1. Is failure a real and regularly option and experience for kids at your school?
The school I taught at last year and the school I teach at this year offer very different cultural perspectives on failure options. Yes, they are different demographics but it is more than that. Both have “plans” in place to “address” failing students, but the action on these plans look very different and one, my current school site, positively eliminates failure as an option for students.
2. If so, what impact do you believe that is creating? If not, what structures have been put into place to accomplish alternatives?
First, the Student Success Team ( SST or other schools call Student Study Team) meets monthly to review EVERY identified students who need support in any area, academic, behaviorally and/or social/emotionally. The team consists of academic coordinator/administrator, school psychologist, interventionist, special education teacher and general education teacher meet with parents to discuss student’s identified needs and plan specific strategies to support the student. We also have a school counselor two days a week to meet with students informally and an intern therapist to meet with students who have been referred for more mental health support. As a third “tier” support provider, I coordinate/refer multiple services in addition to my own as an Education Specialist. While mine is the most restrictive environment I work on opportunities where my student can spend as much of their nonacademic time as possible in the general education setting. I do this because not only because it is my responsibility to find these opportunities for my students, but because I assume that they each have the potential to be exited back into the general education classroom at some point, whether after a year with me or not until high school, my instructional practices are to prepare them for this, career and college readiness as well.
Structures outside of the staff are in place to support students as well. The parent’s club has formed a session of the “Math Club.” They pay a willing teacher to organize a program to be a pre-intervention support for students who are struggling. The list of interest is so long, they have to have two shorter sessions to give more students the opportunity to attend.
3. What conditions exist that make it too late to learn and reach competency in your school? Can you give an example?
While my school does not make it too late to learn, I would say there are cases with similar factors where there are repeated situations that may appear that way. My school has a lot of parent involvement and it is celebrated. However, there are some cases where parents interrupt their learning. By the time students are in 5th and 6th grade preparing for junior high school, there is an expected level of independence and responsibility expected of the students that some parents are ready to allow. We have several students in these grades whose parents are on campus everyday finding ways to to be in the classroom and insisting that their child needs more support, or special education even though they do not qualify. Last week, one mother requested that the school pay her to be her son’s 1:1 aide (and he doesn’t even qualify for special education.) It appears to be a pattern in these grades because the parents struggle with the gradual release of responsibility, making it extremely difficult for the teacher to provide this for them in the classroom.
4. What would you do, if anything, to introduce/enhance “never too late to learn” structures in your school if you were the school leader?
To address the need for parents of 5th and 6th graders to be part of the gradual release of responsibility, I would design a blog or teacher reference to offer resources to parents to learn how they can best support their child in taking more responsibility in their learning. Introducing parents to goal setting sheets that can also be adaptable for homework and behavior is also a way to provide a home to school connection.
My district does not offer professional development around evidence based instruction so I drive to a neighboring county to attend Anita Archer’s workshops every Fall. Even if she reviews practices that I have learned, a refresher course gets me excited to take advantage of every instructional minute. As a leader, I would encourage the use of some of the funds raised to rotate groups of teachers to participate in these workshops as her instructional practices, such as this year’s, reach classroom management and effective instructional practices to reach every student and identify needs.
5. What can you do in your present position to create “never too late to learn” structures in your current practice and those of your peers? Are those things in your sphere of influence? I can send home my student self-check sheets for parents to understand where we are working on responsibility and accountability as it is an issue in my class. Often times, students with disabilities are more “overly supported” at home because there is also habits and behaviors involved due to years of compensating for the disability which is often not needed. The reflection sheets I created are geared towards 5th and 6th graders so I can also share them with other teachers to support provide another resource. Parents can then reward them based on the self-reflection and reaching the student-set goals towards on-task behaviors and task completion.
6. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school increase learning opportunities:
1. Distribute my “Successful Student Self-Check” to 5th/6th grade teachers.
2. Communicate with parents about their students taking an active role in their learning. 3. 3. Suggest Anita Archer’s resources/website/video and workshop to administration/staff.
4. Start conversations for after school curricular enrichment club like the math club for struggling students. (This school does not participate in GATE or AP.)
5. Now that our school safety/emergency procedures are in place, it is time to discuss service cycles with administration.