Littleton Elementary is a small but fast-growing rural district in Maricopa County, Arizona. It operates seven physical schools plus one virtual academy. The district is known for its high-quality education, which attracts students of many income levels and backgrounds from around the area.
Facing a teacher shortage, the district has hired many new teachers from out of state. This means there is a high ratio of mentor teachers to early-career and new teachers.
How can a district maintain its high levels of instruction in these circumstances? Littleton, like other districts nationwide, knows that the best teacher support is often in-house.
The foundation of their support system is the use of reflection and video capture tools that offer an objective look at the classroom, so teachers can identify challenges away from the emotionally-charged day-to-day teaching.
In 2022, teacher support doesn’t mean sharing another slide deck about self-care.
Leaders can give teachers the support they deserve by helping them build a regular routine of reflection, and use video to go deeper when needed.
Thousands spent on PD per teacher, but impact on day-to-day is unclear
A study by the New Teacher Project found that teachers spend 10% of their time on professional development activities, and districts spend about $18,000 per year per teacher on PD. Despite these large PD investments, teachers often lack adequate support in fundamentals like classroom management, which are more important than ever.
Consider these responses shared by a few of the 300K+ educators subscribed to our newsletter when we asked about how their training addressed classroom management:
“I don’t encounter classroom management issues that I can’t handle or address, but that’s not because of formal training I’ve had. That kind of training is not offered in teacher prep in college/university or professional learning once employed.”
“Nothing prepares you for classroom management. There was not even a course.”
“I have never received training on how to handle a student who refuses to sit down, take off their backpack, or complete any assignments.”
“I have taught for 23 years. There have only been three instances where I had no training to deal with student disruptions and behavior. Note: these have been in the last year.”
There were many comments echoing similar sentiments. A simple response to these circumstances might be, well, then train them!
However, typical professional learning, theory-heavy and application-light, is the wrong response. Classroom management issues are highly context-specific to the personality of the teacher and students, the class size, the subject, and even the time of day of the class.
Faced with urgent, unique challenges, teachers don’t need more nondescript, one size-fits-all style workshops. They don’t need more consultants or more observers in their classroom.
Teachers need the tools and space to identify their specific issues. With an understanding of their challenges, they can start to address them objectively, and seek help they need from others.
Helping teachers build a regular routine of reflection is the best way to do this at scale.
Reflection is more effective and convenient with Sessions
With Sessions by Swivl, administrators can give every teacher in a school or district the tools they need to begin a regular reflection routine.
Sessions guides teachers to reflect through several clearly-defined steps
- Set a Goal. Goals are the backbone of the reflection process. We recommend starting each week with a small goal, and as you gain more confidence and time, increase the rigor.
- (Optional) Incorporate Video Evidence. Remember this is optional! When you are ready to incorporate video evidence, you will always have the opportunity to do so after setting your goal.
- Reflect. Explain what went well and what you’ll need to work on in the future to realize your goal or embark on a new one.
- (Optional) Ask for feedback. Reflection alone can only go so far in determining your next steps. Involving a partner will help you accelerate your thinking.
Even with teachers’ busy schedules, Sessions helps teachers reflect in a time-efficient way. Sessions helps teachers focus on specific aspects of their instruction as they reflect.
Teacher preparation programs, the National Board certification process, and many state licensure programs all prioritize reflection as a tool for teacher growth. Why? Because it works.
Now, it’s time for all teachers to get the tools they need (and the time to use them), so they can realize the sustaining benefits of regular reflection.
Administrators: help your teachers build a regular routine of reflection
Remember Littleton School District in Arizona?
Their Director of Instructional Technology Jim Verrill shared a recent story with us of a principal who was tasked with helping one of their teachers work through an instructional challenge. With all the professional learning options available, this principal encouraged the teacher to begin working through the challenges by recording their teaching and using Sessions to self-reflect.
Then, through their robust system of teacher support, there are other actions teachers, coaches, or administrators can take to make sure the teachers get the help they need.
As Jim said, “Now, because principals have Swivl tools, they can help a teacher who needs support and have them work on reflection.”