and emotions and how they can affect my instruction. I think what initially drew me to consider being a teacher was my desire to help all students with their personal and emotional struggles. I am a very nurturing person and building trust with my students is one of my top priorities. Sometimes a teacher is one of the main people a student can trust, especially when their home life is stressful or when they have few friends or peers to turn to for help. Carl Rogers proposed that there are six priorities for affective education:

1) Establishing a climate of trust
2) A participatory mode of decision-making
3) Uncovering the excitement of discovery learning
4) Teachers acting as facilitators of learning
5) Helping teachers to grow as persons
6) Promoting an awareness that the good life is within each of us

Carl Rogers believed that students were at the center and that learning happened when students found the information relevant to their own lives. Student personalities dictate how a student perceives information or experiences. According to Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015), Carl Rogers believed that “positive human relationships enable people to grow, and therefore instruction should be based on concepts of human relations in contrast to concepts of subject matter” (p.285). In the nondirective model of teaching, the teacher plays the role of facilitator and the student is given authority to express their feelings and emotions without fear of being judged by the teacher. This builds a sense of compassion, empathy, trust, and respect between the teacher and student. I think when a student feels free to express themselves without the fear of being punished or judged, they can truly take responsibility for defining their problems and planning ways to correct and learn from them.

Related to these ideas is Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence (MI) theory. Gardner suggests there are eight intelligences everyone possesses to a differing degree: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. This short video briefly describes each intelligence and provides a few examples for how to cultivate them in the classroom.

As an introverted person, I can certainly understand how personality and different intelligences can affect how one learns in the classroom. I am strong in intrapersonal intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence, therefore I tended to work on my own and kept to myself for the most part. I also liked concrete answers and logical tasks, especially in math. But not all my students will be like me. How exactly can I take into account these differing learning styles and modify my instruction as a future elementary teacher? According to Howard Gardner (2009), “When child are young, we should encourage well roundedness. As they grow older, it becomes more important to discover and cultivate areas of strength. Livelihood and happiness are more likely to emerge under those circumstances.”

I need to understand that students have varying levels of all types of intelligences and that I may need to differentiate my instruction or homework assignments to accommodate for those differences. I believe that teaching in a variety of ways is the best solution to reaching the most students possible. That doesn’t mean I need to change up my teaching every hour of every days, but perhaps over the course of a semester I could incorporate music, exercise, nature, and personal activities into my lessons to encourage different intelligences. That way I can see what works for each student and learn to distinguish different intellectual strengths and styles on the fly (Gardner, 2009).

References:

Gardner, H. & Edwards, O. (2009). “An Interview with Howard Gardner, Father of Multiple Intelligence.”

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

McKnight, H. (2011). Multiple Intelligences [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/cf6lqfNTmaM

EDU 6526: Citizenship and Moral Education in the Classroom

Teaching students to be good, moral citizens is critical to their future as adults. Being a citizen means being a member of and supporting one’s family, classroom, community, social group, and country. Assuming children come to school with a developed idea of virtue, morals, and citizenship is dangerous. Today, more than ever, the family unit is disintegrating and other outside influences such as television and the Internet have crept into our children’s lives unchecked. As a future teacher, I hope to become a role model for good behavior and conflict resolution so my students learn how to become good citizens.

Learning how to build lessons around the idea of citizenship and creating a safe and respectful learning environment are important to the overall function of the classroom. One way to promote a respectful learning environment is to run the classroom like a democracy. At the beginning of the year, students can vote on what the classroom reward will be for good behavior over a period of time. The students will feel a sense of ownership over the reward and will work together in behaving appropriately in order to achieve the reward.

Another way to promote citizenship in the classroom is using the role playing model of teaching. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) define role playing as “students exploring human relations problems by acting out problem situations and then discussing the enactments. Together, students can explore feelings, attitudes, values, and problem-solving strategies” (p. 262). According to Joyce et.al. (2015), role playing explores how values drive behaviors and students think about how they feel and what is important to them. They also think about what is important to others and can develop empathy and compassion for others, while learning strategies for resolving conflict (Joyce et.al., 2015). Other benefits of role playing include improved listening skills, negotiating skills, reasonability. It is important for students to develop these skills in order for them to become good citizens in the classroom and life in general. See Figure 1 for an outline of the role playing model.

Figure 1 - Role Playing Model

Figure 1 – Role Playing Model

Citizenship can also be promoted in the classroom through the exploration of historical or contemporary problems using nonlinguistic representations, such as generating mental pictures and creating illustrations or drawings (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). For example, when discussing Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the teacher could have the students imagine how Sacagawea might have felt when she initially came into contact with Lewis and Clark. Was she scared, angry, or interested? To further this thinking, students might be asked to think about whether they know anyone with Native American heritage or family. Considering how one’s actions impact others is critical to developing empathy and in turn good citizenship. When students are good citizens of the classroom, there are fewer interruptions and conflicts are resolved quicker and with less escalation. The classroom functions more smoothly in general, leading to increased concentration and learning.

There are many websites that include ideas for how to promote good citizenship and morals in the classroom. One idea in particular from this list that I like is a community service project such as picking up litter. My classroom could go out into the neighborhood surrounding the school and pick up litter. This would promote taking care of our natural resources and treating the environment with respect. I plan on incorporating many of these ideas into my future classroom in order to provide a positive, safe learning environment for my students.

References:

Davies, L. (2002). 20 Ideas for Teaching Citizenship to Children. Retrieved from http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip27.html.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

EDU 6526: Constructivism and Cooperative Learning

When I started this teaching program, I thought I would be the teacher that lectured and simply told my students the information while they took notes and repeated it back. I suppose this is because that’s all I knew from my childhood: teachers spoon-feeding the information to us so we could pass a test and never use the information again. Now, I believe that a more constructivist approach can lead to improved learning, and even more so when done in a cooperative learning setting.

Constructivism is defined as a theory of learning asserting that knowledge is not passively received, but actively received; and cognition functions to organize the experiential world. It is important to understand that when a student is given authority in the classroom to come up with their own ideas, hypothesis, and categories for information, they will learn and remember better than if the teacher had simply given them all the answers in the beginning.

One way to incorporate this constructivist approach is to use group learning as a tool to promote social abilities and skills. Students today need to possess not only intellectual skills, but also social skills in order to work efficiently and effectively with others (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). Allowing students to follow their own curiosities while in a group setting can be an exciting thing. Cooperative learning has many benefits including increased academic engagement, higher self-esteem, better attitudes about school and peers, and an increased desire to work with others (Dean et. al., 2012).

I don’t have fond memories of my group projects and cooperative learning when I was in school. I was always the one that did the majority of the work while the other students in my group took the credit just the same. I realize now that my teachers may not have implemented the group projects in the best way possible. The following elements are essential to a successful cooperative learning environment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 – Elements of the Cooperative Learning Model

Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) describe the classroom as a miniature democracy where students works together to inquire and solve problems and become more effective as a group. Constructivism in this case involves students being presented with a problem and they think about possible solutions while the teacher plays the role of counselor, consultant, and friendly critic (Joyce et. al., 2015). “Inquiry is stimulated by confrontation with a problem, and knowledge results from the inquiry. The social process enhances inquiry and is itself studied and improved. The heart of group investigation lies in its concept of inquiring groups” (Joyce, et. al., 2015, p.250). Figure 2 describes the phases of the group investigation model.

Figure 2

Figure 2 – Group Investigation Model

In my future classroom, I hope I can follow these ideas and suggestions in order to create an environment conducive to students constructing their own knowledge and in turn improving their academic success through positive social interactions with peers.

References:

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

EDSP 6648: Defining EBD

The term emotional and behavioral disorder (EBD) is difficult to define because everyone has a different idea of what it means. Before this class, I did not realize that EBD existed. I would have simply referred to the disorder as anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or some other diagnosed condition. Do all students that act out in school have a EBD? Probably not, but now I realize that EBD is more complex than that. How do you know when emotional and behavioral problems constitute a disorder?

Even lawmakers have trouble coming up with a good definition of EBD (Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, & Shriner, 2013). In order for a student to receive EBD special education services, they must meet the federal definition for EBD. However the federal definition is vague and ambiguous when it comes to what a “marked degree” is and how long “a long period of time” is. Every person is different and people with EBD are no exception.

I define EBD as someone that has either an emotional or behavioral problem that causes them to have inappropriate actions or thoughts that adversely affect their ability to learn, work, or form meaningful relationships with others. These actions or thoughts happen repeatedly and over the course of several months. This would not include people with depression who have just lost a family member or someone important to them for example, unless it continues for several months and it negatively affects their learning or work. But even that definition is still lacking. The federal definition says EBD does not include people who are “socially maladjusted,” such as people who participate in gang activities. However, I feel like these people need just as much help as someone who has an anxiety disorder.

In any case, I believe many of the conceptual models and risk factors can help us better define EBD. Yell et al. (2013) describe several models including the psychodynamic, psychoeducational, ecological, humanistic, biophysical, behavioral, and cognitive models. I know it can probably be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the EBD, but I think many times it is multiple factors working together. For example, the ecological model states that the poor behavior could be a result of an adverse environment. Risk factors for such an environment could include family risk factors such as having parents in legal trouble, neglect or abuse, or even rejection by family (Yell et. al., 2013).

Behavior problems could be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain or genetics, which describes the biophysical model. And yet another belief is that behavior stems from social contexts and cause and effect treatment or punishment. All of these different models and risk factors influence my description of EBD. It will be my job as a future elementary teacher to watch out for children who have either been diagnosed with EBD or show signs of having a potential problem.

Reference: Yell, M. L., Meadows, N. B., Drasgow, E., & Shriner, J. G. (2013). Evidence-based practices for educating students with emotional and behavioral disorders (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.