Disruptive students can often cause more problems for teachers than disrespectful or defiant students. Disruptions throw the lesson off track, influence other students, and can leave teachers feeling helpless in their own classrooms. How do you deal with their behavior? Try out our Three Sweeps resource to help address disruptive behaviors in productive ways.
For additional, in-depth support, reach out to our coaching team!
What happens when a school district stops buying published, packaged curriculum and starts empowering their teachers to collaborate strategically to design courses that address the unique interests and needs of their students? CPET partners Nazareth, PA Area School District are finding out that when teachers are co-authors of bespoke curriculum that is engaging to their students, teachers’ engagement with all aspects of the work also peaks.
After a year-long effort of research and writing, grades 7-10 ELA teachers in Nazareth are rolling out their new curricula, and the focus of our work has shifted to implementation. Our team is visiting middle and high school classrooms and engaging in coaching conversations with Nazareth teachers as they begin to experience early successes and surface early challenges to the redesigned courses.
These coaching conversations allow teachers the space and time necessary to reflect on their new curriculum but also assist them in translating their planning into instruction. As the process of implementing the new curriculum continues, the teachers and their CPET coaches gather data from periodic assessments, teacher reflections, and classroom observations in order to facilitate a cycle of inquiry through which Nazareth teachers will refine their prototype curriculum in order to make it even more valuable to their students.
Are you helping teachers tackle the curriculum design process? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Can't stop/won't stop: A cycle of inquiry that describes and then analyzes a situation should culminate in suggestions for action, and that action will yield a new set of data for description and analysis. The reflective practitioner never stops questioning and investigating.
2. UbD FTW: Sometimes the old ways are the best ways, so if you’re looking to support teachers as they plan instruction, consider falling back to the Understanding by Design framework.
3. Support matters: Not all teachers are want to or are prepared to write their own curriculum. A little bit of framing and coaching can go a long way to help them feel ready and find success.
In partnership with PS114 in Brooklyn, our team recently conducted a needs assessment focused on two areas:
As a result, we saw PS114’s pass-rate on NYS tests double from 16% to 32%, and a marked increase in performance among the school’s lowest achieving students, who are also among the city’s lowest third. For the diverse students of this school, many of whom experience economic hardship, and the teachers who work hard to meet their needs each day, this growth was a great source of hope and inspiration.
Here’s how we approached the project:
To address the first goal, we ran pilots using units from JUMP Math, a curriculum written by Dr. John Mighton, an award winning playwright and mathematician from Canada. After a successful pilot in the 2016-17 academic year, we expanded our use of JUMP to all of PS114 in the 2017-18 school year. Relative to state targets, the school improved from well below the city average for impact on student achievement to above average.
To address the second area of focus, we ran cycles of inquiry -- a structured, ongoing process of goal setting, intervention, data collection, analysis, and adjustment of plans -- with teacher teams to ensure that we were optimizing our use of the curriculum.
As you improve your own practice, consider:
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What would you say to America if you could? Current events challenge us to think about our changing country, and how new immigration policies deeply affect high school students and their families. At the Bronx High School of Business, one teacher joined forces with her students, many of whom are immigrants, and decided to speak to America. In Dear America, these young people share their experiences and opinions through essays, and tackle some common myths about immigration. The result is a powerful collection of student voices speaking to teachers, parents, and policy-makers
USING THIS PUBLICATION IN THE CLASSROOM
November, the month of Election Day, is also a month when political ideologies and perspectives on various issues are discussed throughout the country. One issue that affects a great number of students in our school is the issue of immigration. The student authors of Dear America embarked on a journey of inquiry throughout their writing process, in an effort to share their personal perspectives on the subject.
We invite you to use this text to inspire writing prompts of your own, related to the issues that affect and resonate with your students most. Furthermore, we invite you to use these texts to foster the often difficult, yet critical conversations regarding immigration. We believe that when students explore the perspectives and experiences of other students like them, it can help create a safe space for sharing, making connections, and ideally, building empathy.
I was walking down the hallway of one of our classic New York City high schools, talking with a teacher who was struggling with classroom culture issues. They were explaining that day in and day out, it was the same thing with the same kids. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to the teacher, and said, “The thing is -- if nothing changes, nothing changes.”
I wasn’t trying to be clever, it just seemed so clear and simple to me in that moment. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Why would we ever expect anything to change if we do not bring something new or different to the classroom? If we do not see our students differently, or if we speak to them differently? If we do not teach them differently?
The clearer this concept became in that moment, the clearer I saw this simple truth in all areas of my professional and personal life. I realized that when we have a goal that we want to reach, we must be the first to change our mindset and our actions. This is as true for school leaders working with teachers (both administrators and teacher leaders alike) as it is for teachers working with students. So when I recently had the opportunity to support a group of teacher leaders and administrators in a 3-day institute at Teachers College, I really wanted to focus on helping them develop a strategic plan for school change. We knew that nothing would change if nothing changed -- but we weren’t quite sure what should be changed first, which is why we developed this three-step process. This process allowed us to be reflective about the challenges that were most impacting the school’s student achievement and to work collaboratively to develop strategic solutions.
Step 1: Identify your leverage area
Before developing a solution, we need to determine the underlying problem and ultimate leverage area. Using the 5 Whys protocol helps us to dig below the surface and identify the root cause, which leads us to a new understanding of the problem. The 5 Whys begins with a basic statement of the problem, then prompts critical reflection to consider why this problem exists, in five rounds.
When working through this process we want to keep our critical reflection focused on factors that are within our sphere of influence. For example, if the problem statement is, “students are struggling on state tests,” and the probing question is “why?” and the response is, “poverty” … well, there isn’t really anywhere to go to solve this problem! It can leave us feeling very powerless, when that isn’t the case at all. This isn’t to say that poverty isn’t an underlying reason, but it isn’t the only reason, and it is far too broad a topic to be resolved by a small group of people. Instead, it is more productive and empowering to focus on areas in which we have more influence.
For example, students are struggling on state tests. Why? Because the tests are long and students get tired. Why? Because students struggle with test-taking stamina. Why? Because they get tired and bored, and it’s difficult for them to retain focus. Why? Because the texts or tasks are complex and they struggle to comprehend them. Why? Because they struggle with assessment literacy and text types or question styles become difficult for them to read.
This could go on and on, but notice how, when forced to keep the responses within the realm of the team’s influence, we actually got down to some concrete areas of focus. The 5 Whys protocol helps to unearth a tangible root issue that is contributing to the problem. By resolving the root cause, we can begin to see what we should change, so that things can change.
Step 2: Understand your connection to the challenge
In order to really incite change, every person needs to see how they are connected to the challenge, and articulate a way that they can personally contribute to the solution. By creating a personal action plan, each person is invited to consider the nature of the problem, how it's connected to their role, and what they can do about it as an individual. Through a series of sentence starters, a personal action plan asks educators to examine their current role and responsibilities, where they have influence or decision-making power, and to reflect on what they can do to make an impact on the root issue. When using the sentence starter, “one thing I can do to make a difference is…” you begin with a powerful prompt as you consider what you can do to influence change.
Step 3: Create a collaborative action plan
While everyone can individually contribute to a solution, more progress will be made if there is intentional collaboration. When educators work together to solve problems, they have a greater impact in a shorter time period. Consider the impact on struggling readers if one teacher uses a literacy strategy once a day for two weeks. The students will see that support 10 times. Now consider if five teachers used the strategy for two weeks. Students would see that strategy 50 times in 10 days. That kind of emphasis builds capacity within students at an exponential rate. This is what the collaborative action plan is all about. It helps to create a timeline, a team, and benchmark objectives to meet the goal.
Our ability to solve complex problems increases when we better understand the problem we’re trying to solve, when we’re able to get down into the root of the issue, and when we make a personal and collaborative commitment for targeted change. These strategies can be applied in all parts of organizations, and especially in schools where our actions impact the current and future lives of our students. Nothing changes when nothing changes. But when something changes -- anything can change, and you can be a part of it. Be the change you want to see
The Student Press Initiative is celebrating its 16th year of publishing student work, and our publication team is excited to continue empowering schools & students as they go public with their writing this year. Last year, we worked alongside schools in New York, North Carolina, Georgia, and Singapore to create 23 student-authored publications focused on everything from surviving high school to dystopian futures.
More publications are already in the works for this year, including one from our long-term partner, the Morris Academy of Collaborative Studies, whose students will be publishing their 10th anthology this spring.
Why student publishing?
If you’ll be at the 2018 NCTE convention, stop by and see our stellar coaches! They’ll be showcasing their research, best practices, and passion at this year’s event, which takes place in Houston, TX. Read on for a preview of their presentations!
The sunlight is still Summer while the breeze feels like Fall. Teachers stream in, eager to find their names at check-in and chat with colleagues on their way to hear the keynote speaker frame the day, “It’s not that differentiation is part of the work. Differentiation is the work itself. We all can make progress and we can all grow. Each student deserves a goal that they can work hard to achieve!”
So begins Differentiating Like a Star, one of four mini-conferences CPET recently offered to early career teachers from the Bronx. The New York City Department of Education, Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality (OTQR), partnered with us to bring this series of professional development workshops to life. Each mini-conference was CTLE credit-approved and offered words of inspiration rooted in the reality of our classrooms, followed by a customized workshop session designed to model the practices and strategies of 21st century skills and work on authentic tasks educators could use in their classrooms.
The Art of Instructional Design: Many new teachers struggle with daily (or rather, nightly) lesson planning, which is often inefficient and ineffective for long-term learning. These breakout sessions supported teachers in taking their planning to a new level by helping them understand the basic components of any plan, and cultivate strategies for long term planning.
Differentiating Like a Star: Differentiating instruction is an essential, and often misunderstood, pedagogical strategy. These breakout sessions were designed to tackle one element of differentiation that teachers struggle with and provide them with a clear foundation for what differentiation is and isn’t, as well as provide tangible strategies for immediate implementation.
Digging Into Danielson: Each breakout session, aimed at understanding the Danielson evaluation system, focused on 1-2 of the key Danielson domains. Teachers explored the language of the rubric, made connections to their own practice, learned 2-3 techniques aligned with the expectation of Effective Practice, and created a plan for implementation.
Teaching Through the Test: Each breakout session analyzed high stakes assessments within each content area. Teachers anticipated their students’ strengths and likely challenges, and made connections to essential content knowledge and skills in addition to highly effective strategies for teaching through the test, rather than to it.
As each mini-conference drew to a close, teachers provided feedback, sharing that their experience exceeded expectations at a significantly higher rate than any other ranking! Participant comments point to accessible and expert facilitators, practical application, and engaging material:
I am from a caring mom
That cooks with pride
Baked ziti with chicken
And from T.V.,
I am from the hood
With gunshots that ring
More than doorbells,
my mother grew,
As red as blood.
That untitled work, by a student at East River Academy, a New York City public school that serves young people at the city’s Rikers Island detention facility, is among the 69 poems, narratives and essays found on the pages of “Free Minds,” a booklet published by Teachers College’s Student Press Initiative (SPI). Launched 16 years ago by Ruth Vinz, Enid & Lester Morse Professor in Teacher Education, SPI is just one facet of TC’s Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET), which was created by Vinz as an outlet for students at the Academy and other schools to express their thoughts, their hopes and their dreams.
In May, District 79 – an alternative city school district that helps students under the age of 21 who have experienced an interruption to their studies – recognized CPET as an “Exemplary Partner” for its work with East River Academy, which includes professional and curriculum development. The honors were directed at the entire CPET team, which consists of the center’s director, Roberta Lenger Kang; SPI director Cristina Romeo Compton; Senior Professional Development Coach Courtney Brown; and a team focused on East River Academy Team whose members are TC students Shannon Alison and Andrew Ravin (both of whom are Zankel Fellows); TC Social Studies Education faculty member Erika Kitzmiller; and Senior Professional Development Coaches Greg Benoit (math) and Kristina Hopkins (science).
Continue reading on the Teachers College website.
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From the Darkness, a collection of memoirs written by the junior class of Hoboken High School, treats the reader to tales of conflict -- the driving force behind all great literature -- with monsters. Through confrontations with nature, man, society, or themselves, these young authors discover their strength, tenacity, and beauty.
USING THIS PUBLICATION IN THE CLASSROOM
“Darkness” is a fitting theme for the month of October. We encourage you to use this text to embark upon a study of conflict and support students in expanding their understandings of this literary element. How can it be represented in various genres and texts?
Furthermore, we invite you use this publication to explore writing projects inspired by questions such as: How does a teenager combat nature? How do they confront one another? How do they confront themselves?
Enjoy reading the life stories of these students and learning about the fears of adolescence. We hope they will leave you inspired to face your own monsters!