I spent 15 years in the classroom, always in constant transformation, in 7 different school districts - urban, suburban, and rural settings - with almost 2,000 middle-school students, who walked from a roster into my classroom and left on my heart every single day.
So much can change in society in a decade and a half, and schools are hotbeds to see and experience the latest trends. I can say that I am a proud survivor of SillyBandz, Heelys, hallway dabbing, bottle flipping, fidget spinners, hydroflasks, Pop-its, and so many others. Since 2012, every school I worked at had one common trend; each school was 1:1, where every child had a laptop or device in which to complete school work. Technology has transformed from trend to permanent fixture in education, and now much of our work cannot function without, for better or for worse.
But even up until last school year, in spite of the benefits of technology on my side, I still struggled with the same issue. I taught in a silo. I never thought of it as such throughout the day; I loved being surrounded by students, chatting, guiding, facilitating. My silo was a little safe bubble for my students and me; every class was a unique, little chemistry that brought out different parts of me to share with them. So when I would have an issue with a student, I would stay and work on it within my silo. Only when it was an extreme case or issue would I have to send a student out or ask for administration to tap in. And while my silo was a safe space for me and for my students, I often sat wondering if other teachers had similar issues, either with a particular student (Is this uptick in a particular student behavior only in my room?) or with whole-class things (Are missing assignments just a me thing or a chronic building issue?). I would bring it up in the hallways during passing period, in my small lunch group, in passing to a counselor or administrator. Discussions were always supportive, teachers were seeing the same or similar in their classrooms. Okay. That relieved me from the guilt or shame of being the root cause of the issue, but did we ever then have enough information to find the root?
And that’s when I realized that students can, will, and are using the siloing of their teachers to their advantage. They are not ever willing to tell their teachers that they had already been reminded about their chronic missing work, and they surely will not admit that they had already had their phone taken last period when I was taking it again 20 minutes later. Equally so, teachers in their comfortable silos are rarely sending “FYI” or “BOLO” emails to other staff about student behavior - too much to type, too little time, too much blowback (and not in that particular order, depending on the staff). Students know how to use technology to their benefit in more ways than we probably even know, so it stands to reason that we as teachers need to use technology to level the playing field, not to catch kids but to see kids.
Just like with many growth and norm-referenced assessments, having data allows us to see a student and understand them better. We can see what academic areas our students are showing growth and where they are needing more support. With that information, we may do small groups, one-on-one reteaching, RTI groups … the list of intervention and support goes on and on. Unfortunately, behavioral data is always a separate (and not equal) counterpart to supporting student growth, begging the question: How often do we have the data about behavior to support students? Behavior was always more of a qualitative and anecdotal addition, rather than a quantitative report, when a meeting was held about a student because we didn’t have the technology to make it data driven, to see trends, to pick up on the gaps where students need support. This also requires us to view behavior as a skill, or perhaps a skill missing, which helps us to recognize that students need support to grow in ways that are beneficial to the student first.
One way out of the teaching silo is to have a way - a system - to track and monitor student behavior, allowing all teachers to gain insight into what is happening with a particular student throughout their day. Similarly, a parent could have equal access to their student’s behavioral data, just as they do with their grades, attendance, and the like. One such system, BehaviorFlip, effectively provides a means to track student data, both positive and negative. In addition to just tracking, BehaviorFlip will trigger a notification to meet with students when they log a certain number of events, preventing harmful behavior from going too far or going on for too long (again, I not catching you, I am seeing your struggle). Data can be analyzed in different views, concentrating on an individual student, or looking at groups, grade levels, classes, or broadening to the entire building. This all-encompassing scope of data allows for administrators and teachers to work together to find ways to support students in their behavioral needs, as well as making the walls of the silos more transparent, and allowing us all to see each other.
Rachel Patton is the Director of Operations at BehaviorFlip. She is responsible for the daily operations and account management, while working closely with the executive team to ensure the mission of BehaviorFlip is at the core of all operational activities. Transitioning from a classroom teacher role into operations, Rachel has the unique ability to merge experiences from the classroom to working with schools and administrators implementing the BehaviorFlip software.
For more about how BehaviorFlip pulls teachers out of silos and brings schools together, go to www.behaviorflip.com.
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