What have you learned? In two and a half years of SmallBites, how have the equity strategies talked about influenced your practice? What are you doing differently because of what you’ve learned? Let me know here or on Twitter, Instagram or Tiktok. I’ll be looking forward to your answers. Additionally, SmallBites is on hiatus until spring to get some courses and webinars up and running. Be on the lookout for new resources in 2023!
With 90% of teachers surveyed by NEA experiencing burnout, the education industry obviously has room for growth in the ways teachers are supported in the workplace. As stated in last week’s episode, wellness initiatives do not ensure teacher wellness. This week and next, SmallBites has enlisted author and burnout researcher Dr. Kevin Leichtman of TLC Educate to give district and campus leaders insight and impactful strategies to help them help teachers stave off burnout.
Retaining talented, well trained teachers is the best way to ensure equitable learning environments for all students.
Kevin Leichtman received his Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from Florida Atlantic University, where he also completed a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction. His dissertation study was on new teacher burnout. His research has been published in a textbook on andragogy and pedagogy, and he is the author of “Teacher’s Guide to the Mental Edge” and his upcoming book, “The Perfect Ten: Ten Students, Ten Mindsets, One New Definition of Perfect.”
Kevin is also an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University, teaching equity and diversity courses to education majors. Kevin has developed curriculum, professional development, and presented on the topics of mindset, burnout, and equity to teachers, schools, and students across the nation.
With all the talk of teacher wellness, I find that in the lives of the teachers I know, and in the lives of teachers they know, there is a lot of yoga, a lot of meditation, a lot of emoji checking in and tons of surveys about what’s working. What classroom educators are missing is time; and that means working in schools that support a healthy work-life balance.
While it’s common knowledge that teacher workload and stress have increased over the last few decades, the common solutions don’t seem to address the stressors in a way that makes teachers feel supported. According to EdWeek, chart 1 clearly shows that wellness initiatives popular with district administrators are among the least popular with teachers.
What are districts missing? There are many reasons that teachers have a higher burnout rate than any other US workers, but work life balance is one of teachers’s top concerns. Yet, Google searches for teacher wellness are full of SEL strategies, yoga, meditation and other band-aids that could be effective, if teachers had the time to practice them consistently. How can administrators give teachers the one thing they really need—time?
1. Conduct blind surveys on wellness initiatives (really blind, requiring no campus or grade level information).
Combat the fear of being disparaged because of educator anonymity. Teachers need to comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of retribution.
2. Shadow beginning and seasoned teachers to pilot every initiative before district-wide implementation.
Like with most tasks, everything takes longer than you expect. By shadowing teachers in the real-world classroom, you’ll be able to evaluate (and tweak) your initiative’s implementation, not just implement an idea with no real world testing.
3. Adjust your scope or year-at-a-glance documents to utilize 80%, rather than 100% of the instructional block.
The awards ceremony, the field trip, the fire drill, the active shooter practice, the student melt down, the emergency coverage—these are all regular events that influence the number of minutes actually available for instructional purposes. If your scope is based on bell-to-bell teaching, teachers will be perpetually behind. And remember, mindful moments, brain breaks, student questions, ‘wait time’, classroom clean up and many other class community activities are also instructional, even if they are not connected to the content.
Wellness initiatives often look good on paper but lack impact. Reducing teacher workload is the number one way to retain a quality teaching staff. And a retaining a quality teaching staff is at the core of equitable learning experiences for all students.
When is the last time you saw a student with trisomy 21 on the field playing drums? When you grew up, were gender non-conforming, male presenting students allowed to be a part of color guard or dance team? Were Afrocentric hairstyles represented on the field—even gracing the heads of Eurocentric students? Were girls even drum majors?
This week, I got a needed rest from the toil of fighting to elevate the voices of all students. This week, I went to the Bands of America Super Regionals and unexpectedly got to bask in the progress that I often miss, while helping others to see what still needs to be fixed in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. For that, I am grateful.
How can you be a part of this progress? How can you make room on your campuses for cultures and stories that have traditionally been missing in our country’s classrooms?
Here are three resources to help you increase representation in the performing arts.
Could bias have been responsible for the Jeffrey Dahmer murders? If you think that sounds a bit like a way out there conspiracy theory, let me help you follow the logic.
Glenda Cleveland was a woman in the neighborhood who, along with her daughters, followed up several times with the police because of suspicious activity surrounding Jeffrey Dahmer’s movements. Without going full blown spoiler alert, I’ll simply say that in one instance, had the police believed her and not Jeffrey Dahmer, the victim would not have met his death.
Jeffrey Dahmer was a blonde haired, blue eyed person of middle European descent, and he looked like what in my childhood was known as an “all-American” type. The American predisposition to favor that type of good looks was one part of the bias that allowed him to go undetected for so long. Ever notice how the blonde folks are rarely the bad guys? It’s better now, but for a very long time, blonde/blue was THE Hollywood beauty standard.
This Halloween, if you are watching something scary, consider watching the Jeffrey Dahmer movie on Netflix. It’s hard to watch, and it’ll take longer than one night. BUT, start, and watch for bias that comes into play. Make a note of moments when you feel the unconscious thoughts of one person affected the life—or death—of another. Then join me on Twitter. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Often, when we think of moving the equity needle on our campuses, we talk in terms of implicit bias, diverse representation and personal responsibility. We don’t often connect it to data. Data tells you which teachers are having discipline referral problems within certain populations. Data tells you which teachers are closing gaps for Black and Brown students more quickly. Data tells you which apps are positively impacting intervention and extension for special populations. For example, because ST math is a game based program that requires no language based skills, it works well for ELs and students who are reading below grade level.
How are we using data to create equitable learning environments? Male students typically have more office referrals. Is it that boys are “bad” or is it that schools have designed a system for sedentary, compliant learning while socializing boys to be anything but sedentary and compliant?
Using a Strength Based Lens
How do we use the information we have to drive action? First, find out what’s working, and which teachers are succeeding. Use peer observations to build cultural competencies across your campuses and districts. Add accountability discussions and mentoring to learning walks so that you can impact student learning and behavioral outcomes by replicating behaviors and strategies of successful teachers.
I’ll be talking more to administrators the rest of this year about campus and district equity initiatives, and how to move them from reflection to data driven action. Make sure to recommend SmallBites to your favorite admin team or school board so we can all be better together, one small bite at a time.
Because it’s time to don costumes and have some fun, I thought it would be a good time to send this friendly public service reminder: culture ≠ costume.
Borrowing the sari, the skull or the sombrero is not the same as wearing a secret service agent suit, a superhero cape or a celebrity gown. Those are examples of cultural appropriation.
Having a cultural day at school in which students wear culturally inspired clothing in addition to presenting an oral essay and expressing understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures can also be a good thing. That’s cultural appreciation.
Using Halloween as a day to don the clothing of Hollywood stereotypes is something that we have always done. However, we are only beginning to understand that some of the items we’ve worn have deep historical meaning and context. Headdresses, “Hula girl” outfits and turbans, for example, all have meanings that most of us know nothing about. Wearing those items in a frivolous way shows a lack of respect, even when we don’t mean it.
Think of it like this: wearing a Priest’s cassock or going Trick or Treat with a cross tied to your back would turn heads, and not in a good way. That’s how it should be when we see meaningful cultural symbols being used for costumes.
Happy fall break!! Head over to @Hedreich on Instagram for this week’s live episode. And for context: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/13/hiking-african-american-racism-nature https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/why-people-color-often-feel-unsafe-outdoors by @amandaemachado0 www.voxmagazine.com/tncms/asset/editorial/11e7709e-74cd-11eb-83b2-8f13b43d6648 And by Emma veidt https://outdoorafro.com/