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Summarizing My Inquiry Into a Poster

How my Inquiry Started

When I began my inquiry, I knew exactly what I wanted to learn, but I was concerned about framing it in “the right” words. For nearly a decade, I’ve worked as Education Assistant in both public and private education systems. This experience has made me extremely passionate about reaching out to children who have been dismissed or driven from the conventional classroom because of their behaviour. In my work as an E.A., I often had the opportunity to build relationships with students who acted out in class. Through this experience, I realized that many of these students felt unable to respond in the way the teacher was expecting or requiring of them. Now that I’m in the process of earning my teaching degree, I want to learn the best way to respond to disruptive behaviour in the classroom. In particular, I want to learn how to validate the student and their experience in the moment, while also maintaining a safe space and community culture in the class.

Initially, I was torn about how I wanted to present my inquiry question. I was worried about focusing on behaviour specifically, so instead I framed my question as “How we can support students with a history of trauma when their history begins to affect their classroom learning experience?”. Several of the children who made a lasting impact on my life used to act out in the classroom because of trauma they experienced in the past, so I thought trauma might be a good starting point for my question.

Overview of My Learning Process

I attended Ed Camp Victoria in October with my inquiry in mind. I tabled my question and it was selected for one of the break-out sessions. They rephrased it as “Supporting at risk students”. I took extensive notes throughout the session and followed up by watching the Ross Greene videos that were suggested by other teachers who attended the event.

Since then, I’ve asked every teacher I’ve encountered about how they responded to disruptive classroom behaviour, especially when it involved students who have experienced trauma. I’ve included notes from my discussions with Danita Stewart and Kathryn Turnbull in blog posts, but I couldn’t share many of my notes publicly because they didn’t take place in a formal interview. I also interviewed Jen Clarke, a school counsellor, and read several resources suggested by her and other teachers. I’ve blogged about many of these resources as well.

I attempted to practice some of what I have learned about my inquiry in the classroom during my weekly visits. In particular, I’ve been trying to reframe my own response to disruptive behaviour in order to avoid stepping into an unnecessary power struggle (See below: Engage, don’t enrage). Many of the approaches I’ve been studying have helped me get a better idea of what the student may be experiencing in the moment. I’ve also been consistently asking the teachers I’ve observed what kind of classroom managment tools they find most effective (the social contract has been a main feature).

Since none of my classes this semester touched on classroom management directly, I didn’t find a great deal of information I could draw from them in order to tackle my inquiry question. However, I did learn a lot about classroom management and heard about a variety of resources from guest speakers that visited our Wednesday seminiars. I was also introduced to some of the tenants behind restitution (in particular, undestanding the students needs) during a module on student motivation in our Psychology class.

Reframing my Question

Through this inquiry process, I came to realize that the root of my question was more specifically focused on how teachers could respond to the behaviour itself, both preventatively and in the moment. I also realized that trauma was not an ideal starting point for my question. While I do want to be prepared to support any students who have experienced trauma, I also need to keep in mind that there is a line between my role as a teacher and the role of a counsellor or a specialist. “How can teachers respond to disruptive classroom behaviour?” seemed like a much more authentic representation of my inquiry and where it led me.

Summarizing my Learning

Part of my inquiry involved presenting what I learned on a poster that I could share at a gallery walk at the end of the semester. Along with my question, I emphasized that “Behaviour is communication” and also asked “What is the student trying to say?” Then I tried to include specific resources/examples on the poster from each approach that I would like to use in my own classroom. I limited my focus to the four approaches I studied most in depth throughout my inquiry process.

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A big piece of what I felt I had learned from my inquiry was to change the way I thought about disruptive behaviour. Underneath each of the four approaches that I studied, I’ve provided an example of a question that challenged my way of thinking. Then, I included specific tools I could use in my own teaching career. Below, I’ve included the questions and examples I included on my poster.

Restitution

Does the student have a need that isn’t being met right now?

Does the student understand the needs of the class community?

Tools I hope to use during my practicum/ in my own classroom:

  • The Needs Chart (Survival, Belonging, Power, Fun, Freedom)
  • The Social Contract (co-written with students, something I modeled on my poster using post-it notes)

There are a variety of other restitution tools I would like to use (including “my job, your job”, and 30-second interventions) but I chose to focus on the two tools I saw reflected most often in the classrooms I’ve been observing over the semester.

Collaborative Problem Solving

Is the student lacking the social/emotional skills to respond appropriately in this situation?

Tool I hope to use during my practicum/ in my own classroom:

Using the 3 steps of collaborative problem solving when a disagreement or disruptive behaviour occurs:

1) Empathize: Ask the child questions in order to better understand his/her concern or perspective on the unsolved problem (don’t assume you already know!).

2) Define Problem: Adult or other party now puts their concern or perspective on the table.

3) The Invitation: Brainstorm solutions that will address the concerns of both parties that we have now explicitly laid out in our first two steps.

Self-Regulation

Is the Student lacking the language they need to express how they physically feel?

Tool I hope to use during my practicum/ in my own classroom:

How is your engine running? –  A visual representation of how the body feels when when it is flooded with adrenaline or cortisol, or a happy balance in between.

“Whole-Brain” Thinking

Has their brain been “hijacked” by the amygdala or the emotion-driven (right) side of the brain?

Tool/approaches I would hope to use during my practicum or my own classroom:

  • Connect and redirect: Connect with the emotional right brain before you try to engage the logical left brain.
  • Name it to tame it: Discuss potentially traumatic events so that they don’t become a dormant trigger. 
  • Engage, don’t enrage: When the fight or flight response is engaged, don’t step into a power struggle. Redirect their attention until they are ready to engage their higher processes.
  • Use it or lose it: Exercise the upstairs brain: “What would you do if…?”
  • Move it or lose it: Take physical activity breaks to keep the mind in a happy, healthy space.
  • Let the clouds of emotion roll by: Remind kids that feelings come and go. Fear and frustration and loneliness are temporary feelings that won’t last forever.
  • SIFT: Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts: Open opportunities to discuss Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts to help them better understand their internal self.  
  • Exercise mindsight/mindfulness : Help kids learn how to calm their minds and focus their attention (ex. taking deep breaths, doing meditation exercises, etc)

While Siegel and Bryson run through several other strategies in their book, I chose the main ones I could see myself using in the classroom.

What now?

My inquiry is far from over. I still have a stack of books that I’ve only just began to read. I hope to continue asking my question and finding as many answers as I can throughout my education journey and my career as a teacher.

If you have any suggestions about resources I should check out, feel free to leave me a comment below.

Preparing for my Passion Project

Initially, I was planning to run a prototyping workshop for my Cohort in early December when our major projects had been handed in. However, it seems that my classmates are fairly burned out from this semester, and would rather participate next semester.

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I’ve put the workshop on hold for now, but I will send another Facebook survey to my cohort group in early January. I’d like to host the workshop as early as possible so it doesn’t compete with other assignments and concerns. My plan is to run a simplified version of the Maker Lab’s 2016 DHSI class, which I co-taught last summer. I’ve outlined my plan for the workshop below. At this point, the plan is still subject to change.

Part 1: Introduction to Physical Computing 

Split the class into two groups and ask them to attempt Arduino’s “Blink” program by following these direction. I will provide assistance as needed, and assemble all necessary material ahead of time, however, I’d like them to experience how accessible Arduino is even if you don’t have any experience coding.

Part 2: Introduction to Photogrammetry, 3D Scanning, and 3D Modeling 

Ask half the class to download 123D Catch on their smartphone and the other half to download 123D Design on their computer. Run through the basics of each program, and let them work in partners or groups to create a model via whichever program they prefer.

While they are working on their models, I will also run a 3D scan using the Maker Lab’s structured light scanner to show them how it can be used. Explain how creating digital models can be helpful. Discuss ways we in the MLab have used digital models.

Part 3: Introduction to digital fabrication methods

Show group a few examples of how the lab has used digital fabrication: 3D printed figures, laser-cut models, and a skull milled out by a CNC machine. Then give them a basic introduction to 123D Make and explain how DHSI students used this program to hand cut parts to make a physical version of their digital model.

Discuss how digital fabrication can be used in the classroom even if you don’t own this equipment (paying companies like Shapeways to 3D print your models, collaborating with local Maker Spaces, etc).

Conclusion: Reflect on classroom possibilities

Ask all participants to take a minute to fill in a google form reguarding how they imagine using these techniques in the classroom.

 

 

Inquiry Interview: Kathryn Turnbull, Grade 6 Classroom Teacher (My Mentor Teacher)

Throughout my weeks of observing Kathryn and her class, I’ve tried to compile ideas or strategies that she uses in her class. I’ve also tried to jot down words of wisdom she has shared with me that could potentially benefit me in my own class. Since these have occurred over several conversations, and not just one interview, I’ve compiled them in a list below. I’ve bolded points that directly relate to my inquiry question. 

  • Start with silent reading in the morning, play calming music. This starts the day with a calm environment, brings down the energy in the room.
  • “You are distracting me from doing my job right now” or “What is your job right now?” – using “my job, your job” speech from restitution theory to remind a particularly noisy student to listen during an important lesson.
  • Students graph their math improvement so they can refer back to it and see their improvement. It’s not something they need to hand in for summative assessment.
  • While reading, encourage students to think of an inference, make a connection, ask a question, visualize what is happening, and maybe even have a transformed thought (new way of looking at the story, the world, etc) based on what they are hearing/reading in the story. Based on the reading powers method that encourages kids to engage/ learn critical thinking skills while reading. http://www.readingpowergear.com/  
  • Alternate allowing students to sit on the carpeted area while reading/doing a test so that they have some choice built into their environment.
  • Ask students to repeat back lunch time announcements to you so you know that they were listening.
  • Encourage mistake making! “I’m so proud of you for trying a new idea. It’s better to make a mistake you can learn from than never try in the first place.” Point out your own mistakes so they know you are still learning too, “Did you see what I just did? See, I’m still learning and making mistakes too.”
  • Be fun and joke around! Treat them like people! The kids say they love when Ms. Turnbull jokes with them.
  • Sometimes she will try to challenge their answers to make sure they are sure. They sometimes second-guess themselves, but they like to hold their ground and be reminded that even the teacher can be wrong sometimes.
  • Have a book conference with kids to discuss the books they are reading. Ms. Turnbull also gets students to write a short review of a book on a bookmark and hangs them at the back of the class. This way they can review books for each other and find out what other people have been reading.
  • Read books you think kids should read! Know the stories so you can get excited about the books you keep in your room. Don’t expect the kids to read something you wouldn’t care to read.
  • Keep a running list on the board of other work/ homework they could start on if they finish a given activity early.
  • Use post-it notes for activities to get them up and moving. Ex. “write one transformed thought you had about the video today and go put it on the board at the back of the room”.
  • Play “war” with cards for kids to practice their times tables. (Jacks = 11, Queen = 12, Ignore the King).
  • Stand at the door and greet them by name when they walk in in the morning.
  • If you can’t follow through, don’t point it out! This can corner you in an unnecessary power struggle that you won’t win. If you have extra time, or a support worker available, to help you follow through on an instruction (“do this worksheet”) then you can point it out and insist they follow instruction.
  • Play Math Bingo to help kids understand how to recognize large numbers when they are read out.

An Introduction to Integrating the Brain (with Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson)

I just finished reading The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson and I keep telling all my friends and family members about it. The book is all about teaching kids how to practice healthy mental habits while also better understanding their own neural processes.

According to Siegel, fostering mental health is like paddling down a river. On one bank is “chaos” and the other “rigidity”. Fostering mental health, in both adults in children, involves maintaining a balance between these two banks. This is done by using their “whole-brain” or helping the parts of the brain to become better integrated. In The Whole-Brain Child, they explore a variety of ways to better integrate the brain.

Left and Right Brain Integration

While the left brain is “logical, literal, linguistic (likes words), and linear, the right brain is “holistic and nonverbal… intuitive and emotional” (pg. 15-16). Siegel and Bryson explain that when a child is reacting in a way that seems irrational, it may be because their brain has been “highjacked” by the right side.

In order to actually bring a child down to a place where we can even begin to logically reason with them, it is essential to reach out to them and affirm their emotional state. Since The Whole-Brain Child is written specifically for parents, it suggest hugging or cuddling your child until they have calmed down, and then slowly bringing logic and reason into the conversation. This is a strategy the authors refer to as “connect and redirect”.

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“Wallpaper 961723”, courtesy of Jinho Jung, Flickr CC 2.0

When it comes to potentially traumatic or emotion-laden events, they suggest parents “name it to tame it”. Rather than redirecting a child’s thoughts away from a traumatic experience (their example was a car accident), Siegel and Bryson allowing the child to retell the traumatic experience, but follow up by assuring the safety of everyone involved. In their example, where a child and babysitter were in a car accident, the parents consistently retold the story with the child, but consistently reminded the child that when they had visited the babysitter after the accident she had recovered and was safe. This way the parents helped bring closure to the event, and prevent it from coming an unconscious source of anxiety.

Upper and Lower Brain Integration

Siegel and Bryson explain the upper and lower brain like a house. Downstairs is the brain stem and limbic region. These lower areas are often described as “primitive” because they handle basic functions like breathing, and “innate reactions”, (fight, flight, freeze) and “strong emotions” like anger and fear (38-39).  Meanwhile, the upstairs brain is made of the parts of the cerebral cortex. The authors focus particularly on the middle pre-fontal cortex “where more intricate mental processes take place, like thinking, imagining, and planning” (40). The authors explain that without upper and lower brain integration, it’s almost like there is a baby-gate keeping the child in their fight or flight.

I also found this helpful infograph on the Blissful Kids blog and thought it expressed those basics in a helpful/accessible way.

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Siegel and Bryson explain that kids sometimes throw tantrums because they are trapped in a lower-brain reaction. They emphasize that there are certain differences between upper and lower brain tantrums; upper brain tantrums are an intellectual attempt to manipulate, while lower brain tantrums occur when kids aren’t able to access their higher thinking processes. They also provide a few strategies for dealing with a lower-brain tantrum, which I’ve included below.

“Engage, don’t enrage”: This strategy involves helping a child intellectually engage with their feelings. For example, if a child shouts “I hate you” you try to get to the root of their reaction BEFORE you explain that their behaviour in inappropriate.

“Use it or lose it”: This strategy involves training kids to engage their upstairs brain by involving them in decision making, discussing emotions and self-regulation, having conversations about how to be empathetic towards themselves and others, and generally delving into discussions about morality and what is right.

“Move it or lose it”: This strategy involves exercising the body in order to nurture the mind. For example, running or exercising when anxious, smiling even when you don’t feel happy, mindfulness exercises, etc.

Further Integration Techniques

The Whole-Brain Child goes on to explore a variety of other ways to integrate the brain, including “Integrating Implicit and Explicit Memories,” “Integrating the Many Parts of Self,” and “Integrating Self to Others.” While I won’t be exploring all these elements of the book in this post, the video below summarizes the other key strategies for teaching integration for kids.

If you are a parent, or work with children in any capacity, I would highly recommend reading this book. I found it an accessible read, and it even provides a variety of helpful tools like this Refrigerator Sheet, which sums up the main points of the books.

Digital-Age Citizenship and Responsibility: Examining My Social Media Presence

One of the goals for my Tech and Innovation Class was to learn digital-age citizenship and responsibility. I decided to meet this goal by thinking more in depth about my social media presence. I’ve worked or volunteered with children and family for most of my life, so I’ve always tried to be intentional about what I post online. As I now pursue a career in teaching, I want to make conscious decisions about how much of my personal life I want to share. I also want to consider the privacy of my friends and family.

I’ve outlined the decision I made for each social media platform I use below.

Instagram

Since I often share photos of loved ones and family members on Instagram, I decided it would be a good idea to privatize it. I was surprised that I actually encountered problems trying to adjust my privacy setting on my laptop. In the end, I wound up following this guide for changing your account privacy settings on your phone.

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Facebook

Since I also tend to share personal photos on Facebook, I decided to increase the privacy settings on my account. I also removed the option for my name to come up on search engines outside of Facebook, since I would rather future employers encounter my professional web presence before they came across my personal web presence.

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As you can see in the screenshots below, the first thing that comes up when you search my name is my Facebook Page, and my Instagram account isn’t far below. I would rather potential students and employers encounter my work with UVic’s Maker Lab and the articles I published in UVic’s newspaper (The Martlet) than start flipping through my personal photos.

*Several of the search results for my name also bring up another Katherine Goertz (LinkedIn, SPAN, MinnPost)

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I’ve also been attempting to remove individuals who I no longer remember/know from my list of friends. This has been a bit of a difficult task because 1) I used to be a camp counsellor and accepted most of the friend requests of former campers. 2) I used to be a regular contributor on a pop culture blog and used Facebook to make connections/advertise my blog posts. This particular part of my project will have to be ongoing.

Twitter

I’ve only rarely used Twitter in the past. My main use for it was to tweet out funny quotes from/my thoughts on a current TV show or Movie I was watching. I also used it to tweet out links for the blog I used to write for. I never found Twitter very useful; not until I was in the education program, that is. Twitter is an incredible resource for educators because it connects us so easily using a variety of ed. focused hashtags.

Once I started using Twitter as an educator-in-training, I wondered if I should purge my account of my personal opinions and non-professional tweets. However, Valerie told us about a study that compared professor’s Twitter accounts that were purely professional vs. those that mixed personal and professional tweets. According to the study, profiles that mixed professional with personal were generally perceived as more reliable. As this article by Business Grow explains,

At its heart, Twitter is a business networking tool … which is what many companies and individuals don’t understand. They view the platform as just another way to broadcast company press releases. By trying to force-fit old “broadcast” media thinking into this new platform they are sub-optimizing Twitter at best and hurting their brand at worst.

Think of yourself in another networking situation … say an industry conference or a chamber of commerce meeting. Would you stand there and read press releases? No, of course not. You would seek out great people to connect with, discuss subjects that are interesting to you and them, and look for ways to work together. Twitter can work exactly the same way.

However, the expectations university students might have for their professor could be considerably different from the expectations parents might have for a teacher. The majority of my personal tweets are about a) politics or b) TV shows. Is it possible a parent could complain to administration about my taste in television or political opinions?

I still do plan to integrate some of my personal opinion with my professional tweets. However, I’m going to be thinking more in depth about what kind of personal opinions I share on twitter. I’ve already gone through my Twitter account to make sure I’ve never posted anything overtly offensive in the past, but I plan to continue checking in with parents and coworkers as I continue in the program and keep the question of “what should I post?” present in my mind.