Environment As the Third Teacher

DoctorIsIn

Dear Dr. P.,

I am excited about my new classroom, but I’m feeling completely overwhelmed looking at the bare walls and thinking about how I’m going to make the classroom come to life and be organized for the students. Any suggestions?

Thank you, Classroom Setup Crunch


Dear Crunch,

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of Reggio Emilia preschools, would be enthusiastic about your question. He believed that environment is such an important part of making learning meaningful that he coined the term “environment as the third teacher” (Gandini, 2011).

The Reggio Emilia approach provokes educators to think differently about the aesthetics of a classroom. Instead of purchased “decorations,” students are the creators of the aesthetic through learning. For example, instead of buying an alphabet chart to put at the front of the room, young learners can create one themselves out of sticks found on the playground or materials recycled from another unit. The students not only use the finished chart, but they also engage in an in-depth way by constructing it to make meaning for themselves. Older students can use similar techniques to create a periodic table or an anchor chart.

Student-made alphabet chart adorns the hallway at the IPS/Butler Lab School.

Consider what supplies you can keep out on a regular basis instead of just pulling them out for a short time. You’ll notice this inspires a creative work process. Imagine if you encourage students to use the set of magnifying glasses at recess and beyond! In Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms, you’ll often see glass jars or recycled storage containers (like baskets) filled with materials for learners’ easy access.

Ms. Marielle Keller’s kindergarten classroom at the IPS/Butler Lab School.

Think about how students move around your class to collaborate. Where are they able to work in small groups? What is the easiest access to supplies without disrupting classmates? At the beginning of the year, have students role-play the appropriate and inappropriate ways to move about the room. This “interactive modeling” also can help you assess what does and does not work. After you’ve built a strong class community, why not give students a chance to redesign the room and think about the ways the classroom can morph and change to support their growing needs?

Lastly, calming spots, relaxation stations, and “amygdala reset areas” are important for students who might need a break for behavior or academic reasons. These areas are usually a soft space away from the busyness of the classroom. They don’t have to be large, just safe spots for kids to take a break in a proactive way.

Lastly, and I know this goes against the grain, but I highly encourage you to not feel pressure to spend money on your classroom environment (although we’ve all done it). From an administrative and community perspective, it gives a false sense of budget needs. Many new teachers have had tremendous success with Donorschoose.org for supplies like pillows and lamps for calming spots. Businesses also have allotted money for school donations and, in many cases, all you must do is fill out a simple form. PTAs and parent groups are also eager to support environment when possible.

Enjoy establishing your new community and your new environment!

Dr. P.

Image result for catherine hagerman panganDr. Pangan, a former elementary teacher and current Professor at Butler University (Indianapolis), loves to help build and support strong, healthy schools. Please send your question for Dr. P. to cpangan@butler.edu.

Reference

Gandini, L. (2011). Play and the hundred languages of children: An interview with Lella Gandini. American Journal of Play, 4(1), 1–18.

Technically Speaking: Ed Tech for the Danielson Domains

Hello, friends! In this issue, I am sharing educational technology tools across the Danielson domains.

TechDanielson

The Danielson domains refer to four domains of teacher responsibility as defined within the Framework for Teaching (www.danielsongroup.org/framework). This is a curated list from preservice teachers at Grove City College, who were tasked with identifying a tech tool for each domain.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

Domain 1 focuses on knowing your students beyond the student interest survey, understanding the content area and how to best teach it with evidencebased practices, assessing students’ learning, and ensuring that your content is coherent in sequence and scope.

  • Share My Lesson
  • Teachers Pay Teachers – Find a library of resources created by teachers, for teachers! Edit the lessons for your students’ needs.
  • Planboard – Organize lessons, share documents, track standards, and collaborate with other educators in your district. Record attendance, grades, and observations within this easy-to-use tech tool!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Domain 2 is about creating a classroom of respect and rapport among students, and between students and teachers. It is a space where students feel safe to think creatively, solve problems, and collaborate.

  • Classtools – Classtools is an EdTech treasure trove with a QR code creator, random name picker, Fakebook, fake Twitter, and more.
  • Adobe Spark
  • Canva – Don’t buy a motivational poster—make your own! Or better yet, have your students make them and display their work.

Domain 3: Instruction

Domain 3 is the heart of the framework, focusing on engaging students in learning and instruction. It pulls in features of teaching such as assessment, communication, and being a flexible educator.

  • Screencast-O-Matic – Record a lesson or presentation that is easy to share and embed in your class website or LMS.
  • Padlet – Add comments, links, pictures, and videos to this virtual sticky note board.
  • EdPuzzle – Do you want to make sure that students watched the video before class? Try this tool to embed questions into videos.
  • Kahoot
  • Gimkit
  • Socrative – These tools offer fun ways to conduct formative assessments.

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Domain 4 relates to the power of reflection. You don’t want to be that teacher who uses the same lessons each year. Shake it up. Ask yourself, what is best for my students? This domain also relates to professional development (PD) and growing as an educator of excellence.

How can you implement educational technology based on the domains? Share your ideas!

Image result for sam fecich grove city collegeDr. Fecich is a former special education teacher and now is Assistant Professor and Instructional Technologist at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She enjoys connecting with other educators about teacher prep, STEM, augmented reality, and mobile learning. Please send your educational technology questions to Sfecich@gmail.com.

Communication Is the Key to Student Teaching

StudentTeaching

As a senior education major, you are thrilled to begin your student teaching experience.

You also may be concerned about the relationship with your cooperating teacher. Are you a guest in the classroom or a co-teacher? Did the teacher volunteer to work with you, or were you just assigned to him or her as another duty this year? How worried is the cooperating teacher about supervising you and raising the test scores of all students during the same semester?

It is critically important to start student teaching “on the right foot.”

You need to clarify answers to so many questions with clear communication before, and during, the student teaching semester.

What To Do Before the Student Teaching Experience

  1. Find out where you are to be, and when. Start dates are important. Are you to meet with the teacher before the first day of the student teaching assignment? Are you to coordinate that meeting with both the teacher and the college supervisor?
  2. What are the hours involved in student teaching? Does your college require the same hours of the teacher, or can you leave when the students leave on days that you need to be back on campus?
  3. How do you communicate with the cooperating teacher (sometimes called the mentor teacher)? Today’s teachers are overwhelmed and may not want to be available 24/7 for your text messages and emails. Make sure that you know how the teacher wishes to be contacted. If it’s only during the school day, plan ahead for your work.

What To Do the First Few Days

Some student teachers report that they don’t know what to do, or that their teacher has them sit off to the side. Here are starting points for the first few days:

  1. Make a copy of the bell schedule for yourself.
  2. Make a copy of all seating charts for yourself.
  3. Read the school’s management plan and faculty handbook.
  4. Discuss the management plan and discipline with your teacher.
  5. Find out where things are—the computers, copier, and supplies.
  6. Get to know the building—restrooms, emergency exits, cafeteria, and other teachers’ rooms.

Planning Your Work

Your cooperating teacher may not know the expectations of the college’s student teaching program. At your initial meeting, share copies of specific assignments that you must complete, and communicate the hours you need to teach.

  1. Get a calendar and look at your assignments side by side with the schedule of the cooperating teacher. Make sure you both write the specific due dates.
  2. Share the guidelines with the cooperating teacher about how he or she will approve your teaching hours.
  3. Be the go-between person to coordinate the required observations from your college supervisor.
  4. Show your cooperating teacher a copy of the evaluation that he or she will complete about your work. Discuss how you can demonstrate some of the requirements of the evaluation, such as use of technology or differentiation of instruction.
  5. If your college or state requires EdTPA, (the Teacher Performance Assessment) or other video assessment, get the necessary permissions for use of video early in the semester.

What Your Cooperating Teacher Expects

While many cooperating teachers are delighted to share their knowledge and consider working with a student teacher to be a recognition of their expertise, others are very worried when they are assigned a student teacher. To assuage their fears, be the best co-teacher you can be.

  1. Always be on time. Communicating that you will be late is not an excuse, so don’t text and say you are running behind that day. Your teacher/mentor expects you to be there on time.
  2. Your teacher expects you to be there all the time you are assigned to the room. Teachers rely on student teachers for help with everything from attendance to teaching lessons. Don’t let them down.
  3. Be prepared. With 28 third graders sitting in front of you, you can’t just “wing it.”
  4. Look professional. You can’t dress the way you would for a class on campus. Look like the teacher! No casual clothes, and you must get up early enough to have a good hair day.
  5. The teacher wants help. He or she appreciates help to provide more small-group remediation and to provide more individualized attention to students. Having a second adult in the room can be a real asset. Being a remarkable helper ensures that you will learn more at the same time.
  6. Your teacher expects you to be immersed in the classroom experience—no texting or reading Facebook during class time. Be 100% present.

The Magic Words

Student teachers continue to evaluate their field experiences as the best part of their teacher education programs. A good student teaching experience prepares you well for your first year of teaching—and beyond.

Remember the magic words, “How can I help you today?” These words are the best communication tool for a productive learning experience in student teaching.

mary clement berry collegeDr. Clement is a Professor of Teacher Education at Berry College in north Georgia, where she continues to supervise student teachers annually. She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is the author of 13 books in her research area: the hiring and induction of new teachers.

Additional Online Resources

Positive Parent Partnerships for Student Success

Parental Involvement

In one of my college teaching courses, I received a piece of advice that I always implemented in my teaching practice: “Make your first contact with parents a positive one!”

So, I sent out a letter at the start of the year to develop a positive relationship with my students’ parents.

As a new teacher, I felt my introductory letter set a tone of caring and concern and demonstrated that I had their child’s best interest at heart. However, I learned that sending a letter was not enough. Fostering a positive partnership means developing a respectful relationship when working with parents, especially when addressing student concerns.

Make your First Verbal Contact Count

Often the first meaningful verbal contact with parents is when a concern arises about their child. If an initial contact addresses a concern, start the conversation by sharing one genuine positive comment about the student. For example, I had a fifth-grade student who was not doing his classwork, and I knew his parents had not received many encouraging phone calls from school over the years. His mom’s first response to my call was, “What now?” I shared how I enjoyed her son’s sense of humor and told her he could get the whole class laughing. Her demeanor changed and we talked for a few minutes. Then I told her I was worried about her son not completing his classwork and that I needed her help. That was the start of a successful partnership, and her son ended up doing very well in my class.

Another strategy is to make positive phone calls home to share good news whenever possible. This is particularly important for students who struggle. Let them know you are watching for something good to share with parents.

Tell It Like You Want to Be Told

Before talking to a parent, think about the child you care about most in the world. Then think about how you would want to receive the information you are about to share. When you put yourself in the parent’s place, it helps you to be empathetic and diplomatic about how you discuss the concern.

Remove the Emotion

When talking to parents about an incident or behavioral concern, it is easy to become emotional. Before speaking to a parent, take a deep breath and remember that the student is likely acting a certain way to obtain something (e.g., attention) or avoid something (e.g., a difficult task), and it is not personal. Once you can have the conversation without feeling emotional, then discuss the concern.

Ask for Advice

Sometimes, no matter what we try, we cannot help students improve the choices they make. Ask parents how they handle the behavior. They may share a strategy that will work in the classroom. Working with parents is a partnership in which both parties have something to share, and parents know their children better than anyone else.

Actively Listen to Parents

When discussing concerns with parents, listen to what they have to say. This validates their feelings, and the information they share can provide valuable input in helping to support their child.

Let Parents Know About Concerns ASAP

We often let parents know about behavioral concerns right away, but sometimes we are slow to discuss academic concerns. Make parents aware of academic concerns as soon as a pattern emerges (e.g., turning in homework late). Then both of you can address concerns with the child, with no surprises when report cards come out.

Share Concerns When Student Behavior Changes

If a student starts acting out of character, contact the parents to see whether they have noticed a change as well. Sometimes major life changes will affect students in school, and the parents can let you know whether something important is going on. They may not need to share the exact issue, but knowing there is a reason for the change will help you support the child.

Resistant Parents: Do Not Assume the Worst

Unfortunately, developing a positive parent partnership does not work 100% of the time. Some parents are resistant to a partnership. Do not assume they do not care about their child. One of my former students cried because his parent could not take phone calls from school. Taking a phone call meant leaving the production line and losing wages. Parents have a lot of responsibilities to consider; refusing a phone call or missing an event may be the better choice to make.

If you work with resistant parents, talk with your school social worker or psychologist for guidance in forming partnerships. Sometimes those professionals have additional insight into families that can help you form connections and ensure that the student’s needs are being met.

Creating a positive partnership with parents takes time and commitment. You develop this partnership by treating parents with respect. You strengthen it by sharing good news as well as concerns. You achieve it when you recognize everything that the parents bring to the relationship.

Resources

For some additional help with building strong relationships with parents, check out these resources:

  • Nurturing Positive Relationships with Parents (bit.ly/ParentRelationships)
  • Getting Derailed Parent–Teacher Relationships Back on Track (bit.ly/NEABackonTrack)
  • New Teachers: Working with Parents (bit.ly/edutopia_Parents)

Image result for barbara meier university of wisconsin-eau claireDr. Meier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Clair. She teaches courses on reading for students with special needs, technology integration, and inclusion for elementary educators.

Kappa Delta Pi and CourseNetworking Team Up to Support New Teachers

(INDIANAPOLIS)—Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, is partnering with CourseNetworking (CN), an innovative Indianapolis-based technology company in education, to draw on the Society’s rich legacy of high standards and excellence to support the professional growth and retention of new teachers.

Beginning teachers have high turnover rates that cost schools billions of dollars each year. One effective way to combat the revolving door of teachers and its negative effects on schools and students is to offer new teachers professional development. Dr. Richard Ingersoll, a prominent researcher and member of KDP’s esteemed Laureate Chapter, shared, “Somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those that go into teaching are gone within 5 years.” KDP is perfectly positioned to address the needs of beginning teachers, as the organization has a presence on the campuses of more than 650 institutions nationwide, helping to graduate nearly 10,000 education students into the profession each year.

Beginning in fall 2018, KDP will offer new opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and skills through online learning as well as to establish a permanent eportfolio. A selection of courses, which will be both affordable and convenient, will help teachers develop competencies that can be applied immediately in their classrooms. After successfully proving their competencies in each course, teachers will earn micro-credentials in the form of official badges, and have an opportunity to earn certificates they can use as proof of their skills, as continuing education, and as evidence of these accomplishments on their eportfolio. Among the initial topics for P–12 teachers will be areas that KDP research has identified to be the most challenging for new teachers. The majority of the course offerings will be asynchronous, with learner engagement both independently and within an online community.

“CN is very excited to work with KDP in implementing the most advanced new-age learning environment, the CN Learning Suite,” shared Dr. Ali Jafari, CN Chairman and CEO. “The CN LMS provides easy access to new KDP certification and badge-based courses while the CN Social Network connects KDP members globally to network and collaborate. The CN ePortfolio offers a lifelong professional cyber image for all KDP members. With this collaboration, we can change the way scholarly societies network and conduct continued professional development.”

KDP President-Elect Dr. Victoria Tusken, who has worked in education for 30 years—including 4 as a Secondary Curriculum Coordinator in Illinois—believes that KDP has an opportunity to be at the forefront of ongoing professional growth for teachers. “To think about micro-credentialing in terms of steps toward mastering specific skills is just good professional development,” said Tusken. “The typical professional development never sticks. Practitioners need ownership of their professional development, and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ format often pushed down from districts proves to be viewed by practitioners as a waste of their time. But, to provide short courses around specific topics and competencies has a deep impact and a lasting value for practitioners.”

Though the initial offerings will be geared toward practicing P–12 educators, KDP plans to leverage its innovative model to address all three major focus areas of the Society’s current strategic vision, which are to (1) Recruit qualified candidates into the profession, (2) Support and enhance quality preparation of teachers, and (3) Retain effective teachers—particularly in high needs areas.

The projected timeline will make the courses and eportfolio available to KDP members and other educators prior to the Society’s 52nd Convocation, to be held in Indianapolis, IN from Wednesday, October 31 through Saturday, November 3, 2018. This year’s Convocation, themed ”Designing the Future,” will feature a cutting-edge experience where all attendees of all generations and experience levels not only gain knowledge and strategies, but also collaborate to design a future that is sustainable, equitable, and promising for ALL learners.

For more information about the eportfolio, please visit http://www.thecn.com/eportfolio, and for more information about KDP, please visit http://www.kdp.org. You can view the official press release here.

About Kappa Delta Pi
Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, was founded in 1911 at the University of Illinois to foster excellence in education and promote fellowship among those dedicated to teaching. As a professional membership association and international honor society in education, KDP provides programs, services, and resources to its member educators to support and enhance their professional growth—all in an effort to advance quality education for all and to inspire teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges. With more than 650 active chapters and nearly 40,000 active members, the organization has seen great accomplishments and milestones in its 107-year history and is looking forward to a future where all children receive a quality education.

About CourseNetworking, LLC
CourseNetworking (CN) has a unique, next-generation technology solution for the education Industry supported by many years of thinking and research invested prior to the commercialization of the product. Built on a global education platform, the CN Suite offers a comprehensive Learning Management System (LMS), Social Portfolio, Global Academic Social Network, and Badging, as well as other social collaboration functionalities to transform teaching and learning. The CN was built to ensure that teaching and learning opportunities are available for everyone, anywhere in the world, at any time, through the web or the mobile app. The CN also provides a full turnkey solution for system implementation in institutions. The CN is the fourth major research and entrepreneurial project of the IUPUI CyberLab. The CourseNetworking LLC was created by a capital investment from Indiana University and Ali Jafari in 2011.

The Messy Business of Teaching Science

image2“It didn’t go like I wanted it to.”

The tears were streaming down her face before she even sat down.

A half hour earlier, I received an email from Marshall: “Are you in your office? Can I come meet with you about my lessons?” I assumed she needed to borrow materials or perhaps alter the next day’s plan, so I was a bit shaken when she immediately began crying as she entered my office. The capstone assignment for the science methods course is to plan and teach a 3-day mini-unit. In the course, we have talked about teaching and learning through inquiry, the 5-E cycle of instruction, STEM . . . all to prepare students for the experience of teaching hands-on, exploratory science. The week had finally arrived and the students were ready.

“It didn’t go like I wanted it to.” By her expression, I thought that maybe a student was injured.

“Okay, take a deep breath and tell me what happened. It’s going to be fine.” I was already familiar with her mini-unit, as we did a great deal of collaborating in class.

She wiped her face and explained, “Well you know I’m in first grade and we did a lesson on pollution so I had buckets of water and they had to work with their group to filter the water until it was clean so that we could talk about how hard it is to clean pollution and how we need to not pollute our surrounding bodies of water, because you know we had the oil spill a few years ago, and I thought it was going to be really good.” She talked so quickly, without a breath, like she was eager to unburden. She continued, “Well it was a disaster. The water got everywhere and the kids were talking too loud and my cooperating teacher hated it because they were being noisy and it was so hard to get them to be quiet.”

image1“So did the water have anything in it that could stain their clothes?”

“No, but it was all over the place.”

“Did they clean it up?”

“Well, yeah, we had paper towels.”

“Do you think they were learning?”

Her eyes were still red, but she was calmer at this point. “They were definitely talking about what I wanted them to talk about. They were just so excited that I couldn’t get them to be quiet, and the teacher hated that.”

“Just so I’m understanding . . . you’re upset because they were excited and noisy and made a mess . . . with water.”

“Yeah.”

I was relieved and almost felt like laughing.

We were confronted with a true teachable moment for a future teacher.

“Listen,” I said, “There are definitely classroom management lessons to be learned here. But science is messy sometimes, and that’s fine. It should be. They’re first graders, and you gave them tubs of water, then told them to touch it. Of course it’s going to make a mess!” She giggled. “Water dries. If your students are exploring and learning, then making noise and messes is part of the process.” She still had 2 days left to teach, so we then spent a few minutes talking about ways to truly manage the noise and mess, not eliminate it.

Marshall had fallen prey to a feeling that many teachers often struggle with: the discomfort of giving up control.

It’s a delicate balancing act of maintaining a safe and positive classroom environment with the freedom to explore, and even fail sometimes—letting go of the need to be perfect, to be right, to be “in charge.”

This is a frightening, but liberating, experience for a preservice teacher—one that I wish more teachers experienced!

elizabeth-allisonDr. Elizabeth Allison is an assistant professor of elementary science education at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. She enjoys teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the K-6 program as part of the Department of Leadership and Teacher Education. When working with any students, whether in the k-12 setting or in teacher education courses, she strives to instill a love and respect for science and education.

Partners in Loving the Children: A New Year’s Wish

Whitney_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. Anne Whitney, Associate Professor of Education at Penn State University. Read her full article, “Partners in Loving the Children,” in The Educational Forum.

Happy New Year! I always think of back-to-school time as the Real New Year, for in my family of two academics, an elementary school student, and a preschooler, fall truly is the starting point by which we mark all of our time.

We celebrate this new year by finding new shoes that fit, checking jeans for holes, and sharpening pencils. We open our journals to fresh pages and set fresh goals. We get our carpet cleaned after a summer of dirty bare feet, and we clean out the area by the front door where we put our jackets, shoes, and backpacks.

In the days leading up to the start of the new year, my daughter pines for the letter that will tell her who her teacher will be. When the letter arrives, my phone starts to buzz with questions from other parents: Who does she have? Who do her friends have? What do you think of Mrs. X? In our small community, this is typical parent information-sharing. We all want a good teacher for our kids.

But to my daughter Emily, just starting the fourth grade, it’s more than that. She’s asking: With whom will I spend my days? Upon whom will I be relying as I try new and difficult things? Under whose wing will I recover on bad days? Under whose influence will I grow?

The first few weeks students spend with their classroom teachers will shape a new and important relationship.

I take this relationship as seriously as Emily does. Kylene Beers explains in her often-shared meditation on why she “hated” her daughter’s first-grade teacher: “Though I had been a teacher for years before having Meredith, before sending her off to first grade, I had never truly understood the power of a teacher in a child’s life.” It’s like that for me, too. I have been forging relationships with teachers for my whole career, whether as a classroom teacher myself or as a teacher educator. But my sense of the stakes in these relationships changed when it was my own kid. And specifically, they changed most when the going got tough, as I describe in my article in The Educational Forum. When my own daughter was struggling with reading, the love with which her teachers surrounded her—and me, as her parent—helped her in school, but also helped me become a better parent.

Here is my new year’s wish for all kids returning to school: May you enter a classroom community characterized by love. May your year in school be a joyful year in your raising. May your schooling be a team effort. May your teacher be a fierce champion of you and what you need. May your parents, teachers, neighbors, and country join in a great and mighty fight for the loving learning that you deserve.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Whitney’s article free with the education community through September 30, 2016. Read the full article here.

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