by John Beisner
Now that the Leadership Team, including the executive team, principals, and other administrative staff, has discussed the 2019 School Culture surveys and come to their conclusions. I’d like to share a little about how those conclusions were reached.
I’ve previously shared all of the data in the form of bar charts featuring the answers to individual questions from distinct groups (SoCal ISP Teachers, NorCal In-Custody Staff, etc). My hope was to capture all of the answers on a scale from 1 to 5 in a quick, visual format. Yet you may recall that each question section featured an area where respondents were able to write in comments. While the majority of the surveys were completed without these optional comments, many people did chose to write in their comments and quite a few did so at length. In fact, there were a total of 18 single-spaced pages of comments!
1. qualifying answers
This was probably the most numerous type of answers wherein folks tried to add extra detail to questions where they didn’t feel simply clicking a number between 1 and 5 would sufficiently capture their opinion, when they wanted to make sure we understood who they were talking about (“this only applies to my supervisor”) or they just wanted to make sure we understood that “I don’t really know enough to have a strong opinion.” I’ll note here that the ONLY time individuals were mentioned by name in any of the survey responses was in a positive light, e.g. “Veronica is great” or “Gale is a wonderful supervisor.”
2. Gushing, venting or waxing poetical
Though we are not providing specific quotes, many respondents took the time to explain their thoughts in depth in a personal, meaningful way. Way to go with the metaphors, Five Keys!
3. BIG-PICTURE TALK
These were the comments where folks wanted to go outside the confines of the questions to share big observations and opinions (i.e. speak truth to power, give serious and thoughtful feedback, share their powerful perspectives and generally just be awesome). There was some serious big-picture thinking going on here. I enjoyed reading these comments most of all.
4. cOMMENTING ON THE SURVEY ITSELF
There were a few comments like “this question is awkwardly worded” or “I would like to say more but I don’t trust that this is truly anonymous. Thanks for this feedback! The surveys were anonymous but I could have done more to reassure people of that fact, and I certainly could have done a better job crafting the questions.
5. Identifying specific problems or concerns
Some topics seemed to come up again and again, in particular:
*Collaboration and Community (the good and less good)
*RJ Training (the need for more of it)
*Supporting students with trauma or mental health issues and the need for training in this area
*WPRs and Paperwork and the quantity of time that they require
*ADA pressure, the deleterious effects of it and frustration regarding situations where ADA is out of a teacher’s control and yet that teacher still feels accountable for those numbers.
If you are someone who commented on your survey and would actually have LIKED to see your comments broadcast on the BITE, I hope you understand my reasoning for not doing so and can accept the above summary as a satisfactory substitute. Even massive tech firms have a hard time dealing with the question of how to balance transparency with privacy. They frequently get it wrong despite teams of lawyers and high-paid executives. I don’t have even a tiny team of lawyers or low-paid executive, so I can only lead with good intentions and hope that no one is too disappointed.
Finally, in response to the question “What what programs, websites or apps do you use?” Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their experience. We have so many excellent recommendations that we’re going to post them all in a separate article, here. If you aren’t aware of some of these resources, please investigate! You may consider them officially “peer tested and approved”.
So much for my observations! Now to where it counts. When the Leadership Team met to discuss the survey results, they too concluded that “the narrative feedback was more informative than the qualitative data, which was mostly neutral.” From that data, they’ve produced the following document:
By now, most of you have experienced action item #1. I sincerely hope that we continue to see positive changes as a result of this survey. Thank you again to everyone who took the time to share!
San Bernardino County Probation Adult Day Reporting Centers were recently recognized for an achievement award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) for it’s partnership with Five Keys Schools and Programs. These awards are only awarded to programs that honor innovative and effective county government programs. San Bernardino County qualified under the category Criminal Justice and Public Safety and won for most innovative program in 2018. According to the abstract from NACo, “the objective of Probation and Five Keys is the successful transition of offenders coming into the community by providing them with the educational opportunities needed to make them successful.” Five Keys Schools and Programs is currently at three Day Reporting Centers in San Bernardino.
TEACHERS DISCUSS THEIR GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH SAN BERNARDINO PROBATION
Victorville Probation, Jeremy Blough, stated that:
“SB Probation has always been extremely supportive of Five Keys, our students and our mission. They have always gone the extra mile with giving our students snacks, bus passes, field trip support and, of course, fantastic graduation ceremonies. The PO's have been supportive and I feel we have a relationship that is mutually beneficial in supporting our students. Five Keys is a positive and life changing opportunity that many PO's wholeheartedly advocate for with their probationers. I feel like we work together to offer something tangible that offers hope and positive outcomes in our students lives, which is why this award was given. PO's would much rather bring their probationers to school, rather than locking them up again. It make their job and our community a more positive place to live in.”
Fontana Probation, Claudia Arambula, stated that:
“I think this partnership has worked incredibly well because of the support Probation has given Five Keys. Our students feel the welcoming smiles every time they walk through our doors.”
San Bernardino Probation, Haydee Burrola, stated that:
“The collaboration between Five Keys and SB Probation is making a positive impact on the greater community.
Not only are we helping our students achieve their educational goals, we are helping them develop the skills they need to live healthy, quality lives. Both agencies strive to provide resources that are relevant to our students. I think the most significant thing is that we are teaching them to advocate for themselves and gain self-sufficiency, both organizations put a lot of emphasis on that. For me, it is an honor and a privilege to be a part of Five Keys. I feel the work that we are doing is extremely important in improving our society and securing a better future for the generations to come.”
CONGRATULATIONS to the San Bernardino Teachers for their dedication to make our educational program successful at these Adult Day Reporting Centers!
by Ashlen Fierros
Many of us know the members of the Special Education Department, also fondly referred to as “the SpEd team”, well. The small team of specialists service so many of our community and in-custody sites both in Los Angeles and San Francisco. They’re not often in one place for very long but they are such a huge help to both teachers and students.
Being in such high demand with limited time in one place, it is important that we as teachers understand how they fit into our class and what we can do as a team to maximize their time and help our students be successful! I recently reached out to members of the department to gain a little insight into this very thing. So here are 5 things you should know from the SpEd team:
1. “We love what we do!”
The members of the SpEd team have fallen in love with certain aspects of teaching just like the rest of us! Amanda Lynch says, “I love looking for new ways to teach and introduce new concepts. I also really enjoy working with general education teachers and collaborating with them and learning new strategies to teach students.” So don’t be afraid to reach out to these teachers if you have a new idea you would like to collaborate on! They would love to give you feedback and help in any way they can and this is a great way to individualize our instruction to student needs.
2. “The language is important.”
We can sometimes get comfortable with our lingo within the workplace and that is something we should be aware of when students are present. “There is NO such thing as a ‘SpEd’ student,” says Nicole Varnadoe. “They are students who have IEPs. They want to be treated like any other student and their disability should always be kept confidential.” We never want to single these students out or label them in the classroom.
It’s also important not to make assumptions when it comes to our students, simply because they came to us with an IEP. “Many students that come to Five Keys and have IEPs may have lacked proper individualized attention that our ISP program can provide” says Austen Coles. “Ask your students if you can help explain the packets in different ways. It's useful to encourage students to doodle, watch videos, or have conversations about the content in different ways- depending on their learning style.”
3. “Be sensitive with sensitive information!”
As teachers, we of course want our students to feel like they trust us and part of that is being mindful of their private information. It also means being sensitive with the way we word things when speaking to the students themselves. “They want to be treated like any other student,” says Nicole. “It’s important to be cautious of the words that we use when speaking to all students, especially students with IEPs,” adds Amanda.
“Try not to use language that makes a learner feel as if they can never be successful. The fact is, we don’t know what their future holds, and it’s not our job to predict their future. We can help guide them to their future goals by holding them accountable for their goals, and helping them understand their individual strengths and how to utilize their strengths to create future goals.”
4. “All students can be taught but not all students learn the same.”
We all know our students are individuals and we should use an approach tailored to those differences. “It’s always important to keep in mind that everyone learns differently, but most importantly, keep in mind that everyone has a strength,” says Amanda. “We as teachers should learn how to identify these individual strengths and teach them strategies that incorporate their strengths.” The SpEd team also encourages teachers never to underestimate a student’s potential growth.
Clarissa Brown-Jennings says, “A common misconception is that students with disabilities will never be independent learners. In most cases, especially for our typical mild to moderate student, they will eventually be able to complete their work independently.” Our students can be successful, we just need to help them get there sometimes!
5. “Together, we can better support our students!”
It is so important that the teachers of 5 Keys work together- they do say two heads are better than one! Teachers, more than most, know the importance of collaboration. Austen has found that very thing to be a big part of what she loves about being on the small team. “We get to work with lots of amazing teachers and pick up all sort of strategies and tools to engage students,” she says.
It is also critical that teachers become familiar with strategies to help students with IEP’s. Hannah Santos recommends teachers “Gain an understanding of the different interventions you can use to support your SpEd students”. Teachers shouldn’t leave it all up to the Ed. Specialists, we are after all sharing a student.
Ultimately, we are not a traditional school and we don’t always have traditional students. Thinking outside the box and working together will benefit everyone! “Building strong relationships with not only the SpEd students, but also the SpEd staff is so important,” says Amanda. “The SpEd teachers depend on the support provided from the General Ed teachers and the students will depend on the collaborative teamwork from both. Our teamwork can result in strong academic success of our learners.”
by The BITE Team
This summer the BITE got a new look! The reorganization of the BITE was implemented in order to keep up with all of the new content being added and facilitate intuitive navigation through the pages.
We now have 9 main categories for our content:
Each of these categories now has a landing page where the past content can be accessed, and new articles will be hosted. Click through the categories below to read more about what you can find on each page.
Here you will find curriculum development updates and curriculum resources, including subject specific resource compilations. Our first subject specific collection is the 'Math Bank', which includes resource links, unit plans, examples, and more math treasures!
Here you will find a variety of topics relating to instruction, including pedagogy and techniques, as well as the latest research. The 'Quick Bite of the Month' and 'SLO of the Month' are two specific columns that will highlight strategies relating to school-wide goals and interesting new developments in the world of education.
Here you will find assessment how-to's, supports, and the latest data from our school-wide testing.
On this page we will be covering helpful technology tools, providing step by step how-to's, as well as tips for navigating Five Keys tech platforms.
PD AND WELLNESS
Here we will cover both professional and non-professional opportunities and supports.
The place for the latest updates on transitions resources and procedures! Click on your region to view the latest news and resources for your area.
Here you will find the latest news and articles that give you the 'inside scoop' on what is happening with our organization.
Every month teachers from across the organization are featured so we can connect and celebrate with each other!
A place for site specific resources and blogs. ANY team or site can have their own space to share with each other, and with the larger Five Keys community.
This past month, teachers and staff from both regions were surveyed to find out what they need from their principals/managers in order to feel successful in their role. Some gave feedback through informal conversations, others through the survey posted in last month’s Inside Scoop article, 8 Things Principals Want to See In Your Classrooms.
To the leadership team -- much of this information will not be new to you; in fact, a lot of the needs are things you are well aware of, working on, and/or genuinely wish you had the time, resources, and extra hands needed to provide. Some will not apply to you, but some might. And some might provide a new angle on a solution you’ve already tried. Please know that many of the responses demonstrated an awareness that there are challenges the leadership team faces that are unseen by the rest of the staff. There was also a great deal of appreciation expressed, as the survey also asked staff to think about someone they consider a great leader and describe what makes them great… which means that although it may not be everywhere, the needs listed below are being met at different times and different places throughout our organization.
To the teachers -- please know that your leadership team sees you, hears you, and values you. We are not perfect, and know it. The monthly Leadership Development Training that we are undergoing addresses all these things you have asked for (and more), and though progress may be slower than we’d all like, we hope you will start to see some concrete changes.
Here’s to increasing trust, understanding, and openness on both ends. Cheers!
8 THINGS FIVE KEYS EMPLOYEES NEED FROM THEIR LEADERS
What does “good teaching” look like at Five Keys? This is a tough question to answer – we teach in so many different types of settings here! So before you read on, I want to offer a few disclaimers:
Stay tuned for next month's Inside Scoop article: 8 Things Five Keys Employees Need From Their Leaders. Click Here to complete this anonymous, 1 question survey!
1. A posted learning objective
2. A posted Agenda
Ideally, this would follow the standard instructional delivery model, which includes:
Resources: Scroll down to the bottom to download the Lesson Plan Template, Sample Lesson Plan, Do Now/Exit Ticket Ideas, Reading and Discussion Activities, and more!
3. Student-to-student interaction
In other words, discussion driven by students.
Sometimes after a classroom visit, teachers get feedback like, “Try to incorporate more time for discussion.” And the teacher will feel like, “What are they talking about? The whole class was a discussion!” What your observer probably meant was less discussion led by the teacher, more discussion led by the students.
This can be done through pair-shares, circle discussions, socratic seminars, literature circles, reciprocal teaching, and other forms of cooperative learning (a.k.a. group work).
4. Teacher circulating around room, checking in with every student, happy to be there
While you’re teaching a lesson, speak from different points of the room as you move from one point to another – the side, the back, the other side – don’t stay front and center.
While students are working, walk around, provide on-the-spot feedback, try to check in with every single student. This will not only help with classroom management but allows you to conduct an informal assessment; if you’re noticing a pattern of mistakes from student to student, you can stop the class to teach a “mini lesson” that benefits all students.
Don’t feel you have to be fake or overly enthusiastic about it, but show that you enjoy being with them. Greet students as they arrive, give lots of positive reinforcement – your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) is evident and contagious.
5. a welcoming, structured environment
We know some environments will not allow some of these things, but if you're allowed, principals want to see...
6. multi-modal instruction using multiple learning formats
Basically, present the information in more than one way, and don’t do the same thing the entire time!
Part of this goes back to the instructional delivery model reviewed in item #2 – a posted agenda. After the Do Now activity, the lesson should be chunked into smaller pieces that include some direct instruction, some small group or partner work, and some independent work.
Sometimes a concept can’t be covered in neat little boxes like that, and that’s okay. In those cases, a good rule of thumb is to change things up every 15 minutes – with a Pair-Share, a Whip Around, a Quick Write, or some other quick comprehension check where you’re turning the floor over to the students and giving them a chance to digest what they’re learning.
The other part of this, which is about presenting the information in more than one way, refers to combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic supports. If you’re speaking, have a handout or PowerPoint; if they’re listening to or viewing something, accompany it with a worksheet to complete; if you’re reading, provide the text for them to annotate; if you’ve given them written instructions, explain it verbally, etc.
Resources: Scroll down to the bottom to download How to Get All Students to Participate, ELL/SDAIE Activities, and more!
7. all students are included, encouraged to participate, and doing something at all times
This overlaps a bit with previous points but basically, lecture and large group discussions should be limited.
A best practice is 80% student talk, 20% teacher talk.
There should be something for students to do from the moment they enter your room to the moment they leave (this is where a Do Now activity and Exit Ticket come in handy).
Another way to approach this is to offer multiple ways for students to participate, including differentiated assessments. Lesson plans and activities should consider that some students like to talk, some like to draw, some like to write, some like to live it out – and some don’t like any of those things. So what options can you create for those students? How can you make them feel safe to talk, draw, write, or act, if they’re feeling insecure? The key is to make intentional efforts to pull those students in; once they see that you’re okay with them not participating, they’ll begin to detach. We must make it clear that we fully expect everyone to participate in some way at all times, and that if they’re having trouble, we’ll find a way to make it happen.
Resources: Scroll down to the bottom to download How to Get All Students to Participate, Do Now/Exit Ticket Ideas, Classroom Discussion Activities, and more!
8. Use of restorative practices in classroom management
Remember that your class is a community. When one person is hurt, whether by someone in the community or something going on within them or outside of class, it affects everyone. Here are a few ways this can be carried out, with examples of what this might sound like.
THINGS PRINCIPALS DON'T WANT TO SEE:
PRINTABLE & READY-TO-USE RESOURCES!
Five Keys Executive Director Steve Good answers 10 questions about work, life, & fun
1. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I am embarrassed to admit that I was pretty unambitious. Actually, I had no clue what I wanted to do other than play baseball every day. For better or worse, that's why it took nearly 7 years and 4 colleges before I graduated. It wasn't until grad school that I decided to become a teacher... and that was only because I wanted summers off. Funny thing is, once I started teaching, I never took a summer off -- it was too much fun teaching. By luck, I found a job I loved.
5. If you could change one thing about Five Keys, what would it be?
Hard to pick one thing. Longer prep periods for teachers, shorter school years to give folks a chance to recharge, more funding so we can pay more, more case managers, direct links to employment... Unfortunately, so much of this is tied to State regulations and contracts. Oh, wait I know -- now assuming I have a magic wand, I would eliminate WPRs.
6. It is said that “Many leaders are scared about developing people and then having them leave. They should be more worried about not developing people and having them stay.” In what ways are you developing Five Keys staff?
I love that quote and use it all the time. Staff development, on-boarding, and training have become one of our main areas of focus. The new Academic Committee, the hiring of our Director of Training, the investments in our Learning Management Systems are just the start. I see the launching of the Five Keys Academy, a staff development program for all employees, as the next step. That, and micro trainings -- 1 to 5 minute PD segments you can watch on your phone. These things are coming.
9. A recurring theme in the Focus Group responses was that Five Keys Leaders are good, well-intentioned people, but are spread too thinly. As a result, teachers often feel neglected and underappreciated. What thoughts do you have when you hear this, and what can be done/is being done to address this?
Yes, it's true. I've been a school administrator for 20+ years and have heard that in every school and district I've worked. Doesn't make it right, but it's real. We honestly took last year's focus groups to heart and reconfigured leaderships role to address this. These changes will bring more stability, reduce the number of sites a leader has, and will add new positions to support them. I'm hoping this will be visible to our teachers by having increased access and support.
10. How have you changed since starting with Five Keys, and where do you hope to take Five Keys?
Anything else you'd like to share?
When I was an elementary school principal and was having a bad day, I would go into a kindergarten classroom and take joy in seeing these amazing little creatures; and for a moment, I would forget my troubles. Now, I watch one of the YouTube videos of our graduation speakers, and I remember immediately why I love this work. This is hard work we do. Find the thing that brings you joy and recharges your batteries, because we need you!