Can These Teachers Be Saved? Case Study Pt.3

Note: This blog contains the lessons I wish to share about my journey coaching the teachers of urban students. Students: sometimes poor, talented, “at-risk”, of color, and/or poor white. This my journey;this is my story.

There is not now nor has their ever been a foolproof system for measuring teacher effectiveness. However, we can identify critical attributes of effectiveness and ineffectiveness, and we can identify when students are not be well served.
Below is the RESULT of my intervention strategy that I employed with both Amina and Carrie. As you read can you determine what the principal decides to do with both teachers?

1 I worked to build a shared system of responsibility.

Collaborate/Challenge: I paired Amina and Carrie with one another and with a veteran teacher in the same department who was charged with chatting with them each day. She shared some of her classroom management strategies with both women as well a unit plan for a novel she taught the previous year. That saved the two young teachers many hours of creating lessons.
The department head’s brief visits paid off because students got the message that someone in a position of authority had the teachers’ backs. On several occasions, the administrator took a misbehaving student with her to the office. I found sitting in both teachers’ classrooms for five or more minutes seemed to have a calming effect on the students. Sometimes I made a recommendation to both about a lesson or students who were inattentive/not engaged.

2. I identified areas of strength (assets, gifts, talents) for teachers to share with others.

Empower/Flatter: Since both teachers are new, they are up-to-date on the pedagogy of teaching the writing process. The department chair scheduled some time in the computer lab for the teachers in the department. Amina and Carrie paired with some of the more seasoned teachers to demonstrate how to use search engines to gather information for pre-writing assignments. I want Amina and Carrie to feel that though they are young, they still have skills to share. Later, Amina shares a webquest assignment with the entire department that she created.

3. I identified areas for growth to enhance both teachers’ career longevity.

Challenge/Goad I threatened them both with the specter of unemployment. Amina had a serious talk with her husband who was underemployed and explained what would happen to them economically if she lost her job. It took some time, but he got with the program and started making a concerted effort to placate his step-daughter. There were no more crying jags in front of the students. Amina made strides at teaching on her feet and interacting with students to keep them on task. She found it reduced the numbers of students she sent to the office because she had the opportunity to “put out fires” before they had a chance to start.

However, Carrie’s soon to be ex-husband was not so easily persuaded. Nothing short of reconciliation was his demand. She threatened him with a restraining order. They went back and forth for several months with the threats and the phone calls. Because of this upheaval, she lacked the emotional and physical stamina to teach on her feet and engage on a regular basis with children. The department chair reported that initially two or three times a week when she entered Carrie’s room she was generally seated at her desk. She would get up when the department head entered the room. Sadly, I found the same scenario when I visited. However, by the second month, she began making a concerted effort when Amina reported that she was sending fewer students to the office.

4. I assisted both teachers to move past their current level of performance.

Problem Solve/Problem Seek: Both were weak in classroom management-sending students to the office EACH day. We started by examining their syllabus which,in part, is supposed to outline their philosophy for classroom management. I suggested that read or reread the classroom management book that was purchased by the principal for the school. Over the summer they can revise the syllabus. Both agree. I teach them the difference between developmental behaviorr that comes with the job and deviant behavior that needs to be reported for outside intervention. We identify the top three developmental behaviors and they begin to work on them in order to reduce the number of students they send to the office:talking back, yelling out the answer without being called on and talking while the teacher is talking. These behaviors come with the job and they must learn to handle the situation themselves. However, bullying, insubordination, stealing, destroying school property are deviant and need outside intervention.

High School Students

Normal Developmental Behavior

5. I assisted both teachers to reflect on and articulate their reasons for their actions.

Close your eyes and describe the lesson you taught.
What were your goals? Did the lesson go as you planned? Why or why not?
How do you plan to correct or reinforce your actions?”

Guide/Goad I notice after a couple of SCHEDULED observations that Amina’s classes start on time and run smoothly The students connect with the goals and objectives for her lessons because she better understands their experiences. She is better at bridging new knowledge with old knowledge/experiences. Because she still doesn’t know all of her students by name, the question and answer part of the lesson is choppy. She has to depend on her seating chart or point to students.
I find on scheduled visits with Carrie that when the bell rings, her students still are walking around and have not settled down. It’s ten minutes or more into the hour before she is able to start the lesson. I inform her that losing ten minutes daily is the equivalent to losing one instructional period a week. Once the lesson gets underway, students connect with the goals/objectives; however, she has difficulty sustaining their interest/engagement. On both occasions she has provided seatwork for the students and they don’t remain on task. Carrie seems overwhelmed and she too cannot call all of her students by name.

6. I worked to increase both teachers’ efficacy (belief that their actions can and will make a difference.

Listen/Strategize Amina and Carrie both appeared to have faith in their ability to teach inner-city students; however, their personal lives are interfering with their emotional and physical stamina to do the job. I pointed that out to them that teaching in urban schools requires a resiliency that may not be necessary in a private or suburban school environment. We identified bonding/relationship building strategies that are teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher and student-to-student that will better secure students’ cooperation. They both have seating charts but not a seating plan. We discuss the difference. I asked them to provide me with a rationale for why students sit where they sit.

7. I identified challenges that might interfere with a positive teaching experience for both teachers.

Listen/Empathize: Again, because their personal lives were spilling over into the classroom, we discussed support systems: family, friends, church, organizations, social outlets. Is there anyplace in their lives where they are having fun? Amina seemed to have more family and friends for support. Her husband has become more supportive and they now spend time alone and away from Amina’s daughter. Carrie has been attempting to reestablish the bonds with her family who disapproved of her inter-racial marriage. She has to reconstruct her foundation.
I communicated to both that I am aware they are juggling an inordinate number of balls in the air. And that teaching’s never ending journey tugs on their emotions, physical stamina, and spirits. They agreed.

How Much More Can I Juggle?

How Much More Can I Juggle?

8. I identified potential conflicts and ethical dilemmas.

Intimidate: We discussed the reasons both teachers decided on a teaching career: Steady income and to make a difference. Amina’s husband has stepped up to the plate with her daughter and with tasks around the house. She explained the concept of “taking money under false pretenses” to him. However, Carrie has not so fortunate. Her attendance and lesson planning are still sporadic. She made strides only to lose them when her soon-to-be ex-husband showers her with phone calls or unwanted visits. On occasion, she has taken her frustration out on her peers. I inquire about her getting counseling from a church or counseling center.

Final Installment: What happens to both teachers?

Note: These are the lessons I am sharing about coaching the teachers of urban students. Students are sometimes poor, talented, “at-risk”, of color, and/or poor white. This my journey;this is my story.

Can These Teachers Be Saved? Case Study Pt. 2

In a previous post, February 12, I described two young teachers who are experiencing emotional challenges in their home life. The principal is considering putting them on what is called the unsatisfactory track which is a prelude to being released. I have been charged with working with them.

A coach’s role is to move teachers from where they are to where they need or want to be. As the keeper of the vision, the coach works with teachers to set goals that will lead to improved student achievement. Though they do not pay me, I consider the teachers to be my clients.

Coaching can sometimes be a lonely journey of faith- there is no single path or recipe. We travel an uncertain terrain, and we juggle an intimidating number of demands.

Coaches empower, collaborate, challenge, confirm, cajole, communicate, flatter, guide, goad, intimidate, listen, model, push, prompt, problem solve, and problem seek. We serve as counselor, friend, compassionate shoulder, and confidante.

A Coach Juggles Too

A Coach Juggles Too

Getting to Know You!
Before coaches can determine how fast and how far teachers can be coached, my practice is to get to know them first.

I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care. Mother Teresa

Information Gathering Guide:
Age Range of the Teacher – A Guess: Under 30? over 30? over 40? etc

Experience in other schools/district

Content areas and grade levels taught

Certification: Lack of certification, alternative certification , career path change, Teach for America

Credentials- Degrees

Average years of service

Hobbies/Outside interests

Life Issues/Challenges: What is going on inside of the teacher’s head and heart: marriage, divorce, family, children, health, second job, death in the family, working on advanced degree, other?


The Foundational Goals I use to begin to coach the teachers in listed on my insights page of this blog.

Coaching Goals:

1. I will work to build a shared system of responsibility.

Collaborate/Challenge: I pair Amina and Carrie with one another and a veteran teacher in the same dept who will spend a few minutes chatting with them each day. In return the teacher will represent the school at a university professional development seminar for teachers during the summer. The veteran teacher will answer questions about classroom managetment and lesson planning. The department chairman will spend five minutes daily in each teacher’s classroom for the next couple of months just to let the students know that some one in a position of authority has the teacher’s back. And to make sure Amina and Carrie are on task, I will do the same. Philosophy: I care; I’m concerned; I’m curious.

2. I work to identify areas of strength (assets, gifts, talents) for teachers to share with one another

Empower/Flatter: Since both teachers are new, they are up-to-date on the pedagogy of teaching the writing process. I recommend that the department chair encourage them to collaborate on a brief presentation for a departmental meeting. I want Amina and Carrie to feel that they belong and that they matter.

3. I will identify areas for growth to enhance teachers’ career longevity

Challenge/Goal I inform them that they need to begin by improving their attendance and not allowing students to know what’s going on in their personal lives because doing so detracts from their credibility. No more crying in front of students or showing up late. No more sitting repeatedly at their desks day after day which communicates a nonverbal: “Do not disturb” to students. An effective teacher teaches on her feet and not from her seat. I threaten them with the specter of unemployment

4. I will work to assist teachers to move past their current level of performance.

Problem Solve/Problem Seek: Both are weak in classroom management-sending students to the office EACH day. We start by examining their syllabus which, in part, is supposed to outline their philosophy for classroom management. I remind them that an effective teacher is firm, fair, consistent and persistent-sometimes needing an iron will. Both agree. I suggest they review the syllabus regularly with students until it is internalized. We discuss the difference between deviant behavior and normal developmental behavior as well as the consequences for each.

Student Misbehavior

Teachers are responsible for student behavior.

5. I will assist teachers as they reflect on and articulate reasons for their actions.


Guide/Goal
After a couple of SCHEDULED observations, I meet with the teachers individually. My process: “Close your eyes and describe the lesson you taught; What were your goals? Did the lesson go as you planned? Why or why not? How do you plan to correct or reinforce your actions?” Amina and Carrie both become aware of their shortcomings without my having to tell them. Both are weak at introducing the lesson which leads to confusion on the part of students and frustration on the part of the teachers. They realize that they are not getting through to them. I start each with brainstorming ways to bridge/link new knowledge to past experiences/knowledge of their students (population). I inform each that I will ask the department chair to monitor only the introductory portion of their lesson plans for the next month. I will drop in to see how they are doing.

6. I will work to increase teacher efficacy (belief that one’s actions can make a difference)

Listen/Strategize Amina and Carrie both appear to have faith in their ability to teach inner-city students; however, their personal lives are interfering with their emotional and physical stamina to do the job. I point that out to them that teaching in urban schools requires a resiliency that may not be necessary in a private or suburban school environment. We identify bonding/relationship building strategies that are teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher and student-to-student that will better secure students’ cooperation. And to secure Carrie and Amina’s ability to make a difference.

7. I will identify challenges that might interfere with a positive teaching experience.


Listen/Empathize:
Again, because their personal lives are spilling over into the classroom, we discuss support systems: family, friends, church, organizations, social outlets. Is there anyplace in their lives where they are having fun?

8. I will identify potential conflicts and ethical dilemmas.


Intimidate:
I start by asking them how much they need the income from teaching. Both would be economically devastated w/o the income. I remind them that the taxpayers are spending over $7,000 annually to educate each student. That is how their salary is derived. When they don’t show up or merely sit at their desks day after day and only provide busy work to students, they are in essence taking money under false pretenses. I warn both that this behavior is ethically indefensible. I also warn both that they are in danger of being rated unsatisfactory. I assure them that at this point I am NOT sharing what I am learning about them with the administration; however, that could change if they don’t. Amina and Carrie seem contrite.

Moral Crossroads

I know that this process seems arduous and time consuming; however, Amina and Carrie are both intelligent women who invested enormous amounts of time, effort, and money to become teachers. And thousands of dollars of tax payer money is lost each time a teacher abandons the field or is pushed out the door. That doesn’t include the emotional toil on students who must adjust to a new teacher. Is it easier to merely force Amina and Carrie out or to invest in them?

In my next blog post, I will share the outcomes for both teachers.