Bully-Free Zone

How do I, as a school board member, work on preventing bullying at school?

Categories: Authors

Based on Building Great School Counselor–Administrator Teams

Students being bullied at school is not a new phenomenon. With the developments in technology, cyberbullying has become another form of bullying that impacts students. However, bullying is commonly confused with other types of conflict. Stopbullying.gov defines both bullying and cyberbullying:

  • Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
  • Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

As educators, we are now aware of the long-term and often devastating impact any type of bullying has for students, and can no longer say “kids will be kids.”

How many students are bullied at school?

The National Center for Educational Statistics noted that one out of five students reported being bullied at school. The prevalence of cyberbullying is difficult to determine based upon poor or inconsistent reporting. As a school board member, what can be done to ensure the safety of students?

There are 16 key steps that could be supported to strengthen the prevention of bullying. These steps include:

  1. Understanding and distributing district policy on bullying
  2. Preparing and distributing school rules and procedures for dealing with bullying
  3. Instituting awareness training for students, staff, and parents
  4. Forming a coordinating committee
  5. Obtaining school data on bullying
  6. Establishing a schoolwide positive culture development plan
  7. Training staff on prevention and intervention
  8. Identifying problem sites for bullying
  9. Establishing adequate adult supervision
  10. Defining a bullying complaint process and response
  11. Developing a parent information and involvement plan
  12. Identifying curriculum content for classroom support
  13. Identifying methods for bringing new students and staff up to speed
  14. Planning specific help for students who are bullied
  15. Planning specific help for students exhibiting bullying behaviors
  16. Conducting ongoing evaluation of the program

The role of the school board member to address bullying is clearly enhanced when board members, in one voice, support appropriate policies and guidelines that impact key steps 2–16.

What is the school board’s role in preventing bullying?

School boards are responsible for establishing policies that address topics from developing school board meeting agendas and dissemination, hiring and firing personnel, to student discipline and prevention programs. Most districts adopt policies relative to different types of student discipline, including bullying and cyberbullying.

Historically, board policies only applied to bullying incidents that occurred in schools during the school day or at extracurricular events. Today, most schools also address bullying activity taking place after school hours and not on school grounds if it impacts the school day by creating a disruption. Reporting requirements vary among states and districts.

Given the nature of bullying/cyberbullying, schools may opt for counseling and/or intervention programs to raise awareness of the implications for individuals who are bullied, foster empathy among students, and prevent future incidents, as opposed to disciplinary actions. Increasingly, districts view bullying as a school safety issue that needs to be addressed.

With approximately 20 percent of students reporting being bullied at school, this is clearly a safety issue and should be considered with other aspects of crisis planning. Roaten (2007) noted four categories of crisis: developmental, situational, existential, and environmental.

What causes bullying, and how can we stop it?

Often, schools are focused on situational crises, which are unpredictable and beyond an individual or group such as random crimes or a shooting incident. Some consider bullying a precursor to a developmental crisis. Roaten defines a developmental crisis as naturally occurring events such as anxiety or stress; there is ample evidence that bullying causes anxiety and stress along with a myriad of other emotions.

Bullying and its effects can be addressed through a crisis lens where the primary focus is on preparation and prevention of bullying with supports in place for response and recovery. Prevention would include raising awareness, teaching social and emotional learning and self-regulation, in addition to specific bullying prevention programs.

Effective programs support all students in the school and promote a positive school climate. Some schools include aspects in their PBIS (positive behavioral interventions and support) program, or other similar programs designed to decrease undesirable behaviors.

Others purchase comprehensive programs such as OLWEUS Bully Prevention Program, which includes components for classroom, individual, and community levels. The social and emotional learning curriculum can address bullying by fostering empathy and a supportive school climate. Second Steps is an example of this type of curriculum. Some districts have funded such programs, and others have worked collaboratively with community partners, community resources, or grants.

Who benefits from bullying prevention?

Regardless of whether programming was developed within the district or purchased, implementing such programs shows the students that all levels of the school’s organization care for the safety, well-being, and success of every student. Board members should be aware of any implementation efforts within the district and request updates on bullying-prevention efforts.

It is imperative that school boards set a positive a positive and proactive tone for teaching and learning, fostering a culture within the district that provides a safe learning environment. As most district vision and mission statements approved by school boards attest, the primary reason students are in school is for an academic focus, building capacity for teaching and learning success.

School boards can do much to remove barriers for student learning, which includes minimizing all forms of bullying. For teachers, this could be fostering an inclusive classroom; for school counselors and social workers, this could be providing individual support for students experiencing bullying. For school board members, their duty lies in developing policies and guidelines that address bullying/cyberbullying and approving the implementation of appropriate prevention and intervention programs.

In fact, school boards and superintendents form a team that is best positioned in the school district to think systemically about how everything connects within the district to minimize bullying. This team understands the resources and capacity available to minimize bullying through a district-leadership lens, a perspective of duty of care for students that no one else garners.

Twenty percent of students will experience bullying in school. School boards must ensure appropriate policies and guidelines are in place to minimize this crisis-level impact on teaching and learning.

References

National Center for Educational Statistics. Bullying. Accessed at

https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=719 on August 26, 2019.

Roaten, G. (March 2007) From crisis comes opportunity [Blog post]. Accessed at

https://www.schoolcounselor.org/magazine/blogs/march-april-2007/from-crisis-comes-opportunity, August 26, 2019.

Stopbullying. Accessed at https://www.stopbullying.gov, August 26, 2019.

Starring our Students

‘Starring’ Our Students with Differentiated Instruction

Categories:

Based on Developing Effective Learners

Students, like stars, are diverse, as they vary in size, composition, and name. When stars shine, energy is released and sent out into the universe as light. The way to develop effective learners is different from grasping for stars, but it also requires conditions for students with a diversity of abilities “to glow.” These conditions occur through differentiated instruction and assessment that acknowledges student diversity. How boring the world would be if all “stars” were identical!

Differentiated instruction (DI) is a way of teaching that offers multiple options for learning for whole-class, small-group, and individualized instruction (Tomlinson, 2017). Differentiation has the potential to increase the abilities of students with disabilities, students at risk of failure, typical students, and students labeled as gifted and talented (King-Sears, 2008, p. 590).

DI “enlightens” the instruction for students with diverse needs and levels who sometimes struggle to learn. In today’s classrooms, varied individual needs, levels, interests, and prior experiences are the norm. These differences include diverse academic, social, emotional, behavioral, sensory, physical, and communication levels, along with differing motivation. DI addresses a spectrum of cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status, gender, language, and ability/disability. Some students need assistance to pay attention and to focus on what’s important. Other learners have a wide range of interests and prior experiences and skills. This diversity is often an impediment to learning if the instruction is undifferentiated.

DI negates excuses and turns can’ts and won’ts into wills and hows!

DI offers a way to effectively reach learners without translating diversity into an excuse or reason for not learning. Without responsive instruction, the gap between what is taught and what is learned widens. A differentiated instructional platform reduces the struggles for a learner who may need “something else” to shine alongside his or her peers, stand out as an individual, and ultimately radiate as a star!

If learners are introduced to concepts such as how to identify the main idea, use figurative language in writing, find equivalent fractions, analyze the causes of the Civil War, or balance algebraic or chemical equations, they may communicate and exhibit a range of behaviors and skills. These include but are not limited to thoughts and actions such as these:

  • “I don’t care about this stuff.”
  • “Wish I was somewhere else.”
  • “I don’t know how to do this.”
  • “I never saw/did this before.”
  • “I love this—can we do it again?”

That’s when DI comes to the rescue, to offer “learning bait” for students to develop, hone, and expand their skills to “show what they know” in different ways. This includes providing choice for expression, along with varying representation, action, and engagement to learn and ultimately own the concepts and skills. The obverse behaviors of no choices, regurgitation, memorization, inaction, and disengagement disconnect students from concepts and skills.

An important DI caveat is that the responsibility for the differentiation never rests on one person’s shoulders, but it is accomplished collaboratively. Just as stars travel in constellations, so do our students, their families, and school staff exist and radiate within a whole structure. DI can’t be viewed as the sole responsibility of one person, because one person can’t be everything to everybody. The DI alliance occurs with inquiry-based collaboration among:

  • General-Special Education Teachers-Related Staff
  • Administration-Staff
  • Students-Teachers
  • Students-Students
  • Teachers-Families
  • Students-Families

Being in the same class means that all students learn the content, but not with the identical instruction. It’s important that learning profiles, academic and emotional levels, prior experiences, home supports, and interests are considered to offer a diverse population of learners the opportunities and conditions to learn effectively. That includes teachers creating learning environments that encourage students to become independent, self-regulated learners.

Table 1.1, “Walk the DI Talk,” has elementary and secondary connections.

Walk the DI Talk
What?

(Curriculum Objectives)

Who?

(Collaborative Partners)

Why?

(Evidence-Based Practice)

How?

(DI Strategies and Resources)

Reading: 1st and 2nd graders will learn to break words into syllables The GE and SE educators team teach and offer syllable instruction to small groups using words of different lengths. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) and reading interventionist are consulted for ideas, strategies, and resources. Weekly word lists are sent home with families for students to practice skills. Students also keep individual word lists and graph their weekly progress from informal syllable assessment. Administration supports the teachers with PD to learn more literacy skills and plan lessons. Students can’t just memorize words, but instead they need to break up longer words into smaller chunks or their parts, known as syllables. This way, from this crucial early age, they develop the skills to not only “learn to read,” but as the grades progress, to decode unfamiliar text across the curriculum as they “read to learn.” The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) offers a practice guide, Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade, that affirms the benefits of teaching decoding, fluency and comprehension skills. Students demonstrate syllable knowledge with differentiated interest-based word lists of dinosaurs, sports, and food; e.g., tri-cer-a-tops, base-ball, spa-ghet-ti. Materials include color-coded syllable lists, picture books, online leveled passages, flashcards paired with visuals, access to online talking dictionaries, syllable songs, and short animated syllable videos. The teacher keeps running records of who knows what, with informal assessment from Reading A-Z on counting syllables.

Resources:

Read Works

StorylineOnline

Tar Heel Reader

Reading A-Z

Songs for Teaching

WatchKnowLearn.org

Literacy Footprints

Math: 3rd-5th graders will solve one- and two-step math word problems with a combination of addition subtraction, multiplication, and division skills The lesson begins with whole-class direct instruction and continues with learners working cooperatively in mixed-ability groups to solve problems. The teacher(s) then work with small groups of learners (5–8) for either practice, enrichment, or additional skills, as assessed by the exit cards from the prior math lesson. Learners also create and exchange word problems and quiz each other on math facts. Students need to learn material that is within their reach, known as their zone of proximal development (ZPD). Some students lack prior math knowledge of basic facts and require more practice, modeling, and affirmation, before they tackle multi-step word problems. Other students thrive with more challenges and conversations with peers. Students are offered concrete and representational tools and strategies to solve math word problems. Step-by-step approaches dissect word problems, identify key words and questions to be answered, list and record data, and model real-life applications.

Resources:

MathVIDS

Math Genie

Sal Khan

NCTM

Delta Math

SS: 6th-8th graders will investigate the theme of power and protest. This unit begins with the teachers previewing the content of an online NY Times poll titled “Student Activism” to gain insights that match student profiles. The learners then listen to audio speeches, read articles, examine historical documents, and view photos of current and past events in the United States and around the world to explore concepts and documents as they work in learning stations. Administration supports this unit of study with schoolwide assemblies. The Center for Applied and Special Technology shares guidelines on multiple means for engagement, representation, and action and expression, and how with UDL, what fires up one student will or will not excite another learner. Diversified representation engages learners. Visuals, sounds, reads, and learning stations are offered to differentiate this powerful topic. Learners who investigate local, national, and global events are more involved, since interest increases with relevance to their lives, families, communities, and global responsibility.

Resources:

New York Times

Annenberg Learner

Newsela

Tween Tribune

Environmental Sciences:9th-12th graders will explore the consumption of goods, recycling, and ways to create eco-friendly and safer land, air, and ocean environments. This science unit includes schoolwide and community collaboration as learners develop ongoing ways to beautify and improve their HS classrooms and communities with projects that include but are not limited to home, school, and neighborhood gardens; art created out of recycled material; environmental plays; a campaign to conserve water; recycling contests; and editorials to newspapers. Invited collaborators include art, science, music, theater, reading, and math teachers, along with local environmental groups, families, and public officers. Project-based learning (PBL) is a way for learners to increase content knowledge and motivation, engage with the learning, and take ownership for the concepts (Iltar, 2014). In this unit, the students meaningfully learn with and from each other about their school, neighborhood, and world. These assignments allow students to advance their knowledge and skills within heterogeneous groups that offer choice, relevancy, empowerment, and increased peer collaboration. Effective learners ground concepts in reality by adapting their learning to real-life situations (Karten, 2017a).

Resources:

EPA

Teacher.org

NEA

National Geographic

We Are Teachers

Performing in Education

DI Table 1.1

Thankfully, both DI and UDL negate the thinking that OSFA (“one size fits all”) offers “fashionable instruction” for diverse student populations.

To sum up DI:

  • Know your learners’ interests and abilities
  • Offer choices
  • Guide inquiry
  • Monitor progress
  • Facilitate learning
  • Collaborate with colleagues, students, and families
  • Enrich and challenge
  • Universally design
  • Be proactive and responsive
  • Treat your learners like stars
  • Walk the DI talk

Reaching and teaching each learner as a shining star occurs when the preparedness and learning conditions honor learner diversity. Effective learners absorb, express, and engage in content and information in multiple ways (Karten, 2017a). Together, we create effective learners. All students are capable of shining in different ways.

Resources:

İlter, İlhan. (2014). A study on the efficacy of project-based learning approach on social studies education: Conceptual achievement and academic motivation. Educational Research and Reviews. 9. 487-497.

Karten, T. (2017a). Developing effective learners: RTI Strategies for building student success. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Karten, T. (2017b). Navigating the core curriculum: RTI strategies to support every learner. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Karten, T. (2017c). Building on the strengths of students with special needs: How to move beyond disability labels in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Karten, T. (2015). Inclusion strategies that work. Research-based methods for the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Karten, T. (2011). Inclusion strategies & interventions. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

King-Sears, M. (2008). Facts and fallacies: differentiation and the general education curriculum for students with special education needs Support for Learning, 23(2) 55–62.

Planets for Kids. Free astronomy network for kids. (2019). Why do stars shine? Accessed at https://www.planetsforkids.org/why-do-stars-shine.html

Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms (3rd ed). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Read Developing Effective Learners by Toby J. Karten

Help Your Team

Help Your Team: Overcoming Common Collaborative Challenges in a PLC

Categories:

Based on Help Your Team

In a letter written in 1789 to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Benjamin Franklin said, “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Although still amazingly accurate today, we believe that we, as educators, can add a third certainty: In their efforts to ensure high levels of learning for all students, collaborative teams will struggle with certain predictable challenges.

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Managing Your Class, No Matter the Size

Are You a YouTube Recommendation Engine for Your Students?

Categories: Technology

Let’s start with a simple question: are your students spending any of their free time watching videos on YouTube?

Here’s the answer: most likely.

While there is little direct statistical evidence of YouTube use by elementary-aged children, 81 percent of parents of children under age 11 who were surveyed report that their children are consuming content on the popular video-sharing website.

Marketing companies—who produce some of the most detailed statistics on YouTube use—report that 74 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 24 use YouTube on a weekly basis, that YouTube captures about 30 percent of the total screen time of teenage users, and that the average teen spends about an hour each day watching YouTube.

Now another question: do you know what kind of YouTube videos your students are watching? Read more