Ethical Dilemma for Educators

Greetings fellow educators!   In this audio file I discuss an ethical dilemma pertaining to sexual harassment in the profession of education.  Hopefully it will never happen to any of us, but it is good to be armed with knowledge and forethought of what we should if these incidences happen to us or our colleagues. 

**You may want to turn your volume down before listening.  There were some technical difficulties with my mic volume.  My apologies!**

References:

(2016.) Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators. Retrieved from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=19&pt=7&ch=247&rl=2

Facts About Sexual Harassment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 04, 2017, from https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

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How Can Instruction be Differentiated for Diverse Learners?

In my past life as a children’s librarian in a public library, my duties included providing educational, engaging programming on a regular basis for kids ages 5-8.  At first, this seemed fairly easy since there existed a template from previous librarians:  find a nonfiction topic, read a picture about it, ask reading comprehension questions and discuss said topic, then do a craft or activity.  After a year or two of creative stagnation and declining program numbers, I knew an overhaul was in order. The program seemed too much like a classroom setting to me, and I didn’t want that for kids who just spent all day in a classroom.  Plus, it was clear that some activities/topics/books were either too challenging for the younger kids, or too easy or of no interest to the older kids.   I took a cue from my much more successful early literacy programs, which offered several activity “stations” that tied into one skill (e.g., phonological awareness), but used a variety of means to reinforce the skill (matching rhyming words, singing songs into a “hear myself” phone, acting out nursery rhymes with finger puppets, etc.).  I started planning my elementary-aged programs in the similar manner, and made my introduction to the topic more flexible — sometimes we would read a story, other times watch a video, or listen to audio selections.  After making these changes, I witnessed kids becoming more engaged, sharing more of their own prior knowledge of the topics, and having more fun.  Little did I know that I was employing elements of differentiated instruction (DI).  I also had no idea that my quest to create less of a school-like atmosphere would one day resemble the goals I would have in running an actual classroom.  

What is differentiated instruction and why is it essential in an elementary general education classroom?   In the process of DI, educators modify their teaching methods and assessments to meet the learning needs of diverse students (Barrett, 2013).  DI is an essential practice in a general education classroom because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), meaning that they should be learning alongside students without disabilities to the greatest extent possible and appropriate for the nature and severity of their disability (Heward, 2013).  This means that most general education classrooms will include at least one student with disabilities, and that the teacher will need to differentiate instruction for the student(s) with disabilities; however, DI can also be used to increase learning and engagement for all students, since all learners have diverse interests, preferences, and strengths.  

Activity stations like those mentioned above are great way to get students engaged while supporting different intellectual strengths in a general education classroom, but an effective DI classroom is much more complex. Here some essential characteristics of a DI classroom and examples of how each can be achieved.

One of the key features of DI is flexibility:

  • Accommodate students with special needs by giving them more time, more guidance, alternate assignments, etc.
  • offer flexible seating options, including floor seating and desk clusters that allow various activities to happen at once.
  • Provide options for researching information.
  • Allow students to choose from a menu of options for in-class and homework assignments.
  • Provide space/time for both quiet work and collaborative work.
  • Allow students to use a variety of methods to comprehend material

Another essential aspect of DI is knowing your students.  This includes their interests, learning preferences, knowledge set, and skill levels:

  • Survey the students on interests, read their files, survey parents on their children.
  • Have the students fill out a KWL chart, survey the class for comprehension during and after the lesson on a regular basis.
  • Monitor activities in small groups, then assign further work based on an informal assessment of their knowledge.

Employing various methods of instruction to engage students and increase their understanding of the lesson is on of the most important characteristics of DI:

  • Use videos and visuals (charts, photos, realia, etc.) to present the same information in multiple ways in order to reach more students.
  • Introduce technology into lessons so that students can show their knowledge by creating original content to communicate their comprehension.

This is not an exhaustive list, and many of these methods and more can be found in this article by Grace Rubenstein and this article by Carol Ann Tomlinson.  

These practices seem effective, but how practical is it to teach using DI on a daily basis?  In the following video, first grade teacher Vanita Jarmon demonstrates how she employs daily differentiated instruction in her classroom:

 

As inclusion becomes the norm in public education, differentiated instruction is a necessary practice to make an inclusive classroom the best possible learning environment for students with and without disabilities.  As a future educator, I’m excited at the prospect of creating an effective, engaging classroom tailored to the needs of all my students.   How do you/will you create an inclusive learning environment for your diverse students?  How does secondary DI look compared to elementary?  How would you foster a collaborative culture of DI with other educators in your school or district?

 

Barrett, L. (2013). Seamless teaching: Navigating the inclusion spectrum. Teaching Tolerance, 52(43), 53-55.

 

Heward, W. (2013, July 19). Six Major Principles of IDEA. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from https://www.education.com/reference/article/six-major-principles-idea/

 

How Does Gender Affect the Teaching Profession?

In the nineteenth-century, much like today, the majority of public school teachers were female.  The reasons were simple:  women were cheaper labor than men and women were viewed as natural nurturers who could instill morality into their students.  Susan B. Anthony sought to change this by advocating for equal pay and for female teacher training at prestigious, co-ed universities (Goldstein, 2014).  Before the turn of the twentieth century, female administrators were unheard of in education.  According to Dana Goldstein in The Teacher Wars, “it was unthinkable that a woman would supervise men (p. 34).”  Female educators in the United States were not promoted into administrative positions until the turn of the twentieth century when teachers aligned themselves with blue collar labor unions to stage a rebellion.  They fought for better pay, better working conditions, and more control over their profession through access to upper levels of the professional hierarchy.  During this time, teachers’ federations, which eventually became unions, formed in large urban areas.  Two educators in Chicago, Margaret Haley and Catherine Goggin, encouraged local teachers to join the Chicago Federation of Teachers to fight for fairer wages, better benefits, and tenure.  Their efforts eventually resulted in the American Federation of Teachers, which is one of the largest teachers unions still in existence (“Teaching Timeline”).

How does the teaching profession look now, over one-hundred years after Anthony, Haley, and Goggins fought for gender equality?  Is teaching in America thought of as a prestigious profession?  Are teachers paid and supported in a way that promotes their worth in society?  Is the ratio of female administrators to teachers somewhat equal?   What ramifications do the answers to these questions have on the teaching and public education?

I’m sure you’ve heard the insipidly popular saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Unfortunately, I believe this phrase conveys American society’s general opinion on the teaching profession.  In 2013, the Varkey Foundation attempted to rank the status of teachers by country in their Global Teacher Status Index.   The United States ranked ninth out of the twenty-one countries surveyed, but studies like this one that rely on human opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.  The United States beat out Finland, a nation known for its stellar national education system and for holding its teachers in great prestige and to high standards (Center on International Education Benchmarking, 2012).

Betsy Brown Ruzzi, VIce President of the National Center on Education and the Economy looked to the countries that outperformed the United States as models for improving the status of America’s teachers: “They recruit teachers at a minimum from the top third of the achievement cohort…. They also pay them well…. And when they enter teaching, they are treated like professionals (Khadaroo, 2013).”  According to a 2015 study, American  public school teachers made 17% less wages per week than similarly educated professionals in other  fields.  This is the largest wage gap seen since the start of data collection in 1979 (Strauss, 2016).  

Why are the professionals who take on the important task of preparing our children to become contributing members of society and the economy viewed and paid so poorly in America?  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011-12, 76% of educators in public K-12 schools were female (“National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts”).  Are our cultures gender biases so ingrained that we give a lesser status and pay to professions that are historically female?  I believe that is large part of the problem, especially when considering that the best-paid, non-administrative positions in many Texas public school districts are the male-dominated position of head high school football coach.  Many of them make nearly the same as their principals, and at times, more than double a starting teacher’s salary, according to this report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Another well-paid realm of the K-12 world that is overwhelmingly dominated by males is that of district superintendent.  Here is the breakdown of how women are represented within the hierarchy of school districts across the United States: 76% of teachers are female, 52% of principals, 78% of central office administrators, and a little bit less than 25% of district superintendents are female (Superville, 2016).  The fact that the gender divide skews so male in the top district position shows that women still have a ways to go in creating true equity in the realm of the teaching profession.  

Increasing the status level of the teaching profession, teacher pay, and the number of females at the highest district positions can only have positive effects for students.  Greater status and better pay would attract more highly qualified, highly competent educators to the profession and would also help retain talented teachersl.  Increasing the number of females in the upper echelon of a K-12 administration could increase the number of females interested in leadership positions in the profession, as well as inspire female students to pursue positions of leadership in the future.  Most teaching professionals deserve to be held in high esteem by the general public, the students, administration, and themselves.  

 

The following video gives the perspective of real educators on matters of status, pay, and more: 

Finland: Teacher and Principal Quality. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2017, from http://ncee.org/what-we-do/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/finland-overview/finland-teacher-and-principal-quality/

 

Goldstein, D. (2014). The teacher wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.

 

Khadaroo, S. T. (2013, October 02). Teacher status around the world: how the US stacks up. Retrieved February 01, 2017, from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2013/1002/Teacher-status-around-the-world-how-the-US-stacks-up

 

National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372

 

Strauss, V. (2016, August 16). Think teachers aren’t paid enough? It’s worse than you think. Retrieved February 01, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/08/16/think-teachers-arent-paid-enough-its-worse-than-you-think/?utm_term=.bd8c5cf95910

 

Superville, D. R. (2016, December 30). Few women run the nation’s school districts. Why? Retrieved February 01, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/women-run-nations-school-districts/

 

Teaching Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from

http://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/timeline.html