Assistant Principal Corner #8 SEL Viewpoints

Ap Rocks

There are so many thoughts, ideas, and concerns regarding SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) in schools these days that many can feel very overwhelmed by it all. Many students are coming to school with an array of social and emotional issues and schools are trying very hard to meet their needs but it can be difficult. With tight budgets and soaring costs, many schools struggle to meet all the educational needs and provide their students will fully funded programs and staffs. I can honestly say with over 25 years in education, I have never seen so many students diagnosed with anxiety or depression. We always talk about providing quality interventions and SEL programs for our students which is very justified but what about the root cause of all these issues? I am certainly not an expert in SEL but Here are a few ideas that can possibly help.

  1. 10 Tips to help raise more resilient kids 
  2. A ink between too much cell phone use and teen anxiety
  3. Help kids with self-regulation
  4. Social and Emotional Learning Strategies for Parents-Edutopia
  5. Ensure kids are getting enough free play

 

I certainly hope these ideas from several experts are helpful and through comprehensive education and school-wide education, we can SEL learningstart to reduce the social emotional problems facing so many young students today.

Technology to Improve Student Engagement

student tech pic

There are so many tools that are available to educators that can really help improve student engagement in their classes. As a school administrator, I have to wear many hats with one of them conducting frequent classroom observations. Although other job requirements can sometimes reduce the amount of time I spend in classes, watching fun and engaging lessons is my favorite part of my day. Observing well-prepared lessons that meet student learning needs and improves student achievement is paramount for school administrators. We are supposed to be instructional leaders within our buildings. To fully understand what a well-prepared and engaging lesson looks like, we first need to understand what engagement really means. George Couros discusses some areas to look for during observations in this article: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3586

Technology is a great tool that helps make learning fun, helps differentiate and personalize learning, creates more student centered instruction, helps students communicate more, improves collaboration, and helps connect them to other students in other towns, cities, states, and countries. Technology plays an important role in accelerating pedagogy which will help transform education. Teachers can try incorporating a flipped model: 

School administrators need to model various technologies to teachers so they understand the relevance and use it as an important tool to improve teaching and learning. I am enclosing a Video Scribe and PowerPoint presentation on how school administrators can help model the use of technology to improve student engagement. This was presented to other school administrators at the MSSAA Summer Institute in Hyannis Massachusetts on July 30, 2015. I hope it is helpful to both teachers and administrators. I want to recognize and thank my principal Tara Bennett for introducing me to Kahoot and its excellent and fun formative assessment capabilities. There are several administrators I have learned from, but I really want to recognize and thank principal Bill Bulkhead for showing me how to create a blog and modeling the use of technology. One year later, I feel much more connected. To learn more about Video Scribe, please click the link above or email me at tambres@comcast.net.

MSSAASI Presentation 2015

How Much Homework Is Too Much?

homework

Homework: What a giant issue that has been such a hot topic and such often a heated debate. I decided I wanted to try to tackle this MONSTAH, (Boston version). Why did I choose to write about a contentious issue? Because people need to look at the data before they pass judgment, and this data should be used to benefit student learning. I have enjoyed discussing this topic with several colleagues over my twenty something years in education and have changed my viewpoints as a result of looking at relevant data and the proverbial “Big Picture.”

So the most frequent questions I have heard are; Why is homework needed, does homework improve learning, what does quality/relevant homework look like, and how much homework is too much? The positive aspects of homework are it can help students learn responsibility, practice skills learned in class to help maximize learning, students learn to use more resources like reference materials, the internet, and libraries. Homework can also help students become more independent when they work on assignments on their own. Parents can become more involved in their child’s education by helping them with homework assignments and also seeing what they are learning in school. These are some of the positive aspects of homework.

There have been several studies on the efficacy of homework and most state that at younger ages, homework does not show a definite correlation between the homework and improved test scores or improved academic achievement. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/02/high-school-homework-are-_n_1071973.html Homework used in middle and high school has proven to have some positive impacts on learning as long as it was meaningful and relevant. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/research.htm What does relevant homework look like? From my experience and what I have read, it should be based on skill development and not just memorizing content. Marzano has some great examples of relevant work in his instructional strategies document  http://www.palmbeachschools.org/qa/documents/Handout5-MarzanoHighYieldStrategies.pdf The NEA (National Education Association) created some recommendations for assigning homework. It basically stated that a student should receive no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level a night. An example is, an eighth grader would have no more than 80 minutes assigned in a night. This is tough to measure and police in a school, but it helps establish some kind of a norm for homework. This might also help educators understand how much homework is too much.

What is the negative impact of too much homework? I believe students need to go outside and play, be active, and socialize with their friends and family. Excessive homework can stunt a student’s growth in these areas. We want students to develop in many different areas not just in rote memorization. Also, is the homework equitable? What if several students don’t have the support at home to help with their homework while others do? Will this homework be graded? A family of well-educated parents certainly have an edge over those without, but all students are held accountable for the same graded homework. Something to think about! Should the majority of homework assignments even be graded or is it more about the effort in the process of completing it? If a student doesn’t understand the homework, won’t they just be performing the same imperfect tasks over and over which can be detrimental? Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the homework assignment to be based on areas that need work from class that a teacher noticed during some kind of formative assessment? What if the teacher also provided a link on their web page to help them work through the problems, material, or skills? Just a thought!

Does excessive homework prevent students from enjoying school because they feel overwhelmed, and is any of this adding to the excessive mental health issues we are seeing in our schools today? I would say it might play a role. Students definitely have a lot on their plate which is fine as long as we all know how to take some off when they are getting full. Did you know the US gives more homework than almost any other country in the world, but our test scores are not as high as say Japan and Finland? More doesn’t always mean better.

So, to wrap this up, I have learned that balance is the key to success in education, and we want to help students learn by using many educational sources and strategies. I feel homework has its place and can be beneficial if it improves skills that will translate to real-life learning.  I suggest using more technology and project based learning where students take the skills they learned into application. We want students to enjoy education and have fun in the process while also understanding that they must work hard and show responsibility. That balance word again!