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 self-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, or asking teachers to watch another video that may or may not be relevant to their unique challenges. The first step districts can take to offer teachers the support they need is to empower them to identify their challenges through self-reflection over video.
Teacher stress is high. Are support investments working?
As I’ve said before, teachers face new challenges this year, including helping students deal with two years of excessive screen time and social isolation. With students’ resiliency and curiosity reduced, teachers see more classroom management issues. These disruptions make it harder for classes to get back to learning.
Two recent polls conducted by Swivl on Twitter of nearly 1,000 educators led to these findings:
- 50% of teachers reported facing more classroom management issues this year than last year
- Over 70% of teachers reported facing classroom management issues for which they were not trained for at least “sometimes”
- Over 40% of teachers reported facing issues they weren’t trained for often, or almost daily
As districts help teachers and students return to learning safely and effectively, how are leaders investing in teacher growth? Are their investments supporting high-priority fundamentals like classroom management?
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 them to discuss 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.
Teachers need effective, sustaining, personalized support
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.
Self-reflection over video is the best way to do this at scale.
Why teacher self-reflection over video is essential in 2022
Why are the classroom issues of 2022 so draining on teachers? Of course, the high-level stressors of the pandemic are impacting the students and the teachers. But the kind of issues teachers are facing, classroom management and student behavior challenges, can feel outside of a teacher’s control.
The effects of a classroom management issue are clear: a rowdy class, a distracted group, or a student with his head down are hard to miss. However, the causes can be obscured by the chaotic nature of any classroom. Behavior and management issues cause teachers stress. A stressed teacher can provoke more unwanted behavior. It can be a negative self-fulfilling cycle.
But self-reflection over video begins to address this in two ways.
First, video brings to light the causes of these challenges. On video, a teacher can see that a rowdy class remains standing when the bell rings and struggles to get on track. They can see that a distracted group is led by two students set on socializing. They can see that a student with his head down sits next to a classmate whose back is turned because they have a tense relationship.
Video provides evidence teachers can use to begin addressing challenges, either on their own, by collaborating with colleagues or through the support of a coach or administrator.
The second reason self-reflection over video is uniquely beneficial in 2022 is the long list of psychological and emotional benefits of self-reflection. Research shows that developing self-awareness through self-reflection positively impacts emotional intelligence, empathy, listening skills, critical-thinking skills, decision making, communication and leadership.
Notice that these skills all help teachers to identify, avoid and/or address classroom management and behavioral issues in the moment.
Self-reflection over video gives teachers the evidence they need to address their current challenges, get help when needed, and helps build the competencies required to avoid those challenges in the future.
To see these benefits, teachers need the tools for regular, focused self-reflections over video.
Teacher self-reflection is more effective and convenient with Teams
With Teams by Swivl, administrators can give every teacher in a school or district the tools they need to begin self-reflection over video.
Through its custom process called Sessions, Teams guides teachers to self-reflect through several clearly-defined steps:
- Start with setting an Intention. This helps teachers define “look-fors” for themselves and any feedback partners.
- Annotate reflections with Time-Stamped Commenting, Bookmarks, and Prompts to analyze the evidence in the video.
- Provide a Summary that takes into account the entire video experience, reflecting on whether the Intention was met, and where to go from here.
- (Optional for self-reflection) Share the Session with a feedback partner (e.g. a coach, peer, PLC, or mentor).
Even with teachers’ busy schedules, Teams helps teachers reflect in a time-efficient way. The Sessions feature within Teams helps teachers focus on specific aspects of their instruction as they reflect.
As Teams Product Expert Rachel Ashworth said:
“We ask teachers to set an intention before they review and reflect on their videos. That small step can save you hours of video review. When you’re intentional, you’ll record shorter periods of time, and your reflection process will be more focused and productive.”
Teacher preparation programs, the National Board certification process, and many state licensure programs all prioritize teacher self-reflection over video as a tool for 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 self-reflection over video.
Administrators: support teachers by helping them get unstuck
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 Teams to self-reflect.
Then, through their robust system of teacher support based on video, 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 Teams + Robot, they can help a teacher who needs support and have them work on self-reflection.”