Scenario: Mr. W is a tenured English teacher who has been working at a middle school for the past 6 years. A recent formal observation has shown that students are disengaged from the lessons and assessment scores are suffering. A review of informal walk-through observations have been reviewed by the principal and there is evidence that Mr. W’s lecture-only style has been impacting his students negatively over the past few years. There are few lessons where students work collaboratively in groups and while Mr. W is covering all of the required content standards, the students are not engaged and spend most of the class period taking notes silently. The Danielson Domains identify that Mr. W is struggling with Component 3c: Engaging Students in Learning. Mr. W ranks as “unsatisfactory” in the representation of content as his examples are not age-appropriate as many of his examples are from higher-level literature that the students are not familiar with. He seems to struggle to relate to the students. In several observations, Mr. W has been ranked as “unsatisfactory” in the structure and pacing of the lessons, often rushing through reading selections he doesn’t enjoy teaching. This also causes a behavior issue, as when the lessons are rushed Mr. W is not teaching bell to bell and the students get bored and act out.
The scene is the principal’s office and present are Mr. W; Ms. D, the head of the English Department (a seasoned and highly qualified teacher who has been working with Mr. W in their professional learning community and is aware of Mr. W’s teaching style); Mr. A, a union representative; and the principal. Mr. W’s last observation was last week and he is aware that he has had several “unsatisfactory” rankings.
Principal: Thank you all for joining us. We are holding this meeting today to discuss Mr. W’s observation and I have identified a few areas for improvement for his English classes in his observation 2 weeks ago. Today, our goals are to review some of the concerns, to discuss a remediation plan, to provide some teaching strategies to help improve these rankings, and discuss the support the administration and staff can offer Mr. W. Firstly, we are examining the teaching standards for student engagement.
Mr. W: Well, what do you expect, they are hormonal teenagers and don’t want to pay attention!
Principal: While I understand the difficulty that the age group may pose and I know how frustrating it can be sometimes, I think we can come up with some new ways of presenting the materials to help your students stay interested.
Mr. W: (disbelieving) Hmph, I’d love to hear them!
Principal: One of the best ways to engage students is to help them connect what they are learning to something that is relevant to their lives. Ms. D had mentioned that she has an assignment that you might be interested in trying in your classroom. Could you explain it, Ms. D?
Ms. D: Sure, when we start a new unit I use what I call “Points to Ponder” but it is actually an anticipation guide. I’ve gone through and come up with statements that the students may agree or disagree with and then we discuss it as a class. The students have to have reasons for their beliefs and they have to be ready to defend their opinion. For example, we are reading The Giver right now and I gave them the statement, “It is better to be a part of a group than to be alone.” The students take turns to explain why they agree or don’t agree with this statement and provide examples. While the students are discussing, I jot down ideas and their names and when we arrive at the theme in the book I try to bring up some of the examples they gave.
Mr. W: And the students actually behave during this- discussion?
Ms. D: Well, first I had to teach them how to sit down and have a discussion like adults; not interrupting, not calling someone’s opinion “dumb,” and being respectful. They enjoy the discussions so much that they will behave because they want to have one at the beginning of each unit. I have a list of rules I post on the projector and if they are breaking one, I simply point to it and the behavior stops.
Mr. W: That sounds interesting, I might be willing to try that if you could give me the anticipation guides for the books.
Ms. D: I will e-mail them to you and you can tweak them as you see fit for your students.
Principal: Thank you, Ms. D, what is the recommended time frame for this assignment?
Ms. D: I usually take one full class period and no more than that, too many days means the discussion gets stale and it throws us off of the pacing of the novel.
Mr. W: Okay, I think I will give it a try. We start The Giver next week.
Principal: Speaking of pacing, one thing I would really like to see you do is to try and stick to the pacing guide as much as possible. There are some stories that may not take the entire class period but the scope and sequence offer extension activities to help keep students engaged and interested. Do you use your pacing guide or scope and sequence?
Mr. W: I don’t know where the pacing guide is, I had one, but I think I lost it.
Principal: Okay, I’ll write a note to myself to get you a new copy and I’ll put it in your mailbox by Friday. Please review it when you get it.
Mr. W: Okay, thanks.
Principal: I’m also going to give you this book that you might find interesting, Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students by Their Brains, it has some ideas centered on conflict theory that highlights specialized projects and group work to keep students engaged. What I would like to see in your next observation is you trying some of the strategies mentioned in the book or in the book you have by Robert Marzano. I would like to see you using different engagement strategies on our next observation day, which will be within 30 days of your last observation and that you are also teaching bell to bell, using all of the resources available to you to keep students actively engaged and learning. The remediation plan provided by the State of Illinois Remediation Plan for Tenured Professionals means that I will be providing you an evaluation every 30 days during the 90 day remediation period and will perform a final evaluation within 10 days of the closing of the remediation plan. Here is a copy of the plan that I will review with you (the abbreviated plan is provided below). Is this plan and evaluation timeline clear, Mr. W?
Mr. W: Yes, I understand. Can I ask for some release time to observe some teachers who use these strategies?
Principal: Yes, I would be happy to give you release time and I will ask some of our teachers to accommodate your visits. Ms. D has also offered to spend time practicing modeling strategies during professional learning community release time, you can begin doing that during release time next week. Please remember that Ms. D is not evaluating you and has volunteered to help you reach your teaching goals so please ask for her help as needed.
Mr. W: Okay, I understand. Thank you for offering your time, Ms. D.
Principal: Is there anything else you need?
Mr. W: No, I will look through the book and start trying the strategies in the next few days. I’m a little nervous about using these strategies but I want my students to enjoy the class and I hope that these ideas will help.
Principal: I’m happy we could work together on this and I look forward to seeing your next lesson, Mr. W. Thank you for taking the time to be here Ms. D and Mr. A, we appreciate it. I will send you an e-mail with the date of your next observation, Mr. W and we will complete the evaluation paperwork as needed. Thank you again, everyone.
(Remediation table omitted for preview. Available via download)
Framework domain 3. (n.d.). Danielson Framework. Retrieved August 1, 2013, from www.cssu.org/cms/lib5/VT01000775/Centricity/Domain/36/Domain3Instruction.pdf
State of Illinois remediation plan for tenured professionals. (n.d.). Community Consolidated School District 21. Retrieved August 1, 2013, from http://www.d21.k12.il.us/hr/appraisal2011