It is not uncommon for educators, particularly those with a keen focus on teaching and learning (as opposed to maybe business or technology), to analyze education through three lenses: curriculum, instruction, and assessment. As Thomas Guskey (and others) have noted, what is missing, however, since “few leaders have training on effective grading practices” is a fourth lens of grading and reporting. Although, I have been quite encouraged over the last several months of working in the CA BOCES region to be involved in numerous conversations focused on this fourth lens with a variety of school districts.
The emphasis of these regional conversations has been standards-based grading (SBG), and I would say naturally so. For example, how do curriculum coordinators and other educational leaders typically audit or analyze curriculum, instruction, and assessment? It is from a standards-based approach. Why, then, should grading and reporting be any different? Furthermore, SBG has presented many benefits that are often neglected in percentage-based practices, and those percentage-based practices have many pitfalls that need to be addressed.
What’s Wrong with “Traditional” Grading Practices?Before I present several concerns that arise with traditional grading practices, I need to mention that these practices aren’t completely flawed and do have some merit. For example, teachers can and have gained much insight into what students know and do in analyzing summative assessments through item analysis and more. I am not saying that these practices have no good or merit; I am, however, saying that these practices need dramatically improved.
1. Percentage-based practices aren’t the only traditional practices.
Thankfully for me, my mother decided to gift me with my first-grade report card for my birthday this year, and I was intrigued by the categories used to identify the learning I had demonstrated. For instance, when I observed an S-, S+, or an O on the report card, the legend clarified whether I was working toward satisfactory progress, I demonstrated satisfactory progress, or I had demonstrated outstanding achievement, respectively, in the areas shown. The competency- or proficiency-based model shown here (such as what we see in SBG) has also been around for three decades or more.
2. Averaging scores is an inaccurate reflection of what students know.
In ninth grade, I refused to study for a geometry exam because I “knew” the material, and I also “knew” my time that week would be better spent playing my favorite Playstation 1 game. When I completed the test, I also “knew” that I failed it. Thankfully, I was 0 for 3 in being right that week, but I did end up with a 66% on the exam; I remember that vividly not only due to the conversation I had with my teacher upon her handing back my work but also because she allowed me to prepare for a substantially more difficult assessment in which I received (I think) a 98%. The real question, then, is which score should go in the gradebook? 66%? 82%? Or 98%?
In my experience, I find that most teachers would submit the 82%, a decision that is both inaccurate (since the student has evidence to demonstrate they achieved a 98%) and a disservice to the student who met the goal that you wanted them to meet in the first place: they have the knowledge and skills you wanted them to have for that assessment.
3. Averaging scores does not accurately represent how evaluating and reporting works in most real-world environments.
Nearly every example that I can think of when trying to determine how people are evaluated is based on a proficiency model, typically either pass or fail; and for each example, if someone receives a passing rating or a highly proficient rating, then that is their evaluation, not the average of the previous evaluations.
Consider a sports analogy here. Imagine your favorite college basketball team is an 11 seed in the NCAA Championship Tournament with an 18-15 (wins-losses) season record. Because they managed to achieve more wins than losses and have found their way into the NCAA tournament, you rate their success as a B going into the tournament. However, to your amazement, your favorite team wins the tournament and is titled this year’s NCAA tournament champion (congratulations!). Unfortunately, when averaging the wins and losses for your team, they still only receive a B. See the problem here?
The same holds true for occupations such as doctors and attorneys and even educators. We are assessed regularly; we are given opportunities to demonstrate proficiency and improve if previous attempts are not up to the established standards; and we receive proficient ratings, obtain medical degrees, and licences to practice law if we meet those standards.
4. Zeros are debilitating.
In many ways, zeros glorify failure and do not accomplish what many educators claim they intend to. Educational Partnership’s Research Brief and The Case Against Zeros in Grading both point to how we, as educators, need to more greatly scrutinize assigning a score of 0 in percentage-based systems. In essence, a 0% or a score of zero communicates “this student knows nothing here,” and in most instances, that simply isn’t true.
5. Percentage-based practices are highly subjective.
The next time you are looking for an experiment during a staff meeting, have your staff write their answers to the following questions on Post-Its and have them review everyone’s answers. You are likely going to get nearly as many answers as you have staff, and you will likely find that it is difficult to achieve consensus in response to each question.
Notice how a student in Classroom A and Classroom B would fail whereas a student in Classroom C would pass the course when the teacher set up the gradebook to disassociate what the student did from what the student knew.
Why Does SBG Have More Appeal?Like my disclaimer for percentage-based practices, I need to add one for SBG as well. I do not think SBG is the only pathway to improve educational practices, nor am I convinced that it is necessarily the best way (consider A New Kind of Classroom, A Crusade to End Grades in High School, Schools and Grading, and The Case Against Grades), but it does seem evident that SBG has more merit than traditional, percentage-based practices.
1. SBG is a proficiency model.
The major benefit to this point is the shift in philosophy and thinking. In a traditional grading model, if a student receives a 78%, the emphasis is “here is what I did wrong,” “I messed up,” and “this score has finality to it.” In SBG, however, the emphasis is always placed on specific goals and growth. Furthermore, there is always opportunity to do just that, grow and improve.
2. SBG emphasizes quality over quantity.
I think it is most common to use a 4-point scale in SBG models (although it isn’t necessary), so we will use that model for our foundation. This scale is qualitative, not quantitative, since each identifier (1, 2, 3, and 4) represents a category. When a student receives a rating of 1, they understand that they do not yet possess the knowledge and skills to demonstrate proficiency on the intended learning target even with support from the teacher; receiving a rating of 2 they understanding that they are working toward proficiency; receiving a rating of 3 they understand that they have demonstrated proficiency with the intended learning target; and receiving a rating of 4 the student understands they have exceeded the proficiency expectation for that target.
3. SBG clearly communicates students’ content knowledge and skills.
As stated in the point above, parents also are able to state what a 1, 2, 3, and 4 represent whereas it is left partially to the imagination to establish what something like an 85% means (since it depends on any number of variables and scenarios). In essence, when seeing a 1, parents and guardians should acknowledge that their student needs substantial support; seeing a 2 means the student is working toward proficiency; seeing a 3 indicates the student has met proficiency; and seeing a 4 means the student exceeded expectations. Furthermore, these indicators are also associated with specific standards to provide additional context and clarity.
For the student, communication also includes clear expectations on learning goals and assessment measures (see the ELA, Math, and 3-8 Performance Level Descriptions for examples).
4. SBG disassociates academic achievement and student behavior.
Because SBG requires clear expectations and assessment criteria, student behavior is clearly distinguishable from academic achievement (as opposed to most percentage-based systems). I would like to point out, though, that opinions here start to diverge depending on which proponent of SBG you follow. On one hand, some contend that student behavior should be absent from a gradebook, whereas others argue that behaviors should be measured according to explicit targets but reported separately from academic performance.
5. SBG is more “valid, reliable, fair, and useful.”
Thomas Guskey states that “reporting must be valid, reliable, fair, and useful.” Others such as Rick Wormeli and Robert Marzano agree due to SBG’s increased focus on descriptive feedback and an emphasis on mastery learning.
What Do We Do Now?Minimally, I hope you more thoughtfully consider how you and your school and your district implement grading and reporting practices, and I hope you tackle some of the hard questions. Questions like, “What about the transition from high school to university?” and “Can we convert from our SBG scale to a 4.0 GPA?” Then, I hope you work toward more effective grading and reporting practices, and hopefully, I will be able to help along the way.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
An Engaged Brain is a Learning Brain
When students let their minds drift off, they are losing valuable learning time. Getting all your students focused, eager and on task in class can be challenging. Lack of engagement interferes with students’ learning and retention. When students are thoroughly engaged; they are actively listening and learning.
To increase classroom engagement, teachers need to create a toolbox of routines and activities. The activities can be general purpose and apply to various subject areas. The activities will allow students to tap into various regions of their brain and move them from the recall level to more advanced thinking and learning.
A few RULES of ENGAGEMENT
Class Warm up that involves collaboration and competition.
More student voice than teacher voice.
Class Check in with a quote, a challenge, or quick write.
Physical Movement gets kids focused: Brain Gym, Chair Yoga, hand-clapping patterns, snapping/clapping in pattern.
Create TEAMs (Together Everyone Accomplishes More).
Use Quick writes when you want quiet think time and reflection.
Attention Signal when giving directions: Give me 5, chimes or chant.
Equity Sticks: create equity and gives everyone an opportunity to show what they know.
Teaching Styles: to keep kids engaged and motivated move from teacher-centered to student-centered throughout the lesson.
Cultivate engagement and be aware when your students are paying attention and deeply engaged. Teachers should create an active learning environment in which all students are on task in their thinking and speaking.
If you are interested in learning more about student engagement, there is an upcoming regional workshop entitled, Student Engagement Strategies for Learning, on January 11, 2022.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Ancient History, “CAN YOU DIG IT?”
Ninth-grade students at Portville High School were learning about Ancient River Valley Civilizations, and they were using the G.R.A.P.E.S. organizer as a tool to categorize the information for each civilization:
An essential part of studying ancient history is for students to learn that a great deal of what’s known of these civilizations comes from archeological evidence. This is especially true for the Indus River Valley Civilization because their writing has never been successfully translated; everything known is from the work of archeologists. Because of this, an idea was born. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Carey’s students became archeologists. Mr. Carey spent time highlighting critical aspects of the Indus River Valley so that during “the big dig,” students could infer connections from the artifacts that they discovered.
“The Big Dig”: Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Carey found artifacts that represented each section of the G.R.A.P.E.S.organizer. Next, they put the items in Ziploc bags and buried them in the school’s long-jump pit.
This active exploration proved to be a great simulation for the work of archeologists; students were able to infer what the artifacts represented and demonstrate a better understanding of the civilization. An example of an artifact used was a die and a game token. These items illustrated true archeological findings in the Indus River Valley as numerous game pieces were found but very few weapons, suggesting it was a peaceful and prosperous society.
The students rotated through six stations (G.R.A.P.E.S.) and really enjoyed digging, finding, and making inferences and connections about each item’s importance. Active student engagement increased their interest and understanding. As learners and educators, “WE DIG IT!”
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
Second Step Giving Second Chances
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is certainly not new, but if it wasn’t already, it is certainly now a top priority since the beginning of the pandemic. Students’ overall well-being has suffered, giving schools an extra challenge to deal with as instruction has returned to five days a week this school year.
One way Pioneer Middle School has addressed this challenge is by incorporating a program called Second Step. Second Step describes itself as “a holistic approach to building supportive communities for every child through social-emotional learning.” Started successfully in the district’s elementary schools during the 2018-19 school year, the middle school has embraced the program by incorporating Second Step Wednesday’s, where homebases are extended twice a month to allow for a particular SEL lesson to take place.
With vertically aligned and scripted lessons for teachers that are research-based and aligned to SEL standards, the program has thus far been a success. In addition, all teachers and students in the school are involved in the program allowing for common themes in each lesson to continually be supported and intertwined into instruction regardless of the class subject area.
But what exactly is Second Step? (https://www.secondstep.org)
Ultimately, the school will measure the success of the program by using the administration of a SEL screener, last given in April 2021, in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The screener analyzes student responses to a number of questions to determine if the student is at normal, elevated, or extremely elevated risk. By utilizing the screener, those students who are identified as elevated or extremely elevated risk are given a second chance to get the support they need to succeed, support they may have previously not received had it not been for the Second Step program.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Teachers, Families, and Community Organizations Collaborate
The goal of education is to encourage young minds to develop creativity, seek solutions and become forward thinkers who learn more than what we currently know. Many teachers in our caboces region are experimenting with play as an instructional tool so that children can make connections between disciplines and understand how the pieces of the world fit together. It is through play that children comprehend learning as a lifelong process of discovery and joy.
Early childhood experiences are critical to brain development. Studies show that positive early learning experiences through play allow children to develop social-emotional skills, deepen relationships, gain executive function skills, and manage stress. Over time, children who experience learning through play-based instruction have better overall health and longer life expectancy.
A play-based approach to learning requires child-initiated experiences and teacher supported learning. This learning requires careful cultivation and teachers are coming together to rethink how they are supporting our youngest learners. On October 22, 2021, teachers who attended the Foundations for Change: Rethinking Early Childhood Education workshop “played” with play-based learning kits from caboces learning resources. As they played, ideas for lessons, discussions, and questions flowed through the room. One walking by may have heard questions like:
Teachers engaged in discussion around the thinking of play as a tool for children to develop social and cognitive skills. They mature emotionally and gain the self-confidence required to ask questions. The conversations and interactions that happen through play are valuable opportunities to support children as they develop their identities early in life. Positive early experiences at school give children another opportunity to grow in a nurturing, language-rich environment.
Play-based learning also honors a child’s home experiences by building on the foundational skills learned at home. Parents are a child’s first teacher. Honoring each child’s home values inspires children to develop their identity and feel included in the learning environment. These ideas were reinforced by Robin Fuller, Early Childhood Development and Education Coordinator of Ardent Solutions in Wellsville, NY. Robin works tirelessly to make sure families with young children in Allegany County have access to resources. Robin presented teachers with materials to distribute to families. She also shared fun family activities that supplement free books donated through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Through the Imagination Library, children (birth – age 5) in Allegany County are eligible to receive free monthly books in the mail. Check out the website for more information: http://www.ardentnetwork.org/dolly-partons-imagination-library.html
If you would like to learn more about play as an instructional tool for learning contact Michelle Rickicki or Jessica Schirrmacher-Smith.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
Self-care has become the new buzz word in education. The pandemic reignited the importance of investing in SEL for students, but to reach students investing in educator self-care and wellbeing is a crucial part of this process. To ensure educators can model good self-care techniques they themselves must experience it. When we practice self-care and model it in the classroom early on, students can better model it in their own lives.
Let’s start first with a clear definition of self-care. Self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Research suggests self-care promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer, and becoming equipped to manage stress.
Self-advocacy-promoting and supporting our own interests and well-being requires reflection and self-awareness. Like many districts across the region, Olean City School District has made staff self-care a focus by providing support and resources through their monthly Personnel and Wellness (PAWS) newsletter. Each month, the newsletter provides a topic that centers on monthly themes from the Onward Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators text written by Elena Aguilar. Staff have an opportunity to participate in a variety of SEL opportunities including some of the following:
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care in order to successfully be able to help others. These are some of the many ways to incorporate self-care with educators around the region. It’s like the saying goes “You cannot serve from an empty vessel” Eleanor Brownn.
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
As school districts around the region approached the start to another school year during an ongoing global pandemic, many leaders recognized that social emotional learning (SEL), must continue to be a priority within their schools. Like many other districts in the region, Cattaraugus Little Valley, designated time within their opening staff days to provide SEL support, tools, and resources to educators.
On August 31st, CLV faculty and staff gathered to kick off the school year learning about an SEL tool that fosters a supportive learning environment. It is especially important when talking and learning about social and emotional skills and SEL, that adults take the time to self-reflect. In doing so at CLV, the group embraced the understanding that SEL starts within each one of us. As human beings, we are social, we are emotional and many of our daily interactions demonstrate this notion. Whether or not we explicitly teach “SEL” within our classrooms, we are modeling skills constantly, for students. Individually, each participant took inventory of their own social and emotional skills and attitudes by completing the “SEL Self-Reflection,” and then further discussed their perspectives on how their own strengths and weaknesses may impact interactions that they have with students, colleagues, and families, daily.
One thing all educators at CLV walked away with, was a practical SEL tool that can be used in classrooms district wide, regardless of class size or grade level: The 3 Signature Practices of SEL. As the group discussed each of the three practices, many concluded that they were doing more SEL within their classrooms or learning environments than previously understood.
What are the 3 Signature Practices of SEL?
Welcome & Inclusion Activities: brief interactive experiences that increase connection and allow all voices in the room to be heard
Engaging Strategies: vary in complexity, include reflection and processing time and can include brain breaks or transition techniques
Optimistic Closure: an intentional closure of any learning experience, that can be done individually or collectively and allows for a sense of accomplishment and forward thinking
Not only did the group walk away with a better understanding of SEL and the 3 Signature Practices of SEL, but they were each given a copy of the 3 Signature Practices Playbook, as a resource. The playbook offers a structure to support thoughtfully selecting and facilitating these practices. In addition, it offers a connection to the research base as the foundation for each practice and outlines key SEL competencies and skills for each suggested activity.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
Let’s Take to the Skies
For the last several years, educators have been keen on utilizing drones as a tool for teaching and learning and have had to overcome a few obstacles along the way. Insurance options? Check. Students verified as recreational users? Done. Part 107 preparation for educators? No problem. However, with several changes in regulations taking place over the last year, it is due time to highlight some key details to help ensure that educators are appropriately taking to the sky.
As of April 21, 2021, new regulations regarding operations over people, over moving vehicles, and at night went into effect. “Drone pilots operating under Part 107 may fly at night, over people and moving vehicles without a waiver as long as they meet the requirements defined in the rule” (FAA).
Similarly, “All drone pilots required to register their UAS must operate their aircraft in accordance with the final rule on remote ID beginning September 16, 2023” (FAA). Essentially, this rule indicates that drones must be enabled with the ability to be identified remotely by other parties.
Most importantly, as of June, 2021, recreational fliers must pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). Public schools this is both good and bad news. One the one hand, it is good since there has been additional clarity offered regarding whether educators fall under the commercial or recreational use classification; it seems more clear, now, that schools meet the requirements of a “community-based organization” and educators can be acknowledged as recreational users when utilizing drones for educational purposes.
The down side, albeit minimal, is that students also fall within the recreational user definition, and consequently, must be able to verify a completed TRUST certification as well. While the certification process itself is simple, the list of providers minimally require an email address and a name for the individual seeking certification which means a data privacy agreement must be obtained to be in compliance with Education Law 2-D. Until agreements have been reached, it is recommended for students to obtain their TRUST certification at home under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
DJI Mavic Mini/Mini 2
Not only are regulations changing, but the technology is as well. To make sure drone pilots were more easily able to fly and avoid Part 107 regulations, DJI released the Mavic Mini (and more recently the Mini 2) weighing only 249 grams, 1 gram beneath the regulation requirements. While this drone is small, it still captures high quality photos and video.
Like the larger Phantom and Mavic models, the Mini is extremely easy to operate, but the fly more bundle is substantially cheaper for the DJI Mavic Mini and the DJI Mini 2 at $399 and $599 respectively.
Lastly, I think it is important to bring us back to educational implications. There are limited curricular resources written that utilize drones as an educational tool and are freely available, so educators must carefully consider the ways in which they intend to facilitate learning with these devices. To keep the conversation going around educational drone curriculum, reach out to Mark_Beckwith@caboces.org
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Making it personal in Salamanca
As the school year drew to a close, most teachers across NYS would welcome the end of June in a fashion indicative of rest and relaxation, particularly after the tumultuous 2020-2021 academic year. However, the end of June for many teachers in the Salamanca School District was one focused on professional development and personal growth. Various teachers from the Salamanca School District spent the end of June discovering the aspects of personalized and blended learning, delving into their current instruction practices to reflect on their forms of instruction, and designing personalized learning experiences for their grade level and content areas that can be used with their students next school year. This was certainly a contrast to many other educators across the state and a way for them to take a personal approach towards student achievement.
Participating teachers were first led in examining the aspects of personalized, student-centered learning and were introduced to ways in which student choice and personalized learning can be tailored to student interests and needs. They explored ways to create a classroom environment and structure that gives students ownership over their learning, and how to leverage technology in a blended environment to promote student achievement through interests, choice, and adaptation of tasks. They spent time reflecting on current instructional practices, looking for ways to incorporate a blended and personalized approach into their current instructional model, and worked to construct resources aligned to those principles.
Through exploration of the various methods and materials used for instruction and assessment, teachers worked to create resources that would assist their students as they travel down their individualized learning path during the upcoming school year. Depending on grade level, content area, and achievement objectives, teachers would work with various models and methods they had learned about to create a personal learning experience for their students.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
As the timeline for roll-out and implementation of the New York State Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards draws nearer and nearer to the first-year implementation phase, there are several resources that are worth considering to help both staff instruct and students demonstrate proficiency with these standards.
Google Applied Digital Skills
I know, I know. The first section in a Microsoft-themed article dealing with Google seems misleading. This is only one of two non-Microsoft sections, and I saved the other for last. I promise. I felt obligated to open with Google’s resource since it has been available for a little while longer, and more people are familiar with it.
Google Applied Digital Skills provides over 100 lessons for users to access with their EDU or personal Google account(s) ranging from everyday use of products like Docs and Slides to business use developing financial literacy or creating resumés.
Microsoft Digital Literacy
Microsoft Digital Literacy is for anyone with basic reading skills who wants to learn the fundamentals of using digital technologies. Resources can be downloaded in a variety of languages at the bottom of the Microsoft Digital Literacy webpage or they can be accessed by working through the online courses Working with Computers and Devices and Working and Collaborating Online through LinkedIn (no account necessary).
Microsoft Learn is a free, online training platform that provides interactive learning for Microsoft products and more. Microsoft’s goal is to help you become proficient on their technologies and learn more skills with fun, guided, hands-on, interactive content that's specific to your role and goals. Additionally, as students and staff sign in with their Microsoft 365 accounts, they are able to track their progress, collecting experience and bages along the way. (This is similar to the Microsoft Educator Center but contains additional resources and learning pathways for uses beyond the role of an educator.)
Microsoft Imagine Academy
Microsoft Imagine Academy is one of Microsoft’s newer education releases that should have educators, especially those explicitly teaching computer science and digital fluency, very excited. District Microsoft 365 administrators can get the ball rolling when licensing agreements are renewed using the Microsoft Imagine Academy Quick Start site.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Academy
CMU CS Academy is an online, graphics-based computer science curriculum taught in Python provided by Carnegie Mellon University. We create novel, world-class Computer Science education for your classroom —and it’s entirely free. WIthout signing up or creating accounts, students and staff can access CMU CS Academy’s Hour of Code module to get a glimpse of what the coursework resembles through CS Academy.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Good Times at Friendship Central
Although it’s been a trying year for most students and teachers, there have been quite a few interesting activities at Friendship Central School. Here are a few:
Tech Thursday Spotlight Students: Alaric and Gavin Magnani are among the next generation of skilled welders from the BOCES Welding Program. More than that, they are always willing to help others succeed as well. Recently, the brothers have taken Morghyn Ross, under their wings. Morghyn is a 7th grade student who has been working on a welding project in the shop. Alaric and Gavin have been giving Morghyn some pointers to help her become a better welder. Morghyn has been stepping out of her comfort zone to learn new skills. Great job Alaric, Gavin and Morghyn!
As an incentive to be online during remote instruction each of the Middle School and High School student were given duct tape determined by the number of hours they connected via Zoom. The students then had the opportunity to come down in the middle of January to duct tape the principal, Chris Cornwell and the Superintendent, Judy May to the wall. The elementary had a similar incentive to throw snowballs (marshmallows) at certain faculty and admin.
The 4th graders completed their simple machine projects again this year with quite a few interesting machines created for Mrs. Crabb and Mrs. Costello’s class.
Lastly, the Middle School and High School students in Tech class created trebuchet’s where they had a contest to see who could shoot the marshmallow to a target. The students earned points for hitting the board, going through the bigger hole near the bottom and even more for shooting the marshmallow into the smaller hole near the top.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES Professional Development
Learning brings healing
Conversations centered on healing from the Covid-19 pandemic have taken center stage in many educator circles. All learners have had to figure out how to come back together after a lengthy separation. Learning spaces look very different as social distancing measures are practiced. Even though spaces look different, students and teachers are finding ways to create classroom community and bring healing to families through learning.
Finding healing through learning develops resilience and healthy communities. Research shows that humans learn best through times of engagement and times of rest. This holds true for adults and children. This rhythm is also vital for creativity and curiosity. Combining creativity and curiosity through engagement allows children to chase after their dreams of becoming literate. Literate children flourish and create healthy communities.
One example of this can be seen at Friendship Central School. Students, faculty, staff, parents, and community workers engaged in a community reading of the book The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, throughout the month of March 2021. Partnering with Read to Them, the school participated in the One School, One Book program. Children and families created several projects that showed their understanding of the book. Staff frequently participated by reading aloud to students. Middle school students completed project showcases while high school students competed in a door-decorating contest. The excitement throughout the building and the community lifted spirits and opened spaces for unity among the Friendship Community.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
focused on the objective
The current school year can be considered anything but traditional and causes some to look forward to a time when things can go back to ‘normal’. Others see the current situation and departure from ‘normal’ as a way to continue personal growth and development regardless of the situation and demonstrate the ability to be innovative and responsive to any situation. One such individual is Andover High School Social Studies teacher Harold Brown. Having lived what some would consider a non-traditional life, Mr. Brown is well prepared to face challenges head on and accomplish the mission of educating his students regardless of the time, place, setting, or circumstances.
The ability to both recognize and respond to present situations is a hallmark of being able to succeed, and Mr. Brown possesses this ability in abundance. Maybe the awareness to positively respond and be dedicated to improvement is the result of the experiences he has had during his life. Growing up in a military family and contributing twenty years of his own life to military service, combined with almost two decades of teaching in both parochial and public schools, have enabled Mr. Brown to understand what it takes to adapt to situations and continue to push towards a clear objective. Regardless of where his experiences have come from, they have equipped him to be prepared for the current state of education today. His continual desire for personal learning and his attendance of multiple professional development opportunities are indicative of the growth mindset and the thirst for knowledge that Mr. Brown possesses and works each day to instill in his students. His teaching style is a true manifestation of his personal belief that one should go into education to enjoy the subject matter and his passion for history is easily recognized and displayed throughout his classroom. His willingness to learn things has been evident this year as he has worked to adapt his instruction in many ways, whether it be incorporating the use of Breakout rooms or using communication and chat platforms to keep his students learning and engaged. No matter the application or format he is, always seeking ways to help his students develop their skills while connecting to the content.
While this year has been anything but typical and has been subjected to so much change and expression of opposing viewpoints on multiple topics, the focus Mr. Brown has on preparing students for achievement and increasing their learning has not changed and remains a constant regardless of instructional model or format. This year may be viewed as a blessing since it has provided so much material and sources that can be examined for reliability, bias, and propaganda and given Mr. Brown the opportunity to be innovative and utilize various technologies to showcase to students the many aspects of the world in which they live. For a social studies teacher there is no better situation and circumstances than those which polarize our society providing opportunities to present students with the chance to learn the most desirable and pursued objective of Mr. Brown, for students to think for themselves!
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Do you teach 4th-12th graders that struggle to meet the reading and writing demands in your classroom?
“Adolescent literacy encompasses the skills that must be taught to all students so they can meet increasingly challenging reading and writing demands as they move through the upper grades (i.e., comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills), as well as what needs to be done for those students who fall behind who may need intervention instruction in foundational literacy skills (i.e., decoding and fluency).” https://keystoliteracy.com/blog/adolescent-literacy/
Click on the links below to find strategies that can be used across content areas:
● Build Background Knowledge-○ http://www.adlit.org/article/19865/
“Background knowledge is essential to the comprehension of more difficult text, and reading easy nonfiction that explains the critical concepts is an ideal way to expose all students to the essential background knowledge they need to understand their textbooks.” http://www.adlit.org/article/19865/
● Explicit Vocabulary Instruction-
“...researchers argue that the most common approach to teaching vocabulary — providing students with a word list on Monday then quizzing them on Friday — doesn't work. Kids don't really learn and remember words unless they see them many times in print, use them many times in their classroom discussions and written texts, and continue to see, hear, and use them subsequently.” http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/
● Discussion Protocols-
“Research demonstrates that oral communication in the classroom is an important precursor to both reading fluency and comprehension, yet it is often neglected in secondary schools (Horowitz, 2007). According to classroom observational studies, students are often silent in class (Nystrand&Duffy,2003). http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/
● Choral Reading-
“Some research has begun to show that fluency building—and by extension lessons and strategies for prosody, including choral reading—are also effective with high school students (e.g., Kuhn & Schwanenflugel, 2019; Paige et al., 2012; Rasinski et al., 2005).”https://www.timrasinski.com/presentations/Choral_Reading_Prosody_Secondary_Classroom.pdf
For additional strategies or questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Jessica Rose, CA BOCES Professional Development
In my October 2020 blog post I shared in detail about the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), a process that can greatly improve your student's ability to ask more, high quality questions. The QFT is simply one way to help engage students more deeply and tap into their natural, intrinsic curiosity. A stunning fact about students and asking questions is that the average preschooler can ask 400-500 questions per day while the average high school student asks only 1-2. This begs the questions, what happens to a student's curiosity as they go through school? Shouldn’t school be highly engaging and spark a student's interest resulting in them becoming more curious about the world around them? Why then do students ask significantly fewer questions, a sign of curiosity, as they age?
Every student possesses an intrinsic curiosity that fuels their desire to learn. As educators, it is our job to help tap into that curiosity in order to give our students the most meaningful educational experience possible. When students in our class seem uninterested, unmotivated, or fail to complete work because they just don’t feel like it, that is our cue that whatever we are currently doing instructionally is not working for these students. Instead of casting blame on the student and labeling them as lazy, we should aim to design more meaningful instruction, one that aims to engage students more.
For students to be engaged in our classrooms on a cognitive level, students must first be engaged on an emotional (sometimes referred to as “affective”) and behavioral level. In other words, students must feel as if their needs outside of the classroom have been met before they are capable of fully engaging in their academics. Building relationships and trust with our students is as critical in classroom instruction as is developing and consistently maintaining our classroom rules and procedures.
A bonus of the relationship building process is getting to know about our students interests and how they can be applied in our classroom instruction. Incorporating student interests in our daily instruction is a proven way of increasing student engagement levels in the classroom. For instance, when we know our students participate in certain sports, we can incorporate statistics from these sports into a math or science lesson. Or if a student participates in some civic engagement club or afterschool activity, we can incorporate their experiences into a writing task. These sorts of tasks also provide opportunities to give students a more “real-world” experience. When students feel as if the lesson has been catered to their interests, they’re more likely to participate.
Don’t fear taking the necessary time to develop and maintain relationships with your students. Due to the demands of state assessments and the sheer volume of content expected, some find it difficult to devote the appropriate amount of time to this task. Rest assured, building relationships with your students can only get more instructional time back as the year progresses as when these relationships are prioritized, less classroom interruptions will occur. When relationships are not firmly established, you can expect more interruptions, leading to a loss in precious instructional time.
Take the time to work on student-teacher relationships, you’ll gain more instructional time, learn important information about them to include in your instruction, and you’ll increase their overall engagement.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
If you were to look back and reflect upon the last two school years, then I think you would likely fall into the vast majority of people who say, “this is not what I thought being an educator would look like.” I think this is especially true for teachers and aides and all others who have entered the world of publication for the first time these last two school years.
Things are different. Some things better, some worse, and some remain the same. Regardless of the circumstance, we have found ourselves in a position to reevaluate what we are doing in public education and why it should (or shouldn’t) be so.
Consider the original approach to the onset of the pandemic in the United States. Regional educators as well as the professional learning networks (PLNs) on Twitter immediately took to making connections and practical applications to real-time COVID-19 data for instructional purposes. In social studies courses, these conversations focused on how pandemics have impacted governments, economies, or cultures throughout history. In mathematics courses, these discussions included analyzing infection rates to determine the best function to model the data.
It didn’t take long, however, for educators to realize that the data they were using to guide instruction was not producing the desired results. New data led to new conversations and new questions.
Sentiments that were already increasing in nature such as “students don’t work as hard as they used to” and “students don’t care about grades like they used to” were compounded with the stressors of a pandemic, but were they factual? And how could we know?
When asking for help on analyzing data, a regional administrator shared some thoughts regarding the 2021-2022 school year:
For the past few months, I have not been able to stop thinking about the start of next school year. It does not matter whether a teacher has been teaching for 20, 10, 5, or even 1 school year, I just do not see how we can start next school year the same way we have any other year. The teaching and learning that has taken place has been so different that we need to reexamine what that looks like in terms of what and how we instruct students starting the new school year.
The nuts and bolts of the data project are this: we are reviewing skills-based report card data for the past several years as a means of identifying trends wherever possible. While I cannot share the details for most of that data, I would like you to consider the example in the graphic below.
The data graphed is collected over the last five school years (2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021) for all students at one grade level for a district using the four quarterly reports on a 4-point scale (1-below grade level, 2-below grade level and making progress, 3-at grade level/proficient, and 4-above grade level expectations).
There are many things that we can learn from this one graphic. We can see that scores for the 2019-2020 school year were not reported for quarters 3 and 4 in the same manner as had been done previously (due to the pandemic). We can see that the yearly trend for effort at this particular grade level trends slightly positively while remaining consistent at or about grade level expectations. We also see that during the 2020-2021 school year, a school year that opened dramatically different than any other school year for the current generation, this grade level of students has demonstrated notably greater effort than the recent years prior.
While I know there may be questions about the reliability of this particular perceptual data, the intent of this graphic is not to convince you to trust the data presented here. Rather, the purpose is for you to reconsider what it is that you think you know regarding pandemic teaching and learning. Making data-informed decisions is a practical way to do just that.
What data do you have available? What is it actually demonstrating? Why does that appear to be so? What implications does that yield as you move forward?
I would echo the sentiments from the regional administrator shared above. I cannot imagine the best pursuit for education would be to start the 2021-2022 school year as we would any normal year (however you would define a normal year), but don’t take my word for it. See what the data is showing you, and move forward from there.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Getting Started with Number Talks
A number talk is a daily routine in ALL grade levels, that requires students to demonstrate flexibility in working with numbers and solving basic problems without using paper and pencil to find the solution. Consider how number talk routines can be used to help your students think more flexibly about whole numbers and operations with fractions and decimals.
Number talks require students to be flexible in their thinking about numbers and operations. In addition, students increase their ability to articulate their thinking, develop their mathematical vocabulary and refine their mathematical communication skills through the use of number talks.
How to Get Started with Number Talks
Like many other math routines, creating norms for the community and helping students feel like they are working in a safe space is crucial. In order for number talks to be successful, students must understand how to actively listen and hold a respectful exchange of ideas. Before implementing number talks in the classroom, brainstorm a list of classroom norms for how community members will participate and behave during the routine.
Teacher and Student Roles
During a number talk, it is the teacher’s job to encourage students to share their solution strategies, ask questions to clarify understanding, and direct the learning of the class. Number talks require students to explain their solution strategies, convince others that their strategy works, and listen to and pose questions about the strategies of others.
Extending the Thinking
Because the goal of number talks is to help students communicate their thinking, after a student has shared his/her strategy, there are several questions that can be used to extend and help a student better shape his/her thinking.
Final ThoughtsThe strategies that students use and are able to learn from doing number talks is invaluable! Students can build a mental storehouse of strategic tools through this process. In addition, the rich discussion that occurs between the students and the teacher during number talks is truly amazing! Imagine the possibilities if all of our students had the reasoning, critical thinking, language, and communication skills that result from regular participation in number talks each day for about 12-15 minutes.
· Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding Grades 4-10 by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker
· Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies by Sherry Parrish
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Ukulele’s in Friendship!
Mr. Arron Wixson’s 7th grade general music class was in for quite a treat after Christmas break. Mr. Wixson worked with Mark Beckwith from CABOCES Professional Development to be one of the first teachers in our area to use the new Ukulele’s that were purchased at CABOCES Learning Resources. The 7th grade students worked with Mr. Wixson for about 6 weeks learning the scales and the chords so that before the February break they’d be able to play a song of their choosing. Everyone had a ball learning the new and unique instrument, and the sounds of ukulele’s filled the Friendship halls daily.
Thank you Learning Resources team and Mark Beckwith for helping make this happen. We can’t wait to use them again next year.
Social Emotional Learning can best be described as teaching ourselves and students to be
aware of our internal environment. Giving ourselves space to identify and recognize our
emotions isn’t necessarily a new idea, however it is powerful to explicitly teach our students how
to recognize what is going on internally. Only when we become aware of our feelings are we
able to help ourselves move through when we are in the grips of intense emotions.
Trauma-Informed Classrooms cultivate a culture of safety and focus on the external
environment for students to thrive. When educators focus on the external environment they
intentionally work on creating space for students to thrive and practice the skills needed for
Resilience is our entry to thriving, not just surviving. Recently I attended an ASCD virtual conference and heard Elena Auguilar share her ‘12 Strategies to Build Resilience in Yourself and Communities’ which we can put into practice immediately.
1. Right here, right now, everything is ok
2. Feel your body
4. Recognize, name and accept emotions
5. Stay connected to people
6. Take care of yourself
7. Practice perspective taking
8. Be kind to yourself
9. Distract yourself
10. Look for bright spots
11. Practice gratitude
12. Practice “maybe”
When individuals struggle with big emotions we owe it to our students to give them the words and means to move through their emotions and practice resilience. Resilience can be thought of how we weather the storms that life throws at us. Take a moment to remember a time you weather a small challenge and you emerged stronger than you were before. This practice helps to cultivate resilience. There is power in remembering the smaller challenges that you were able to overcome and if you have an opportunity to share your story (and hear another person’s story) it builds resilience in both individuals. When we share our stories it helps to expand our perspective, normalize our experiences, and boosts our oxytocin (which is so healthy and combats our stress hormones!). We all have resilience and we all have the ability to build it. A stress check is a great visual for students to use in order to self evaluate if they are learning ready. This stress check can also be used with a worry box. This graphic has been borrowed from peardeck, as their website has featured some free social-emotional templates. https://www.peardeck.com/studentpaced-demo-resources
A worry box is a great way to have students identify something that may be concerning them
and write them down on a strip of paper and drop into their box. The idea is once the worry is
written down and placed in the box it is captured inside and no longer needs to take up space in
your mind. At the end of the day you can come back to the worry box and see if it still is a worry
or if the worry was resolved throughout the day. If the worry was resolved then it can be thrown
away, if the worry grew the idea is to take it out and place the worry in the teacher’s worry box
so the worry can be problem solved together.
Another idea to cultivate a safe environment and build resilience is to have your students participate in the ‘Hands of Promise’ activity. In this activity the left hand serves as the past and the right hand the future. Students write and/or draw pictures to express their fears on the left hand and what they are expecting and looking forward to on the right hand. This activity can be used to help kids move their thoughts from the past into the present.
It is so encouraging to know that resilience can be cultivated and developed in anyone. We
have the opportunity to continue to practice, model, and develop resiliency skills in ourselves
and others. And, if 2020 has taught us anything it is this…..we are resilient!
By: Jessica Schirrmacher-Smith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Recently, I joined a "fireside chat" with some brilliant literacy experts; the chat was hosted by the International Reading Association (ILA), and the topic was "What Should Equitable and Comprehensive Early Literacy Instruction Look Like in 2020 and Beyond?"
One of the speakers was Douglas Fisher. Doug is a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He is a member of the California Reading Hall of Fame and was honored as an exemplary leader by the Conference on English Leadership.
Doug discussed something that a lot of people are talking about, learning loss. He explained that the learning loss narrative emphasizes the wrong thing, and too much attention on learning loss and remediation can lower expectations for teachers and kids, creating negative mindsets. He cited recent 3-8 NWEA test scores for 4.4 million students in the United States; the organization reported that the students generally started school this fall about where they should be in reading. He shared that what needs to be magnified right now is that children will learn to read because of the great work that teachers are doing.
“Believe in yourself.”
Teachers across the region have been engaged in heroic efforts during the pandemic. If the "loss, gap, deficit" narrative changes, teachers will believe in themselves, their work, and that all kids will learn to read.
Wishing you a very happy, healthy, and safe holiday season.
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
In August 2020, ELA teachers from our region were invited to join Angela Stockman, author of Hacking the Writing Workshop and Make Writing, for a two-day institute on multimodal writing instruction face-to-face and across the distance. Through synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities, Angela led teachers in designing writing units and lessons that encourage students to use and explore hands-on approaches to writing.
As a continuation of this work, Angela is will be supporting the region in strategy sessions that are targeted towards specific grade bands, with rotating offerings for Elementary, Middle, and High School levels. Each of the strands will have a focus for that particular level with an overarching theme of multimodal instruction in face-to-face and distance learning situations. Teachers will engage in three one-hour sessions during the course of the school year and will have access to a variety of self-paced professional development lessons created specifically by Angela for our teachers.
Kicking off this series was the Middle School Strand that met after school on November 18, 2020. A handful of regional English teachers convened on Zoom with Angela around a focus on “Defining Structure and Form and Seeking Conventionality.” The next Middle School Session will be on January 27, 2021. Between now and then, teachers can access and work with Angela’s asynchronous resources.
An outline of the remainder of the series is as follows:
Multimodal Composition in the K-5 Writing Workshop
In each session, participants will examine explicit curriculum design methods, tangible writing tools, and instructional strategies specific to narrative, research and information, and opinion and argument writing.
December 2nd: Story Making
January 20th: Building Texts that Teach
March 31st: Composing Opinions and Arguments
MIDDLE SCHOOL STRAND
Multimodal Composition in the Middle School Writing Workshop
These sessions will challenge writing teachers to pursue and elevate the complexity of students' creative and academic writing. Each session will leave participants equipped to coach critical thinking, multimodal composition, and an iterative process, in service to more sophisticated thinking, learning, and written work.
November 11th: Defining Structure and Form and Seeking Conventionality
January 27th: Strategies for Coaching Critical and Metaphorical Thinking and Writing
April 14th: Lifting the Quality of Revision and Editing
HIGH SCHOOL STRAND
Multimodal Composition in High School Writing Classrooms
Participants in these sessions will learn how to leverage important constraints and help writers distinguish formulaic writing from coherent, sophisticated, and authentically influential work. All will leave with explicit strategies that move writers past mere replication in order to generate compelling compositions in every content area.
December 9th: Equipping Writers to Assume a Professional Posture
February 3rd: Tinkering with Structure and Using Conventions for Effect
April 21st: Elevating Complexity and Scaffolding with Careful Intention
Any teacher who may be interested in participating in this series can visit register.caboces.org to sign-up.
For more information Angela Stockman, visit http://www.angelastockman.com/.
By: Sarah Wittmeyer, CA BOCES Professional Development
Together, we can do better. All students, school districts, families and communities have equitable access to rich resources to improve student learning, strengthen families and create healthier communities. School and community partnerships are empowered and connected in meaningful ways, problems are solved and resources are used effectively. The bi-annual Community & Schools Together Conference, is one example of how the vision of the Community Schools CoSer has been fulfilled. The conference has enabled school and community partnerships to develop, enhance and align.
On November 16th, Community Schools hosted the second virtual Community & Schools Together Conference, which appropriately, focused on relationships and resilience. Despite the fact that the conference was an all-day, virtual event, over 100 participants attended, and stayed the course of the day. This is a true testament to the quality of regional educational leaders and expert community leaders that presented at the conference. Presentations were intentionally structured in strands, starting with self-reflection and care and moving towards taking care of staff and prioritizing staff wellness and relationships. Next, sessions focused on students, parent and family engagement and finally, community partnerships and organizations. Presenters shared a variety of information, ranging from best practices, models of intervention, program evaluation and personal resilience.
In addition to the professional learning and growth that the day was centered around, personal reflection, connection and overall wellness were of equal importance, in terms of intended outcomes. One participant shared that they appreciated “addressing the 'real' issues with empathy and care, as so many people are suffering in their own ways. Information was presented in a way that really made you want to engage, listen and be active.”
Keynote speaker, Ali Hearn inspired participants by sharing her expertise on self-care. She demonstrated to participants that self-care can be replenishing, draining, or relaxing. Replenishing self-care requires people to truly identify self-care practices that are sustaining such as staying hydrated, exercise, and eating healthy foods. Additionally, Ali connected the importance of self-care practices of staff as a benefit for students stating, “If your staff isn’t OK, then students probably are not OK.” Participants were provided with many strategies for daily check-ins as a support for staff, relationship building between staff members, and connecting with families.
Thank you to all presenters, participants and districts that were represented at the recent event. You will find the “presenter profile” below, that provides a snapshot into the collective expertise represented on November 16th. We look forward to the next Community & Schools Together Conference, which will be held on March 22nd, 2021. Please stay tuned for information about the upcoming event.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools and Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
Are you looking for an interactive, fun, and different way to engage your students online? Do you want to tap into your student’s curiosity and increase their capacity to inquire, ask questions, and think more deeply? How about trying the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) with the use of the online tool, Padlet.com?
If you’re not familiar with Padlet, Matt Miller, author of Ditch that Textbook, explains it as “a web app that lets users post notes on a digital wall. The uses for this site in the classroom are virtually endless!” From bellringer activities, to notetaking, creating presentations, and more, Padlet is a great tool to help students collaborate in a virtual space. In addition, Padlet can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, as students simply need to have the shared link in order to access and post in the space. If you’re worried about students writing inappropriate things when you aren’t on the page, there is a “Require Approval” setting that can be turned on. With this setting, before any post a student makes appears on the page, you as the instructor and creator of the page will have to approve the post. If you are using Padlet live with your students, you also can delete any post made at any time. With a free account, you can have 4 Padlet’s at a time though you are able to endlessly delete one and create a new one if needed.
One highly effective way to utilize Padlet is by trying the QFT. The Right Question Institute describes as a tool that “helps all people create, work with, and use their own questions — building skills for lifelong learning, self-advocacy, and democratic action.” The QFT is a rigorous yet simple, step-by-step process that facilitates the asking of many questions. The seven steps include 1) a question focus (QFocus), 2) the rules for producing questions, 3) producing questions, 4) categorizing questions, 5) prioritizing questions, 6) next steps, and 7) reflection. By utilizing a Padlet, each of the steps can be clearly defined ahead of time for students.
When the link for your Padlet is shared, all students with access will be able to make original posts as well as react and comment on other students posts. Having this ability makes interactions between students during the QFT process not only possible but highly engaging and productive. If you are interested in trying the QFT in your remote learning space, I’ve provided a template via Padlet that you are free to copy and use for yourself. As we navigate the remote instruction waters, now is a great time to try something new and see if it works for improving the educational experience of your students.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
As schools look to create a more inclusive setting for all students, co teaching is a model that is frequently used. This collaborative approach allows all students to remain in the general education classroom. This model of inclusive education helps to ensure that all students have access to the general education curriculum. The following defining characteristics identify the unique relationship of co teaching.
(Friend & Cook, 2003)
Co-teaching relationships represent a significant change in the working conditions and day to day activities if school professionals who are often used to work in a more independent manner. Professionals should consider the defining characteristic of co-teaching and their own professional strengths as they initiate co teaching relationships.
Here at CA Boces, we can help you with your co-teaching ventures by providing professional development, as well as peer coaching with feedback to improve implementation and instruction. Some topics of the professional development could be:
By: Corey Wilson, CA BOCES Professional Development
Building Relationships & Creating Community through Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles
Virtual restorative circles are the antidote for a great way to stay together when we must be so far apart. CA BOCES has been working with teachers across the region to focus on self-care, mindset, and the importance of positivity by providing virtual restorative circles. Virtual circles provide a place for teachers to connect, share ideas, and support each other through challenging times. It is also an opportunity for teachers to experience the social and emotional benefits of circle process and how this can transform into opportunities for supporting SEL with students through face-to-face, hybrid, and remote instruction.
The Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles followed the Kay Pranis circle process which includes an opening ceremony, mindfulness activity, establishing norms and guidelines, check-in rounds, guiding questions, and a checkout rounds. BOCES facilitators modeled through experiential practice with educators how these components could be present in instruction with students. We have all heard the popular phrase in education “Maslow before Bloom,” which is typically used to communicate that humans need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced. Self-Care Restorative Circles allows educators to embrace this phrase while embedding social emotional learning within the content they are teaching. Child psychiatrist Pamela Cantor told Edutopia in 2019 that “When we’re able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive development together, we are creating many, many more interconnections in the developing brain that enable children t accelerate learning and development.” Allowing time to integrate social emotional learning into academics and content areas allows schools the opportunity to build relationships and make connections with students.
Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles model instructional approaches for educators to learn different ways to build connections with students during each component of the circle process. For example, educators might choose to start their day with an opening ceremony. This could consist of a morning greeting, short story, quote, poem, or even a song. Many of these could also be used during what is called a closing ceremony or ending a lesson. Educators also had opportunities to practice multiple mindfulness activities for all ages including deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and opportunities or self-reflection. All of which could be transferred to instruction with students. The most common component to educators was establishing group norms and guidelines. Most educators start each school year off with this. The restorative self-care circles model for educators how to provide 2-3 non-negotiable guidelines while encouraging the students to develop additional guidelines that could be transferred to any learning platform. Participants also engaged in a wide variety of check-in and checkout strategies including the Fist-to-Five, Emotional Weather Report, and much more. Many might ask where does academic content fit into the circle process? Academic content is embedded in each component, but most visible within the guiding question rounds. During this time educators can check for understanding, introduce new vocabulary, discuss homework, build schema for introducing new lessons, and much more.
Below are a few reactions from participants across the CA BOCES Region that participated in Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles:
“I loved the gratitude session! I have an app on my phone that reminds me to list something I am grateful for everyday and I love it.”
“Enjoy these meetings every week! Love seeing others feeling the same as me. Great hosts!”
“I enjoy this every week! Allows one to feel accepted and important!”
“If I could give this professional development 10 stars I would!!! This is the one session that I look forward to attending every week. It is very organized, provides essential and necessary information, and always makes me feel good!”
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care to successfully be able to help others. It’s like the saying goes “You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of others.”
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
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