The Professional Teachers Toolbox

Written by Jackie Dipzinski

 

CHAPTER 1:  WHAT AND WHERE DO OUR KIDS COME FROM?

 

Our students come to us each day with a host of issues that will face them both inside and outside of the school environment.  As we look at the “backpack” that our students have, we could become overwhelmed with the issues that face each of them and how to deal with those issues in the classroom.  Author’s Elias and Arnold state this issue clearly, “Each day our students arrive at the doors of classrooms across America with challenges that serve as barriers to their success as learners. These students are affluent and poor; they are English-language learners and English-language speakers; they are White, Hispanic, African American, and Asian; they are urban, suburban and rural.  Regardless of who they are, where they come from, or the extent of their poverty or wealth, the reality is that many lack the personal, social, and emotional competencies to receive the maximum benefit of a rigorous, standards-based instructional program.” (Elias & Arnold, 2006)  As educators we want to promote an environment where learning is valued and where all students can contribute to the learning environment. 

 

You may think that just because a student is an honor student that you do not need to worry about his/her/their behavior.  You think this is just a concerned student who wants to do his/her/their best.  He/she/they are conscientious, goal oriented, committed, achievement driven and self-managing.  However, when he/she/they refuses to work with a peer in class or asks consistently to work alone, how does this foster an environment where ALL students are contributing?  Also, is the student hindering their ability to learn, how to be a leader, to communicate effectively with others, or to learn how to collaborate and cooperate?  One way to work on this in the classroom is by building community and creating a cooperative learning environment in which all students can contribute. 

 

As educators, we need to acknowledge and respect the student’s backpack.  These are:

 

q  Culture – touch, eye contact, male/female relationships, authority figures, body language, voice and tone/language, dress, parental contact, transitioning from environmental cultures (moving districts, transient, states, foster care, etc.), and the culture/race in which they have grown up.

 

q  Socioeconomic – poverty, single parent families, middle class, upper class, language, body language, voice and tone/language, values, and belief systems (college being valued over skilled labor or vice versa).

 

q  Social/emotional – interactions with peers and family, self-image, self-esteem, mental health, appropriate social interactions with peers and adults, emotional control, or lack thereof, exclusion, bullying, peer pressure, harassment, instigating, etc.

 

q  Home life (family dynamics) – custody, (challenges in the classroom due to lack of resources), work ethic, roles of nuclear vs extended, adopted, foster, gay/lesbian, divorce, stepparents, incarcerated, death of parent,  (note that this does not include kids with abuse, addictions w/in family, etc.)

 

q  Learning styles and disabilities – visual, auditory, kinestic, differentiation (example; five different lessons over one week hitting different areas of learning styles), cooperative groups/teams, silent work versus cooperative learning,


In this first case study, you will review and respond to the scenarios below.  Then, you will complete the additional requirements for observation and reflection.

SCENARIO:  Jamal comes into your classroom as an honors student.  He is a high achiever and comes to you regularly about his grade and increasing his overall grade.  He also does not like to work in teams because he wants to work individually for an A on every assignment.  On Wednesday you give a test to the class and Jamal gets a 90% on the test.  Once you give Jamal’s test back, he gets out of his seat and starts following you around the room to ask questions why he got this grade while you are trying to hand back the remaining tests.  CHOOSE WHAT YOU WOULD DO:

    1. You ask Jamie to sit down and tell him that we will go over the test shortly.
    2. You tell Jamie to sit down and wait until you are done. 
    3. You acknowledge that Jamie is feeling stressed about the grade but reassure him that he will have an opportunity to increase his grade.
    4. You acknowledge that Jamie is feeling stressed about the grade then, ask him to have as seat so we can all go over the test and make up requirements.  You also ask Jamie to stay (2 minutes) at the end of class. After class you discuss with him why he thinks displaying self-control is important, what are some ways he can display self-control in the future when he becomes stressed about his grades and what plan he has for the future when he becomes stressed.

What area of the student’s backpack may be the issue? 

SCENARIO:  Tasja comes to class, is quiet, does her work, does not participate, and leaves promptly after the bell rings. She gets a solid 75%-80% in class but it seems like she is just coasting through school. She rarely completes homework and can get by with minimal effort.  She seems like she is just slipping through the cracks.  CHOOSE WHAT YOU WOULD DO:

    1. Pull Tasja aside and tell her you think she could do better.
    2. Ask Tasja to stay after school with you to work on the current lessons and homework.
    3. Check in with her counselor to see if there is anything going on outside of school, preventing her from getting work done.
    4. Do nothing, she is passing.

What area of the student’s backpack may be the issue?

SCENARIO:  Isaiah comes to class every day late; he is always talking with his friends in the hall.  When he gets to class, many times he is unfocused and has difficulty following directions.  At times he is humorous, but it consistently takes class off track.  When you try to address the behavior privately, he becomes loud and boisterous in class.  CHOOSE WHAT YOU WOULD DO:

    1. Call home and have Isaiah stay for detention. 
    2. Ask Isaiah to stay after class to talk with you about his behaviors.  Have him complete a behavior contract with you and set a goal with his own boundaries, rewards, and consequences.
    3. Check in with his team to see if there is anything going on that you are unaware (current behavior plan in place, issues in other classes, in process of IEP/504, contact home prior, etc.)
    4. Do nothing, he is passing, and his humor really is funny.

What area of the student’s backpack may be the issue?

 

 

Over the next few days, work through the following questions.  Observe and determine the students “Backpack.”  Use this reflection and planning page to assist you.

 

Observe two different students.  How did students react to touch, eye contact, gender, authority figures, body language, voice, tone, language, dress, parental contact, transitions, culture, learning, disabilities and more?

 

1.     List the observations of student’s individual backpack:

 

Student A                                      Class Observed                                   Age

 

1)    What are the student’s interactions with peers, adults, and family?

2)    What is their level of self-awareness?

3)    Are they self-regulating?

4)    What is their motivation?

5)    How is the classroom building sense of community and providing opportunities for this student?

6)    What most observable backpack area is the student carrying? Justify your answer with observable behaviors and fact finding.   

7)    When approaching this student how should I interact with them knowing this information?

 

 

Student B                                      Class Observed                                   Age

 

1)    What are the student’s interactions with peers, teachers, and family?

2)    What is their level of self-awareness?

3)    Are they self-regulating?

4)    What is their motivation?

5)    How is the classroom building sense of community and providing opportunities for this student?

6)    What most observable backpack area is the student carrying?  Justify your answer with observable behaviors and fact finding.   

7)    When approaching this student how should I interact with them knowing this information?

 

 

2.     Then, SOLVE THE PROBLEM by picking one of the students and research a lesson or strategy that would be appropriate to address the backpack they come with? Create actionable steps to address the student’s backpack area.  Describe why you think this would work.


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