When I first entered this job I had no idea what to expect from observations. I have held teaching jobs before and I am fairly comfortable at the front of the room, but observing was something else. Becoming this stealthy person who sits, invisible, at the side of the classroom and writes down what is going on is a lot harder than it sounds. Do not get me wrong. I love doing it. I love being able to see places in Washington I never knew existed before. I love watching enthusiastic teachers do what they were born to do. I love seeing students really engage and be part of their own education. But, there are sure some awkward times when you are trying to be an anonymous, invisible, fly-on-the-wall observer as well as many moments that make it very special.
The newest additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel come from a 7th grade math lesson delivered by Breck Ivy in Highline, Washington. Students work in groups and pairs while learning how to analyze and organize data through stem and leaf plots.
We read about it all the time – students of lower socioeconomic status (SES) do not perform as well academically as those from higher SES. SES refers to the mix of economic, educational, and social factors that encompass the differences in economic wealth (such as educational opportunity and attainment), social status, and the ability to control aspects of one’s life. Both laboratory and societal research point to early enriched environments as essential to success. They also show that stress, which is often found in households of low SES, can adversely affect cognitive function. Given the wealth of information on the cycle of reduced opportunities for enriched experiences and stress effects on cognitive development, a seemingly basic question would be, “Can we change this cycle? And, if so, how?”
We are in the process of applying for a grant provided by Chase. Through Mission Main Street Grants, Chase is awarding grants of $250K to 12 small businesses. You can help, simply by voting for us on Facebook.
A critical area of American education that must improve is the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. The BERC Group has developed a great deal of expertise in this area by observing 35,000 classrooms and by video recording over 100 classroom lessons. This grant would provide us the opportunity to create a on-demand classroom observation video library for administrators and teachers. We have the capacity to sustain the system long-term, once developed.
Please help us reach our goal of 250 Facebook votes by 12pm on November 15th. Thank you for your support!
How to Vote
1. Go to: https://www.missionmainstreetgrants.com/search
2. Click Connect with Facebook
3. Search for "the berc group" or "98021"
4. Click VOTE NOW
The newest addition to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel come from an 11th grade science lesson delivered by Richard Salboro in Waianae, Hawai'i. Richard demonstrates how the oobleck bounces when placed on top of a speaker playing music and has his class explore "what do you think is happening to cause the 'oobleck' to dance?"
We cannot expect to improve student achievement without addressing the issue of poverty head on, and this work has to include families and communities. In Washington State, 46.1% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In many school districts, this percentage is much higher. Poverty can impede children's ability to learn and can contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty. Research suggests family engagement promotes a range of benefits for students, including improved school readiness, higher student achievement, better social skills and behavior, and increased likelihood of high school graduation. Involving parents, integrating the teaching of social and academic skills, and creating continuity among settings that a child negotiates on a daily basis are all crucial for launching a successful academic career. Our goal has to be to work with families to enhance their children's education and ability to learn, working around the barriers poverty might present. One clear way to navigate around these barriers is to focus on families as partners.
We just added three new clips to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel.
I am sure most us remember hearing stories from our grandparents or great-grandparents about the one-room school house, where students sat in wooden desks, the teacher was almost always female, and a shiny red apple stayed on the teacher’s desk. Students of varying ages sat and watched as the teacher reviewed how to write cursive letters, or they worked on perfecting their penmanship skills. Students usually were taught to be respectful and quiet, and to mind their manners. I certainly did not grow up in this era, but I do remember getting in trouble if I asked my neighbor to help me solve a problem because that was considered cheating, at least in my experience. Gone are the days of reading, writing and arithmetic. You may ask yourself, “What?! Students aren’t learning the most fundamental subjects needed to be a functioning citizen?” Well, that is not quite the case.
We have come a long way since those days. With a vast educational reform movement underway, we are no longer expecting the typical bell-shaped curve, where the average student will rank at the top of the curve, with lower-performing students on the left-hand side (indicating possible learning disabilities) and higher-performing students on the right-hand side (indicating possible high potential). There are three big concepts behind this: rigor, relevance, and relationships.
During my teacher preparation program, I first heard the statistic from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future that half of all new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. My professor followed up that sobering piece of data with, “Teaching is a profession that eats its young.” Five years later, I’m officially part of that statistic. After four years as a high school English teacher, I left to join The BERC Group. It was a good move for me to come here. Of all the professional development I had during my teaching career (and in my district, we had a lot of PD!), my STAR training stands out as the piece that impacted my instruction the most. As a teacher, nothing helped me more than going into a colleague’s classroom for half an hour. I never failed to glean something from these observations that would later enhance my own practice. I admired the work The BERC Group was doing around Powerful Teaching and Learning, and I wanted to be a part of it.
But I was not prepared for the twin sensations of guilt and relief that overwhelmed me when I left teaching. Guilt because I’d given in. I’d become part of the 50% my professors warned me about. And relief because, during those four years of teaching, my life had turned into a juggling act. I had dozens of balls that needed to stay in the air. Lessons to plan. Students to tutor. Papers to grade. Phone calls to make. Paperwork to finish. Grades to enter. All of these tasks were absolutely necessary – and all of them took place outside of the school day. I was much better at keeping these balls in the air after four years of practice, but they still crashed around my feet more often than I would like to admit. When I left behind my classroom, I also left the constant dread of waiting for that crash to happen. A year later, and I am still processing both of these emotions.
We just added three new clips to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning YouTube channel.
1st Grade English - Malia Sakamoto: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
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