Category Archives: teaching

The Racial Achievement Gap in Literacy

When I was enrolled in Clare’s graduate course on literacy teaching, our class was assigned a reading from Alfred Tatum’s 2005 book Teaching reading to black adolescent males: Closing the achievement gap. It was one of my favorite readings and the class discussion was so engaging; many of my peers, myself included, were overcome with emotion. I will never forget reading the introduction, which felt like a Hollywood script until I realized that this is many people’s reality and that the incident he describes is representative of a large problem that needs to be addressed. Simply put, the role of literacy in the lives of young black men must be reconceptualized.

According to Alfred, the book is his attempt “to speak on behalf of all those young black males who yearn for understanding as they journey through rough terrain. Many of these young men want educators to respond to their needs and so help release them from a poverty-ridden paralysis that stiffens dreams” (p. 3).  Check out the introduction/the book here!

On a similar note, I came across this uplifting article a few days ago. An 11- year old boy started a book club, Book N Bros, that celebrates black books and African-American literature that shies away from the typically negative urban stories. With an emphasis on black protagonists, a new book every month, and meetings to discuss themes and complete worksheets, the aim is to improve the literacy rate among boys 8-10 years old. Some of the books that have already been read include Hidden Figures, The Supadupa Kid and A Song for Harlem: Scraps of Time.       Awesome!BlackProtagonistBook

How can we make professional development more useful?

I (Clare) was recently doing a Meet and Greet for our newly admitted student teachers to Image_PDcartoonour Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program. I talked about how teaching is a journey and that you never stop learning. From our longitudinal study of teachers we know that teachers learn a great deal from each other and from reflecting on their teaching. I believe there is a place for formal professional development; however, many teachers (myself included) have found formal PD to be of little use. It is often so removed from daily practice, tends to be top-down, and is a one-off. Teachers need time and place for conversations about their teaching. There is a place for formal structured PD but the way it is so often delivered it is not effective. In previous blogs I have written about my teacher-researcher group which has been a very powerful form of PD because all of the teachers are working on a topic/question that is important to them. One of the students in my grad course sent me this cartoon about PD. Although I chuckled when I read it, I feel that is sums up the sentiments of many.

Catherine Snow talk

If you are in the Toronto area this talk might be of interest to you.  You can RSVP using this URL: RSVP (acceptances only): http://www.tinyurl.com/mccarthylecture

Image Catherine Snow talk

Teachers’ and Teacher Educators’ Roles beyond the curriculum

For decades academia, teacher education, and teachers have been talking about critical pedagogy. Like everything in education debates continue as to how much, when, it what ways it can and should be taught. My current post is not about whether we as teacher educators and teachers should or should not be critically conscious or the extent to which we should. This post is a consideration for how to teach for equity. I found this video about teaching inclusively our university’s website:

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/About_OISE/PrideVideo_Story.html

The video is a safe start. It is basic awareness and consciousness for more equitable practice. We, in North America, have been overwhelmed with what I feel are devastating events surrounding people: People of Colour, LGBTQ People, Police Officers, People of Muslim Faith and many other marginalized groups. Social media is exploding with perspectives and emotion surrounding the varying issues and people everywhere are left to understand what it what based on their own experiences and contexts. What responsibility do schools have in teaching for a more equitable society?

Critical pedagogy in education is not new. It is a pedagogy that has been studied and discussed and to some extent taught in schools and yet it continues to be a pedagogy that sits on the periphery of practice. It is pedagogy that is left to some to tackle in teacher education ~ usually those who themselves have a personal connection to inequity (as our research on literacy teacher educators has shown). Sometimes critical pedagogy is infused in some courses but mostly it is taught in an isolated course. We know that many teacher education programs continue to be dominated by White, middle class, women. Knowing this, I wonder how much impact one or two courses has on the consciousness and practices of a teacher who has not had many opportunity to even think, let alone experience, inequity.

What can be done? What should be done?  I think about my courses and the teacher candidates and feel that deep critical understandings within context, content and pedagogy is essential. In light of the movements and violence and confusion that is happening across the globe I see no option. If teaching is a relational act, then we must deepen our understandings of the varying relations that exist in communities and prepare teachers to not only teach for equity but have confidence in dealing with media literacy.

 

 

School’s Out. Move over Alice Cooper: A response to traditional schooling

What is good pedagogy? What works for student achievement? What engages students? What are our end goals for schooling? As another school year draws to a close I begin to reflect on what the school year looked like, what was achieved and if in fact the intended goals for student development were met.

Our team writes on a variety of topics associated with 21st century literacy and learning. The pedagogy, vision, and goals of 21st century learning differ from traditional literacy learning and teaching in many ways.  Sometimes tradition and contemporary methods connect and sometimes they clash. As Clive has written in past posts; the idea isn’t to contrast and compare or pick and choose one particular position; instead, there is value in understanding the purpose, strengths and outcomes of varied stances and consider our contexts and goals for teaching and learning.

I came across this interesting article that brings to the table a “newer” consideration for literacy teaching: makerspace.  Not an entirely new concept, and inclusive of several well known pedagogies and approaches, the maker movement does challenge more traditional ways of learning.

“Making is a stance about learning,” Martinez said. “It’s the landscape you create in a classroom or any kind of learning space where kids have agency over what they do and a large choice of materials that are rich, deep and complex.”

The link to the article is here:

How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

Now that “school’s out for summer” it may be a good time to think about how to improve our practice for student learning. It may be a good time to learn more about the maker movement, what it entails, and how we can learn from our students, from each other, and, more about the elements for achieving creativity, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, and literacy.

HIGH-STAKES TESTING OR CRITICAL THINKING

I (Clare) read this article in TC Record and I thought is sums up the dilemma so many teachers face. Teach skills but also teach critical thinking. They are so often set up in opposition that many teachers are left thinking they have to choose one or the other. We need to both! http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=20557

Assessing Critical Thinking in a Data-Driven Educational System

by Amanda Mattocks — May 10, 2016

The current educational environment has left teachers trapped between the accountability mandates of high stakes testing and the desire to provide an authentic, skills-based curriculum that is rich in critical thinking activities. As the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is implemented nationwide, teachers and districts should seize the opportunity to develop alternative assessment tools that incorporate more authentic measurement of students’ critical thinking skills.

HIGH-STAKES TESTING OR CRITICAL THINKING

 

The tension between high-stakes testing accountability and an authentic, skills-based learning environment infused with critical thinking has made the assessment of student learning a challenge for even the most experienced education professionals. Classroom teachers need to be both public servants responsible for aggregate student growth, and inspirational role models tasked with shaping future minds. The recently sunsetted No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002; U.S. DOE, 2002) narrowed the definition of learning to concepts found on multiple choice examinations that require mass data collection, equated student growth to test score improvement, and instigated punitive measures when schools do not meet national proficiency standards. In theory, the numerical data generated from the annual standardized assessment has held teachers accountable, but this has come at the cost of adequate curriculum depth, appropriate real-world skills, and deep critical thinking skills which are less easily measurable but arguably more important to foster. Tension remains between generating trackable measures of growth and providing learning filled with critical thinking activities. This tension may soon lessen given that measuring student growth and providing authentic skills-based learning are not mutually exclusive anymore; both can be accomplished simultaneously by working within the new assessment guidelines of ESSA.

EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT

 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015) has the potential to diffuse the tension between high-stakes annual testing and authentic skills-based learning. ESSA calls for the systematic collection of data of a different nature than that aggregated by traditional standardized testing. According to the federal ESSA website, “Assessments must involve multiple measures of student achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding, which may include measures of student growth partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks” (NCLS, 2015). ESSA will be fully implemented across the United States by the end of 2017 and public school teachers will have the opportunity to develop high-quality assessments involving critical thinking that mirror an authentic, skills-based classroom with a curriculum rich in performance tasks measuring higher-order thinking. While the job of developing authentic assessments for measuring skills-based learning and critical thinking is daunting, the educational community is already fertile ground for the ESAA’s requirements. Due to the fact that ESSA allows teachers to report data from interim assessments based on higher-order thinking skills, each localized educational community has the opportunity to establish the relevant criteria on teacher-designed rubrics and create skills-based performance tasks as long as the result is high-quality measurable data.

 

ASSESSING CRITICAL THINKING

 

After watching my students critically discuss complex themes like the American Dream and income inequality during Socratic-styled seminars, I became convinced that understanding and critical thinking are most evident when assessments incorporate real-world problems and performance tasks. Evaluating classroom discussion is challenging but worth the effort because of its curriculum relevance, authenticity, and rigor. Stanford Professor Sam Wineburg calls for students to think like a historian by “understanding that each of us is more than a handful of labels ascribed to us at birth” (Wineburg, 2001, p. 7). In order to reach this deeper understanding, students need to develop critical thinking skills, defined by the American Philosophical Association (APA) as “purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based” (Facione, 1990). Traditional social studies assessments that measure names, dates, and events have their place in education but cannot measure “higher-order thinking skills and understandings” as required by ESSA. A curriculum that includes skills-based activities have the potential to also measure critical thinking. Instead of testing students on factual recall, Wineburg required high school students, college students, and professors to read documents out loud, pause to interject their thoughts, and analyze the material they just assimilated (Wineberg, 2001, p. 7). Wineburg measured the interview transcripts for the presence of critical thinking using established criterion and then norm referenced the interviews to determine the depth of critical thought to assess the performance activity (2001).

 

Peter Boghossian, an educator in the correctional system, also created measurable data derived from performance activities. In order to promote the merits of Socratic seminars to colleagues, Boghossian analyzed transcriptions of his discussions about morality using a rubric designed from the APA’s definition of critical thinking. His students demonstrated their ability to think critically by evaluating, interpreting, inferring, and analyzing by engaging in these types of activities (Boghossian, 2006). By crafting a numerical rubric around skills-based performance tasks, teams of teachers can collect data on student critical thinking ability. Wineburg and Boghossian used two completely different alternative assessments designed to measure critical thinking and both performance tasks yielded helpful data regarding student abilities. Stanford’s History Education Group develops free content through their project called Beyond the Bubble which is aptly named for its goal to move assessments away from multiple-choice examinations (Wineburg, Smith, & Breakstone, 2016). The organization, led by Sam Wineburg, provides critical thinking assessments utilizing primary sources with numerical proficiency rubrics and scored example assessments (Wineburg et al., 2016). With localized numerical data generated from rubrics, teachers can collaborate and strategize pedagogical shifts to promote student growth and then report the relevant and longitudinal information to the state under ESSA, instead of the state collecting a single high-stakes examination and subsequently passing the data to teachers.

CALL TO ACTION

By creating rubrics for critical thinking performance activities, teachers can collaborate to generate meaningful data that can be reported to the state for accountability purposes. This means that nurturing a skills-based classroom rich in critical thinking and reporting achievement goals can happen simultaneously, which is an exciting prospect for both teachers and local communities. However, for change to take place in the classroom, departments and districts need to design rubrics based on higher-order thinking skills using performance assessments. As states implement ESSA in the next couple of years, teachers and districts should seize the opportunity to develop alternative sources of data that incorporate authentic assessments of critical thinking skills.

 

References

Boghossian, P. (2006). Socratic pedagogy, critical thinking, and inmate education. Journal of Correctional Education, 57(1), 42–63.

 

Every Student Succeeds Act, Pub. L. No. 114-95 (2015).

Facione, P. A. (1990). Research Findings and Recommendations. Newark, DE: American Philosophical Association.

 

National Conference of the State Legislature (NCLS) (2015). Summary of the every student succeeds act, legislation reauthorizing the elementary and secondary act. Washington DC: NCSL. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/documents/capitolforum/2015/onlineresources/summary_12_10.pdf

 

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, • 115, Stat. 1425 (2002).

United States Department of Education (2002). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 executive summary. Washington DC: The U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/execsumm.pdf

 

Wineburg, S. S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

 

Wineburg, S. S., Smith, M., & Breakstone, J. (2016). Beyond the bubble. Stanford, CA: Stanford History Education Group. Retrieved from https://beyondthebubble.stanford.edu/

 

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: May 10, 2016
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 20557, Date Accessed: 6/11/2016 7:14:01 PM

The “Books For Refugees” project

A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Rachel McCormack, a professor of literacy education at Roger Williams University, to provide Arabic-language books to refugee shelters across the Netherlands. McCormack emphasized that “returning to school, particularly when it’s in a new language, is a huge adjustment for many Syrian children” and “maintaining their birth language and culture is key to every child’s identity.” She hopes providing access to Arabic-language texts will help Syrian children and their families integrate into Dutch society while maintaining their own culture and language.

Link to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/05/balancing-integration-and-assimilation-during-the-refugee-crisis/482757/

 

Thinking about Reading Recovery

I (Yiola) am interested in early literacy for a number of reasons: my area of expertise is elementary  education; I was an early years teacher for ten years; my own children are now in early years programs; and, I believe that understanding literacy in the early years is  foundational for understanding teaching and learning.

With recent discussions going on about early years literacy programs and talk of play versus direct instruction; and, exploration and social development versus academic rigour (neither of which I believe are true binaries but instead call for a thoughtful consideration of a developmental and critically rich fusion) I am compelled to think about reading in the early years. You see, it seems to me parents are often in a panic if their child is not reading and more and more I am hearing of excited parents proudly sharing that their child was reading at 3 or 4 while other parents are silently panicking if their child is not reading by 6 years of age.

I often think back to when I was a classroom teacher and I recall the complex yet carefully crafted time sensitive processes for reading acquisition. I also clearly remember having a Reading Recovery Program at our school and watching our first and second graders enter and exit the program with a good degree of improvement and development. Most children would come out of reading recovery with gains. The very few who did not required further testing and support that went beyond the readiness phenomenon.

In my readings I came across this interesting article about Reading Recovery and the relevance of levelled texts, phonological processing AND comprehension as all significant  components of early reading development.

Here is the article in full: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9817.12041/epdf

This reading reminded me that there needs to be an amalgamation of approaches and strategies in the early years classroom. More and more I think that the programming and planning of early years teachers is by far their greatest challenge – not deciding upon play versus directed learning – knowing how to plan in ways that are engaging, that tap into curiosities and children’s questions and that allow for literacy rich exploration while also ensuring time for literacy focused experienced.

 

 

Fort McMurray Disaster — Fort McMoney a documentary game

I (Clare) like many Canadians are watching the news as the fire in Fort McMurray fire RCMPAlbertaspreads to 850 square kilometres with; thousands being airlifted. It is reported that the “The wildfire in Fort McMurray could be the costliest disaster in Canadian history as estimates for insured damages run as high as $9-billion. Thousands of homes and businesses in Alberta’s fifth largest population centre have been destroyed.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/fort-mcmurray-exodus-swells-as-fires-rage-a-lot-of-people-are-working-to-get-you-out/article29883034/

This catastrophe is on a monumental scale but it has touched me in a different way. For two years I worked with a teacher research group, Eureka, and one of the teachers, Mike Farley, did his research on the use of Fort McMoney http://fortmcmoney.com/#/fortmcmoneyin his geography class. Over a period of time the students played the game and he studied their reaction to using the game and their learning.

His data showed that the game had a HUGE impact of their learning. Fort McMoney is s an interactive documentary game that lets you decide the future of the Alberta oil sands, and shape the city at its centre.

Through the research group I watched/played the game which gave me an insight into the community and the complexity of the issues of the oil sands. I emailed Mike when I heard the news about the fire. He said that he and his students were so upset by the events because they understood Fort McMurray and the impact on this fire community. This is an example of gaming that brings the real world into the classroom. His students probably have a much better understanding of this devastating fire as a result of the playing this highly interactive and informative game.

 

There is a long description from the Globe and Mail of the game below and it is well worth checking out the game. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/what-is-fort-mcmoney/article15583598/

A frozen highway spools out ahead of you, in the distance giant factory facilities with spewing smokestacks are carved out of virgin forest. It looks cold, cold like one of those Soviet factory towns in the Arctic Circle.

That’s the scene that greets you when you boot up Fort McMoney, which is a virtual world that went live online Monday. There are many places to see and even more characters you can interrogate and interview. Scores will be kept and leaderboards maintained to reflect actions taken by visitors: the more curious you are the more points you collect. This world is also episodic, new places and people will arrive every week over the next four, and visitors can vote for changes they’d like to see based on what they experience inside Fort McMoney.

If you have a passing familiarity with modern video games, you will recognize this structure. But while it is a game, it’s not fiction, it’s an interactive documentary about that most consequential Canadian oil town: Fort McMurray. It was produced by The National Film Board with French, German and Canadian partners, including The Globe and Mail. (Columnists Eric Reguly and Margaret Wente will be writing about their evolving views as they play along. Read Ms. Wente’s first take here and read Mr. Reguly’s here.) The makers of Fort McMoney call it a game and call users “players,” but there will be no “winners,” or rather there is no way to “lose” the game.

(Also, for such an innovative project, the language to describe it is lacking; we need a new term like Game-Umentary, but one that isn’t terrible.)

Functionally, it owes some of its game design DNA to 2012’s episodic zombie adventure The Walking Dead from Telltale Games. The winner of multiple video game awards, Telltale’s creation follows a similar forking structure: Like in Fort McMoney, each player’s experience with the game will vary because each decision you make, each question or action you commit to, changes the sequence of the next thing you see or are able to do. In The Walking Dead that often meant people you met in the game got eaten by zombies, in Fort McMoney it just means you visit a different part of one of Canada’s fastest-growing boom towns.

Over the next month players can dig through about eight hours of interviews and conversations with the real residents of Fort McMurray, a city which lies at the heart of Canada’s oil sands. The game asks players to choose whether the city should help crank oil production up to 11, or if it should essentially shut down the industry. That’s where the SimCity element of this game comes in: How the city grows, and how that affects Canada’s energy future, will be displayed in a series of projections, updated each week by the latest referendum.

This laboratory of democracy is hosted in the “dashboard” part of the game, and this is where it strays from being a pure choose-your-own adventure story (if still a documentary, there are no actors here), and turns into a civics experiment. Players will be invited to debate, share their in-game discoveries and vote on policies for the town and its ever-present oil.

The issues the Fort McMoney asks players to vote on in the weekly polls are ones the real town faces: If you could, how would you vote to change things about the trajectory of Fort McMurray and Canada’s exploitation of the second largest energy reserve in the world? The results of player voting will create a hypothetical Fort McMurray, one in which the future has been directed by the votes of this digital public square, like in a classical Greek democracy. Only here, the amount of debating, sharing and exploring you do can net you a higher score, and thus a heavier vote during the polls. It’s why a documentary is keeping score at all, as a reward for spending time “playing” the game.

The elephant in the room is that this game/documentary is about oil in those sands, and the environmental and human cost of boiling it out of them. Fort McMoney starts by introducing you to people living on the margins of this rapid growth, the young woman who was hoping to clean work camps but instead works as a waitress, the alcoholic who collects cans (claiming to clear $52,000 in one year recycling the discarded booze containers of Fort McMurray’s residents). In short order you meet the mayor of the town, and eventually oil sands executives and other leaders.

Creator David Dufresne talks about our civilization’s “addiction to oil” when he talks about the conversation he wants this game to spark. This is the part the NFB, Dufresne and his whole team, are really excited about. As Dufresne explained during a recent live Q&A about the project: There are no shortage of great books, documentaries or journalism about the “tar sands.” He says he was drawn to Fort McMurray thanks in part to stories about the town in The Globe and Mail. But for all of that, do Canadians feel any urgency to take action? He hopes to change that by giving people something gorgeous to look at, deep to explore, fun to argue about and which creates consequences for the user’s decisions. He hopes his video game will convince people to be the change they want to see.

 

 

 

The First Year of Teaching Can Feel Like a Fraternity Hazing

One of my (Clare) students sent me this article from the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/first-year-teaching/477990/?utm_source=SFTwitter

As I read it my heart sank for these new teachers. I recall my first year of teaching (I lost 15 lbs. between September and December) from sheer work. Does it have to be that way? And given all that we have learned about beginning teachers I am not sure how much the situation has changed. Yes the first year of any new job is going to be a challenge but does it need to feel like “fraternity hazing)? I think no.

Brendan Hoffman / AP

This is the first story in a three-part series about teacher preparation and whether programs are doing enough to prepare new teachers to take over their own classrooms.

MIDDLE RIVER, MD—On a chilly November morning, Michael Duklewski stood outside his seventh-grade classroom as students filed in, some shoving each other playfully, others still half asleep. One by one they took a piece of paper from a bin by the front door and made their way to their seats.Image Michael Duklewski

“Good morning!” Duklewski, 33, said in a loud and confident voice over the classroom chatter. He closed the door and paused. A wad of paper flew through the air.

“I’m warning you man, the next time I see someone throw something, it’s lunch detention,” Duklewski said sternly, looking at the student who had thrown the paper.

As students in this second-period English class began to work on their warmup drill—to define the terms “setting” and “mood” in literature—the chatter continued. Duklewski walked over to the chalkboard in the front of the room where he was tracking the points for good behavior that each class had earned. Next to “second period,” he erased the number 14 and changed it to 13.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I already took off a point,” he warned. He waited as the conversations slowly died down, before launching into his lesson for the day on the play A Raisin in the Sun.

Duklewski, one of a growing number of career-changers that enter the teaching profession each year, switched from political lobbying to education after volunteering at an after-school program in Baltimore. This school year is his first, and it has been even tougher than he imagined. In the second week of September, reality hit. “I was like, ‘Oh God, I don’t know what I’m doing here,’” Duklewski recalled.

Duklewski is one of three teachers The Hechinger Report, which partnered with The Atlantic to produce this story, has followed over the course of their first year to look at how training programs prepare new teachers for the classroom—or don’t. As the American education system faces a drumbeat of criticism for its stubborn achievement gaps and lackluster performance compared to other countries, education schools are under attack.

Traditional education schools are trying to reinvent themselves, and alternative fast-track routes are popping up to offer shortcuts to the classroom. Both models seek to help prospective teachers deal with rising standards, increasing student diversity, new technology and, inevitably, the gauntlet of spitballs, note passing, and, these days, illicit texting.

Michael Duklewski leads a lesson in his second-period English language-arts class. (Jackie Mader)

While aspiring educators now have more choices than ever before when it comes to launching their careers, new teachers continue to leave the profession at an alarming rate, suggesting a breakdown in training and support. At the same time, there is little evidence to show which education programs are graduating the most successful teachers or what kind of support is most helpful for rookies.

Duklewski chose the traditional route to becoming a teacher. In 2015, he graduated from Towson University, a state institution outside of Baltimore that has been training teachers for more than 150 years and graduates nearly 700 new teachers each year. He selected the school because of its strong reputation, and it helped that his mother earned her own teaching degree there in 1972. His course of study took two years, including more than 20 classes and 16 weeks of full-time student teaching—typical for traditional programs, which provide more in-depth pre-teaching training than most alternative programs.

Duklewski was hired to teach seventh-grade English language arts at the same school where he completed his student teaching experience. He was familiar with Middle River Middle School’s administration and policies and already knew many of the nearly 900 students in the sprawling, single-story brick building, located in a suburb of Baltimore.

“We’ve gotten into a habit of accepting that we treat the first year of teaching like a fraternity hazing”

Though Duklewski said surviving the initial year hasn’t been easy, many first-year teachers are so traumatized they don’t come back at all. Data on new-teacher attrition varies, but studies have found that anywhere from 17 percent to 46 percent of new teachers quit within their first five years. If teachers were trained better, more might stick around, experts say.

“We’ve gotten into a habit of accepting that we treat the first year of teaching like a fraternity hazing,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). “People say, ‘I just don’t think you can learn this ahead of time.’ Well, you need to set up those conditions ahead of time,” she argued.

Is it possible for teacher programs to prepare educators with everything they need to know on Day 1? Maybe not everything, according to the three teachers we followed.

For Duklewski, although he’s struggled at times with unruly students, he’s not sure what else his teacher education program could have done. There’s no better way to learn how to teach, he argued, than just jumping in and doing it.

* * *

A student works on a reading assignment in Duklewski’s English language-arts class. (Jackie Mader)

Back in second period, Duklewski, wearing black dress pants and a blue polo shirt, continued to give directions for the next part of the lesson: using evidence from the A Raisin in the Sun script to draw a diagram of the set.

As he ran the discussion he moved constantly around the room, stopping the lesson abruptly—and frequently—as students talked to their neighbors. He kept an even tone as he threatened to call parents and reminded students that one of the class rules is “don’t talk while others are talking.”

Four minutes in, second period was down to 10 good behavior points. “Don’t draw on your arm,” Duklewski told one student. He ignored a student hitting himself in the face with a red folder. Duklewski stared down a chattering group of students until they started working again.

It was now 10 minutes into the period. Duklewski stepped up to the overhead projector in the front of the room and counted down from three. The class fell silent. “Our purpose is to find details about the staging of the Youngers’s home,” Duklewski said, referring to the family in the play. “What rooms are there? What things are there?” Some students raised their hands, but a few boys continued to talk to each other, or, in a couple of cases, to themselves.

“Ladies and gentleman, I’m literally asking you to do nothing when other people are talking,” Duklewski said in a calm and assertive voice. “We’re going to practice being silent for fifteen seconds. If we can do that, I’ll put a point on the board. If not, I’ll take two off.”

Duklewski set a timer for 15 seconds. Four seconds later, a student started talking.

Less than three months into his first year of teaching, Duklewski exuded the confidence of a more experienced teacher. But his second-period class was difficult compared to the other four classes he’d been teaching, a difference he attributed to several strong personalities and too many students—33, far bigger than his other classes.

For the worst behavior problems, his chosen strategy is keeping students after class for a one-on-one talk instead of addressing them in front of other students. “Some teachers come straight at a student when they have an issue with them in class,” Duklewski said. “I found that doesn’t work with them, especially not in a classroom full of their peers. They get yelled at enough.”

The ability to manage classroom behavior is one of the top concerns for every new teacher and can often lead to the undoing of a rookie. A 2014 report by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education found that trouble managing student discipline is one of the many reasons teachers leave the classroom. Poor classroom management can also get in the way of learning, said Arthur Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and former president of Teachers College, Columbia University. “If a teacher can’t manage a classroom, nothing they’re going to do will be successful.” (The Hechinger Report is an independent unit of Teachers College.)

Although classroom management is one of the most important topics for new teachers, it is one of the least taught in preparation programs, said NCTQ’s Walsh. “Programs swear up and down that they teach this stuff … [but] there’s little evidence that they’re being taught it,” she said.

In fact, a 2013 report by NCTQ found that many teacher-preparation programs fail to teach certain aspects of classroom management. Of 122 programs examined by NCTQ, the majority focused on the setting up of routines and rules in classrooms, an important skill. But 74 percent did not teach teachers how to use praise in their classrooms to reinforce positive behavior or other day-to-day tricks to keep classes focused and get unruly kids under control.

“If a teacher can’t manage a classroom, nothing they’re going to do will be successful.”For Duklewski, talkative students can be irritating, but they’re not enough to make him quit teaching.

By December, his second-period class was getting better; during the fall, he had started giving students the chance to earn the right to come to his classroom during lunch and watch cartoons on Fridays. (He nixed the cartoons before winter break.) He moved one particularly energetic student to the back of the classroom where he could sit on a window ledge, stand up or move around without distracting other students.

His class-points system, however, had fallen apart. Right before winter break, Duklewski switched to an individual-point system to reward students for independent behavior. Students could earn points by being on-task, finishing the class warmup first, or answering questions correctly. They could then earn small prizes, like pencil sharpeners, or larger prizes, like “renting out” his classroom for lunch with friends.

He also switched from pointing out negative behavior to pointing out positive behavior. Sometimes he found that just announcing what students were doing—“Jimmy is working on his warmup”—made a huge difference. And only a few weeks into the new system, Duklewski said that the changes were both improving student behavior and his own sanity. “I’m just happier, because I’m saying good things all the time instead of harping on bad things,” Duklewski said.

Happiness is relative for a new teacher. Since Duklewski took over his own classroom last September, it’s been nearly impossible to balance his workload with his personal life, a problem many new teachers experience.

Every morning Duklewski wakes up by 5:30 and he tries to be in bed by 9 p.m., although he often stays up late preparing lessons. He saves time by not eating breakfast in the morning and has 35 minutes to eat lunch—15 minutes of which is taken up by hall duty or checking on students in the cafeteria. After 13 to 15 hours at school each day, he drives home, eats dinner, watches a little television, and packs his lunch for the next day. His weekends are mostly filled with grading.

Moving from a role as a student teacher to a full-time classroom teacher was a bigger jump than he had expected. He realized after his first week that there were many things he didn’t know, like the exact procedure for a fire drill. Or how to balance teaching with noninstructional duties like communicating with parents, filling out attendance, and responding to each day’s barrage of emails.

“When it’s all resting on you, it’s just that much more exhausting,” Duklewski said. “Some of it you just figure out as you hit the ground running.”

On a rainy January day, Duklewski stood in front of his fourth-period class having already downed several cups of coffee to keep up his energy. At 10 p.m. the night before, he had thrown out his lesson plan on monologues, and then stayed up until 1 a.m. reworking it to include video examples.

Students were transfixed. After watching monologues from The Lion King, Harry Potter, and The Incredibles, the class discussed the purpose of a monologue. Duklewski then instructed them to write their own, using point of view and voice. On a worksheet, students answered questions about who they would be, why they were talking, and who they were talking to. Kids erupted into excited chatter as they began to plan and write their monologues.

“I’m myself, talking about sacking Tom Brady, to myself,” one student explained. He read his first line aloud. “Ohh I’m gonna sack Tom Brady!”

When the class ended, students filed out still chatting about their monologues. Oner bonus of an engaging lesson, Duklewski added, is that students stay on task and he doesn’t deal with as much misbehavior.

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Duklewski was assigned a consulting teacher who observes him every two weeks. After those observations, he has a chance to discuss the lesson and receive feedback, such as on his classroom management approach or his use of tests.

The mentoring and a high level of support from his school have helped him keep a positive attitude, he said. “I feel the freedom to take risks, mess up and experiment because I don’t feel pressure. If I screw up, I screw up. They’ll help me fix it.” On his mid-year evaluation, Duklewski was rated “effective” on a scale that included the ratings “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.”

Next year, he wants to do a better job using student data to plan lessons that touch on the skills students are lacking—something he rarely had the chance to do this year because of all the other demands of his classroom and the hours spent preparing lessons. He also wants to get better at long-term planning. And he’s learned from his challenging second-period class that it pays to set up better rules and classroom procedures from the beginning of the year.

As spring break approached, a series of snow days and holidays threw Duklewski’s students off track. He increased the number of phone calls home to parents and doubled down on his positive praise. “I think we’ve come to some sort of understanding about how we’re all going to get along in class,” Duklewski said. He was also getting the hang of balancing his schedule, and had cut his work hours down—to less than 12 hours a day. It helped that he was seeing academic growth. On standardized writing assessments, the class average had gone up by about 50 percent in most of his classes. On reading tests, scores were also rising steadily.

“Next year, I expect it to be much, much easier,” Duklewski said. “I’ve already done everything once. I’ll have stuff to fall back on.”

Although he’s starting to plan his summer vacation, including work as a counselor at a summer camp, he still has one final goal for his students as the year winds down. “By the end of the year, they will not talk over other people while they are talking,” Duklewski said with a laugh. “If I teach them nothing else, they will learn that skill.”