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? A Coach’s Journey Pt. !

When I came of age as a teacher, for women who entered the field, teaching was a first career choice. Generally, we were not single parents with children. Other than juggling the responsibilities of teaching our students, our outside the school house juggling acts included hanging out with friends or a significant other, going to the club, shopping, attending a movie or concert, traveling. Having escaped our parents’ watchful eyes and having graduated from college, we could EXHALE
.

New teachers who were married were on a different path: perhaps putting a spouse though medical or law school, saving money for a down payment on a home. When children came along some stayed home or took time off until they were in school. Even those who returned to teaching after a maternity leave looked forward to the scheduled time off.  In reality, many women opted for the teaching profession because the school calendar/schedule enabled us to navigate a family and to earn an income. By the time life’s BIG CHALLENGES came along, most of us had mastered teaching the content and fine tuned our classroom management strategies. 
Not the case with Amina and Carrie who entered the field as 30  something women, the primary economic heads of their households, coping with failed relationships and child(ren).


Amina
A  young high school teacher bursts into my office emotionally distraught. Recently married and with a young daughter who is not her husband’s child, she shares with me that she feels as if she is being torn between two competing forces. Her daughter is needy because for most of her young life they have been a duo. She resents having to share her mother’s attention with the husband. The new husband feels as if he should be first in his wife’s life. That’s what the Bible says.  Every night Amina is caught up in a tug of war which prevents her from proper

How Much More Can I Juggle?

How Much More Can I Juggle?



Carrie

The chair of the department has requested that I work with Carrie,  a young, 1st year teacher who is experiencing classroom management difficulties. Her attendance is poor and her lesson plans when she turns them in are incomplete.

After chatting with the teacher informally on several occasions, I learn that she is in the process of divorcing her husband. Carrie is leaving an interracial marriage with two children. Her husband doesn’t want to divorce; her parents never approved of the union. Every evening is a steady stream/barrage  of phone calls, unexpected knocks at the door, meal preparation,  homework monitoring. Of course,  lesson planning and assessing papers are  an afterthought.  Each day is a struggle to get up, get the children off to school and get to work. Carrie  is emotionally and physically spent by the time she arrives in front of her classroom door to greet her students. Daily, she hides behind her desk which nonverbally communicates to students: Do not disturb.

Coaching Challenge: Can These Teachers Be Saved?

Eventually, I am called to the office by the principal who is concerned about both teachers and wants to know what I am doing about the situation. Naturally, she is worried about the school’s test scores because both teachers teach in content areas that are tested. Priestlike in my demeanor, I DO NOT divulge any information about the two teachers’ personal lives or their weaknesses as teachers. However, because they send so many students to the office and their department chair has reported to her the state of their lesson plans, she is aware. She informs me that she is considering placing both teachers on the unsatisfactory track which is the prelude to being released.

  Historically, American schools have been the least successful educating a population living in poverty, a population often parented by the chronically unemployed, or underemployed, or chemically dependent. We call such a population at-risk. We are well aware of the adversities they face daily and our moral responsibility to try to overcome them
However, some of our teachers go through periods of living on an emotional roller coaster in their personal lives too. What is our responsibility to them?     What is my responsibility to Amina and Carrie vs. my responsibility to their students? Can they be reconciled? Can these teachers be saved? Should they be? Should I recommend to the principal that they be placed on the unsatisfactory track? Once she decides on that option, all confidentiality goes out the window because the principal becomes my client. I am obligated to report to her all that I know so that she can build a case against them. As professionals, how much of a responsibility do we have to one another? As humans, how much of a stake do we have in one another? What would you do?

A Coach’s Journey

Which Path Should I Take?

Which Path Should I Take?