Gather facts before you react!

“Don’t presume learning lost to Covid, ” says John Hattie. “While the pandemic will have created some gaps in knowledge, the author and academic warns teachers against making assumptions when it comes to student progress.”-Simon Lock, March 3, 2021 (tes.com)

The impact of disruption to education we can all acknowledge. Lack of equity and availability of access to technology brought the attention to the needs of improvement. Parental support became an even more significant point as everyone struggled with a balance of work, remote learning and then loss of jobs. Can we acknowledge families and individuals were doing the best they could under these conditions?

The majority of children worked independently in their learning and will have developed skills as a result. Reports on the nightly news reported how schools had a drop in enrollment and we're having difficulty locating children. Families were working to figure things out as the pandemic touched every life differently.

When all of our schools open the doors for face-to-face instruction, we also need to open our minds to new possibilities. Things will be different! Let's not have the expectation we will be back to “normal.” Defining “normal” can be varied from person to person. Let's embrace the facts we have learned from this pandemic and we will diagnose then treat each individual. No prejudgement, labels or categories assigned.

“For example, this notion of self-regulation where you know how to monitor your progress and what to do next; I think some teachers are going to be very surprised that some kids have those skills,” Hattie says. “But in many classrooms they're not allowed to use them, because teachers won't release responsibility.”-John Hattie

In previous writings, I have stated my belief in the importance of student control of learning. “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho. When we focus on expectations, strategies, strengths, and areas to improve, it develops support for the learner, not the outcomes. Learners understanding of how to respond when they do not know is a skillset with lifetime value.

The importance of how you approach back to school face to face instruction is critical to propel student learning forward and not back. Time is precious as we know and losing any of it with wasted strategies and plans, will not provide our learners with the push they need. Make solid plans now and know students are ready!

Thank you for being part of the solution daily! Helping learners grow to the next level on their journey.

We have a great deal of talk about our environment in the news, especially when it involves a political race. Environmental talk is essential, but actions speak louder. However, the environmental discussion I think is vital for our future is our children's daily exposure in homes and school settings.

“The environment has a significant impact on brain development because the prefrontal cortex takes an extended time to mature. The prefrontal cortex develops from birth through late adolescence. The extended period of development means that experience and environment shape the most vital part of our brains. For similar reasons, school and classroom environments can have immediate and long-term impact on the prefrontal cortex because students are exposed to educational settings for extended periods during their early development.”-The Poverty Problem, pg. 117, Horacio Sanchez

Students in poverty have homes full of stress as they react daily to change. Maybe they have no water, power, food, or clothing. Violence can be a stressor as well. Let’s consider the global pandemic and what this has done to the term “stable environment.” Do we have an environment we can say is “stable” for anyone? I am going to say no, but I am not an expert in the field. However, I have been a practicing educator at different levels for over 25 years, an avid reader and learner. My professional opinion is all of our children have experienced for more than a year now an unstable learning environment even with our best teachers doing all they can!

When our schools, businesses, and way of life are shut down, the reaction creates unstable conditions. We have a rise in depression, suicide, violence, and the list can continue. This makes it difficult to build back a “normal” “stable” environment.

Now is the time to begin to make sure every district, school, and classroom is ready to take on the challenge of establishing better environments to build strong relationships. As vaccines are being administered, guidelines for safety established, and protocols defined, we can provide new environments to support all children.

“The assumption that students from poverty won't succeed at school because of their home lives is not supported by research. Teachers are in an opportune position to provide strong relationship support.” -Teaching with Poverty in Mind, pg 87, Eric Jensen. Relationship Building is our next step in SHARE for our school progress in addressing poverty.

Relationships in school are more than the teacher and student. To make a real impact in relationship building, we must look at all of the relationships that matter in your school. Our last step had us looking at “hard data.” Now is the time to look at your school climate and culture data.

What are the relationships between staff? An essential factor to a positive learning environment is to have a teaching environment reflective of the same. If you have not done so yet, now is a great time to survey staff to see how they feel about each other. I have activities to do to help when you have the results. (Having some difficulty with my website, but trying to resolve it. Could you message me?)

One of the other relationships meaningful to our schools is the parents or caregivers. How are these relationships with their children? Teachers? School? Some things you can control and some things you cannot, but you can control how you respond. One of the biggest mistakes you can ever make is to offend families by telling them how to parent. They are doing the best they can. That being said, there are ways to help provide, guide, improve and build strong family ties.

As a teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal, I have been blessed to build relationships with individuals and families who had no intention of getting to know me. It can be a challenge to break down the walls of fear, resistance, anger, and trust. I am here to tell you it can be done. Do not take things said or done personally. People will lash out when they have nothing else they can do, but in the end, when the wall comes down, you know it was worth it all.

I never thought I would be called on a winter day right before Christmas to our Public Housing complex. I had been there several different times and inside the homes to visit many of our families. Today was different. It was a final call.

I knocked on the door, and one of my girls answered. Her twin sister was just inside; there on the floor was a mattress with their mother laying a top. “Mrs. Yoho,” she grabbed my hand.

I sat on the floor next to her holding her hand: a minister, a lawyer, one of my teachers, and the girls. We had gathered so the mother could sign the paperwork to have the girls placed with my teacher. The mother was dying and was not expected to live much longer. She wanted to thank us for loving her girls and taking care of all of them. We prayed.

ACTION STEPS

Review the environments in your building, classroom

Look at the hard data you have in regard to your climate and culture. Look at the relationships students have with peers.

Check out www.ascd.org/wholechildnetwork

Mrs. Yoho, they need you. Johnny is having problems in the classroom.

“Johnny, what is going on today? Let’s go walk and talk.”

“I don't like her. My teacher is not nice, and I don't like those kids.”

“Johnny, did you eat breakfast this morning?”

“No”

“I bet you didn't take your medicine either.”

“Nope.”

“Let’s get something to eat and see what we can do about your medicine.”

Johnny and his big eyes always melted my heart. But when he would smile and laugh, it was all over for me. I so enjoyed all of the children I served, but each one had unique qualities. His IQ was very low, home life was the best his mother could provide, and we would do all we could to help Johnny grow to achieve.

Contacting Johnny's mom by phone was not always the easiest, but we connected. I made home visits, and she always invited me in to sit down to talk. Giving medicine at home in the mornings was not working out; she could not keep up with getting prescriptions picked up, so I made arrangements to have them sent to our school, and we gave medication in the mornings to Johnny.

Johnny continued to have issues in the classroom, according to our weekly data, so what next? Talk to Johnny! Kids should never be left out of solution-seeking team meetings; they have the answers.

“I like basketball, but I can't play. My grades, I get in trouble, no transportation, and no shoes.” Johnny knew what he needed.

“Well, let me see what I can do on my part to help, but what can you do to help?”

This is how Johnny and I started working on his solution to his classroom success and playing basketball. We worked out a plan with his mother, and I drove him home when he earned the right to stay for basketball practice. This also meant I stayed too! The coach and other boys were great! He did not stay the entire time, just 20 minutes. Then he would earn going to a game to play. Johnny had behavior issues, but he loved basketball and playing with his classmates. It was amazing to see. He would play in the game for just a little while, and his classmates would cheer him on. This makes you proud as a principal, mom, and person! Johnny would smile, his eyes full of excitement, and he played just like the other boys.

Johnny looked at everything with amazement and excitement. He asked questions all of the time. Every time I dropped him off, he would get out and turn back to say, “Thank you, Mrs.Yoho it was great!” His mom would come to the door, and a giant wave yelling, “Thank you.”

When we look at how to address the many issues facing education, many overlap each other. One glove does not fit all, and managing all of the individual needs may seem unattainable. My school enrollment was 602 students. When we think of equity, I think of life. Not everything in life is fair; equity is the same thing. Our school was one of two middle schools. The equity between the two could be seen through the eyes of others. The north end seemed to have “better” than the “south.” Johnny got a little more of my time than some others, but I spread my time around as much as I could. It is when we look at the hard data we can determine the truth in the equity of funding, resources, curriculum, performance, and other measures of equity. We would discover different realities in the data than what we could see with our eyes. Is it biases at play or something different?

Data we generate for ourselves provide us with the evidence we need to turnaround children, classrooms, and schools. “Research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement in their school, thereby decreasing the likelihood of school failure and drop up (Finn, 1993; Lamborn et Al., 1992). I believe it is the individual need to feel included, belonging, and having joy. When kids can be kids and enjoy something they love, hope is found. “Poverty creates a mindset of insecurity.”-Horacio Sanchez, The Poverty Problem It can be a combination of many factors.

Hard data is our next step in utilizing SHARE. My Johnny story is a reminder of your “Why.” Data drives our decision-making, but the Johnny's are counting on us to turnaround our schools to address all of the issues they are facing! Also, remember our biases when looking at problems. When we wanted to discontinue an assessment, some of our staff felt very strongly about keeping it. “We have always used this.” Nothing changes unless we do. Problems are never solved unless we face them. Solutions are there if we can see through the lens of solving.

I am positive you have a Johnny! Just a thought of him playing basketball, looking at a new discovery, coming down to tell me he was having a great day, and being thankful I shared a few days with him!

ACTION STEPS


Data is important! Being data-rich and information-poor is not the way to be. Understanding the information you need is your first step. One of your first actions is finding out what data you are collecting and why. As Director of Education, my team reduced the amount of data and assessments we were doing. According to our SHARE steps, the following are the essential steps.

“The three most important steps to becoming a data-friendly school are (1) selling teachers on the value of data so that they can teach smarter, not harder; (2) creating a culture of continual data collection, analysis, and application; and (3) emphasizing that using data to improve, the teaching process is a sign of professionalism, not an acquiescence to failure.”-Eric Jensen, Teaching with Poverty in Mind What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It

I will add next week additional materials to my resources page to help! Dig into your data! Always remember it is the relationships established that mean the most. Not only to the children and families, to you and your “why.” Thank you for being the solution daily!

Finding Facts, Adding Value to what you need as you read!

Books always surround me! They are everywhere! I have highlighted, tagged and read some of my books so much they are falling apart! My signed copy of Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen has pages falling out.

I consult often with others for feedback. Let's face it don't we all need it! I don't care what kind I get right now just anything to help me know if what I am doing is helping someone.

So I sent an email to Daniel Bauer. He does not know me. Yes, I send things to people I don't know; how else will you grow if you don't ask. He answered with a blog post. Who knew that is what he would do? He helped me, and I am sure others who may be afraid to ask, don't be! Here is the blog link. https://t.co/Xie8xgOCnI

I have asked a few others, and they confirm the same things from his blog. Be real, Focus on service, Be consistent, write for yourself first, and then that one person! Most importantly, never take yourself too seriously!

You are the reason I write! I have nothing I am selling but giving. My hope someday is to publish my book but not to gain profits or fame. It is to help you! My career ended before I wanted because of one day, one choice, and one crash, leaving injuries to last a lifetime. I miss children, teachers, leaders, parents, and community members. I loved being a principal and part of education!

Now I will organize a time daily the blog post will come out to know when to expect it. The blog post will be posted daily at 9:30 a.m. Central Time. We will see if that time works for everyone. I will provide you with current information on topics to help leaders and teachers support each other and the children they serve. We will address Poverty, Social-Emotional Learning, Mental Health, Equity, and how to move forward in this sea of confusion from the global pandemic. Let's get started!

In Federal Poverty Threshold, Who really is poor in America by Kimberly Amadeo https://www.thebalance.com/federal-poverty-threshold-3305793

I found some things to help us on our journey of learning, reflection, review and action. In order to be the solution, you have to identify the problem, reflect on what has been done, what is working, and create an action plan. Then face the problem and take action. Do it!

Key Takeaways from Who really is poor in America

The effects of the global pandemic have caused many changes in our families across our nation. In your school, district or community, have you seen an increase in the number of people without jobs? Business closings? Do you have a reduction in student enrollment? Why? Do you have an increased number of homelessness?

As you reflect on the changes in your area, what are steps that have been taken to help locally? “Common issues in low-income families include: depression, chemical dependence, and hectic work schedules-all factors that interfere with the healthy attachments that foster children’s self-esteem, sense of mastery of their environment, and optimistic attitudes.”-Eric Jenson

Poor children often feel isolated; they drop out of school and do not perform well academically because of their stressors. Our children are all facing that during this pandemic as they have been isolated at various lengths of times, lacked excitement in learning with issues in technology, feeling stress from family work or no work, and uncertainty in safety as health and violence are in question.

Unemployment Surge 

In April 2020, the U.S. economy lost an astonishing 20.8 million jobs.11 Many states required non-essential businesses to shut down. Bars, restaurants, and hotels suffered the most, as people stopped traveling and restaurants could only offer take-out and delivery. Hospitals lost jobs as they stopped elective procedures to make way for COVID-19 patients. Retail also suffered as shoppers moved online.

Prior to the shutdown, the economy was adding around 200,000 jobs a month. It needs about 150,000 new jobs each month to keep expanding.

Job losses sent the April unemployment rate skyrocketing to 14.7%. It remained in the double digits until August, ending the year at. 6.7%12

The Fed projects that unemployment will fall to a healthy 5.0% in 2021.9

Reference for additional information: https://www.thebalance.com/recession-2020-4846657#:~:text=The%202020%20recession%20is%20the,added%20back%20into%20the%20economy.

ACTION

In order to change, we must change- Identity your problems and let's face them

Brains can change! I suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury and was expected to not.... let's not go there because I can so can they! Begin a plan not on remediation for children but for discovery! Discover where they are and keep going!

Implementation of SHARE! This comes from Eric Jensen in his book Teaching with Poverty in Mind.

Support the Whole Child

Hard Data

Accountability

Relationship Building

Enrichment Mind-Set

We will continue with more facts, tools and resources as we continue! Thank you for being the solution daily!

"I only have 2 rules!"
© 2024 Brenda Yoho
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