Teacher Study Groups: Taking the “Risk” out of “At-Risk”
by Bill Page Continued from page 1
February 1, 2009
Teacher Study Groups
Teacher Study Groups, teams, or pairs of like-minded teachers have proven to be extremely effective in getting teachers to better facilitate the teaching-learning process with problem learners. Teachers may learn from experiences but it is by reflection on those experiences that their teaching behavior changes, not just by the experiences themselves. If teachers are to improve their efficacy, increase their effectiveness, and develop their instructional skills, interaction, attitude, and teacher-student relationships, they need to reflect on their current practices and consciously seek ways to improve.
Teachers may learn from experiences but it is by reflection on those experiences that their teaching behavior changes, not just by the experiences themselves.
Reflection is objective examination and inquiry into individual teaching, curriculum, and the underlying assumptions and consequences of teacher-student interaction. Teachers learn from experiences as they share, critique, ponder, explore, review, analyze, and question them. Reflection requires the ability to analyze and prioritize issues, to use action research, new knowledge, and to develop a personally workable plan of action. Reflection becomes an ongoing interactive process occurring over time as teachers begin to inquire more deeply and evaluate and construct personal meaning.
Collaborative reflection can be effective and enjoyable. Teachers spend many hours thinking about their teaching. When teachers perceive the group effort as a way to develop their own more effective strategies, they welcome the opportunity to share their thinking with colleagues. Reflection, feedback, comments, questions, and discussion can be mutually satisfying and have proven to be one of the best professional development procedures available to individual teachers as well as whole faculties.
A Book Designed for Study Groups and Individual Reflection
My book, At-Risk Students, is ideal for use by Teacher Study Groups. The book is designed to help teachers examine their attitudes. Separated into 31 independent non-sequential chapters, it offers insights, ideas, and concepts which are described so teachers can select what is most meaningful to them. The vignettes are created to stimulate emotions on which teachers can reflect, discuss, consider, question, critique, compare, refute, reject, ponder, reconcile, research, evaluate, and experiment as ways for pairs, small groups, teams, and staff to reconsider and reinforce their beliefs and their commitments to teaching all students. Faculty interaction helps teachers move from lack of understanding, or mere intellectual acceptance of the concepts of at-risk misbehavior to emotional, empathetic, and attitudinal motivation and responsibility for changing the kids to successful learners.
Thirty-One Chapters for Reflection and Discussion
Each of the following chapters is independent. Each strand is an idea or challenge to be investigated by individuals or groups. A one-line description shows the key teaching concept in each of the 31 vignettes. Each chapter is designed to provide a choice, state a proposition, and stimulate interaction that causes teacher reflection, review, reinforcement, and recommitment. This list is abbreviated. The annotations in the book offer an expanded description of each chapter for teachers to consider and select for reflection.
Teaching: An Awesome Responsibility
Whether I have a “good” class depends on me, not on my students. I am 100% responsible for my classes.
At-Risk Students: A Point of Viewing
Kids don’t just flunk, they flunk something. And the something they flunk is what teachers are responsible for. You can’t have a flunkee without a flunker.
Wealth Accounts for Achievement Gap
Research has repeatedly found that poverty and wealth account for the majority of difference in student scores.
Take a Seat at the Bottom of the Class
Twenty five percent of the students are in the bottom fourth of the class. Most live in fear of being ridiculed, appearing stupid and being retained.
“We Get What We Get”
If parents can help; use them. If not, teachers teach and manage without them.
Successfully Teaching At-Risk Students
The “at-risk” label is pinned on students by schools. It is an insidious means of blaming the victim.
Failure Is Never an Option
So long as teachers are in charge of teaching, testing, and evaluating, they choose whether students learn or flunk.
Discrimination against Low Achievers
“How many teachers really try to give an equal chance to all members of the class to learn and pass?”
Remediation Doesn’t Work – At All, Ever
If remediation works, why not catch students up? If schools are still remediating them, it shows it doesn’t work.
Teacher Characteristics That Correlate with Student Achievement
Not all teachers are alike or even similar; each teacher is unique. But they share three characteristics that all “good teachers” possess.
Student Self-Concept and Achievement
Kids don’t learn by being flunked; they learn from success. Sadly, some kids “Never have a good day.”
A Remarkably Successful Program for At-Risk Kids,
Class members, themselves poor students, became tutors helping younger elementary students.
Murphy, the Student Tutor
The wondrous story of how becoming a tutor for primary kids transformed Murphy’s life.
Labels Are for the Jelly Jar
If a diagnosis doesn’t lead to remediation or is not within the teacher’s responsibility, it becomes useless.
Bill Page, a farm boy, graduated from a one-room school. He forged a career in the classroom teaching middle school “troublemakers.” For the past 26 years, in addition to his classroom duties, he has taught teachers across the nation to teach the lowest achieving students successfully with his proven premise, “Failure is the choice and fault of schools, not the students.”
Bill Page is a classroom teacher. For 46 years, he has patrolled the halls, responded to the bells, and struggled with innovations. He has had his share of lunchroom duty, bus duty, and playground duty. For the past four years, Bill, who is now in his 50th year as a teacher, is also a full time writer. His book, At-Risk Students is available on Abebooks, Amazon, R.D. Dunn Publishing, and on Bill’s web site: http://www.teacherteacher.com/
In At-Risk Students, Page discusses problems facing failing students, “who can’t, don’t and won’t learn or cooperate.” “The solution,” he states, “is for teachers to recognize and accept student misbehavior as defense mechanisms used to hide embarrassment and incompetence, and to deal with causes rather than symptoms. By entering into a democratic, participatory relationship, where students assume responsibility for their own learning.” Through 30 vignettes, the book helps teachers see failing students through his eyes as a fellow teacher, whose classroom success with at-risk students made him a premier teacher-speaker in school districts across America.