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GBEMS teachers, principal give BOE report on training

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Green Bank Elementary-Middle School teachers and principal gave a report at the board of education meeting July 14 on the Nuts and Bolts training they attended earlier this summer.

Principal Ricky Sharp said the training he participated in looked at a shift in focus from female education to male education because males are falling behind.

“For every eight students advancing their education, only two of those are males,” Sharp said. “For a large period of time in history, we were focusing on females and that’s what we’re starting to see, that now our male students are being left behind.”

The training session also revealed that the majority of students in special education or students being sent to detention or in-school suspension, are males.

“They also talked about, seventy percent of all in school suspensions are males. Over sixty-seven percent of the special education population is male. For every ten males that are on medication like Ritalin or Adderall, there’s only one female.”

Sharp said the focus is shifting toward more movement and mini breaks during a class to help males become less disruptive. The breaks will also help the females, who also suffer from short attention spans.

“Some of the solutions they talked about implementing in order to encourage males to do well in class is more physical activity in the classroom,” Sharp said. “Whenever teachers are doing review games or something like that, they should incorporate movement. They talked about attention span. I always heard it was your age plus five minutes. Down there, they said your attention span is equivalent to your age.

“We’re talking ten-to-thirteen years olds,” he continued. “They ought to be switching every ten-to-thirteen minutes so there should be at least three or four instructional switches within a normal class period.”

Sharp said he has a lot of information he plans to share with his staff. He and the teacher who attended the training have already met to discuss ideas for programs to implement in the upcoming school year.

Fourth grade teacher Marsha Beverage reported that she learned several ways to help students with vocabulary words and broaden the kinds of vocabulary words the students learn.

“Vocabulary – like when we ask kids to analyze, to draw conclusions – when we ask them to do things like that, are we really teaching them how to do that?” Beverage questioned. “We think we are, but maybe we’re not. I want to get the staff on board with looking at some of those vocabulary words that we use, the the standardized testing uses and make sure that we are equipping the kids to do what’s being asked, because if they don’t understand the question, they’re not going to answer it.”

Beverage added that she, as a visual learner, understands that not all students learn in the same manner. She wants to implement different styles of teaching to reach all the students.

“One thing that I learned there, that really made me think, is that ninety-two percent of instruction is teacher delivered, orally,” she said. “So, if you’re an oral learner, that’s awesome, but only twelve percent of kids learn this way. I’m a visual learner. If you tell me something, it goes in one ear and out the other. I just cannot learn that way, and I’ve tried to train myself to learn that way. I can’t do it.

“So, if I can’t, I doubt these ten-year-olds that I’m in charge of can do it, so that’s something I would like to throw out there for my fellow staff members to think about. If I’m telling them about this part of history, how am I teaching them so that they can visually learn? Am I making them get up to aesthetically learn? Am I making them have a social, emotional connection to it? That’s another area I want to be working on.”

Middle school math teacher Julie Brown said the training she attended shared similar ideas with the power teaching she is currently using in the classroom. It justified to her that she was on the right track and added new ideas she can implement in the classroom.

“The one thing I thought was interesting is, just because they write it down doesn’t mean they get it,” Brown said. “Taking notes is not learning. Taking notes is writing things down. You might not learn it at all.”

The session presented five avenues for teaching that Brown said build on the practices taught in power teaching.

“I like that their five avenues to understand went right along with the power teaching,” she said.
The avenues are chunking, scaffolding, interacting, pacing and monitoring. Using the five avenues, Brown said the students will have a more well-rounded education.

“If they do these, it creates those emotional bridges to the information,” she said. “One thing that [the instructor] said was it’s not about you setting out something for them to do and then you sit at your desk. That doesn’t work. We are constantly monitoring, walking around.”

Special education teacher Lauren Dickenson brought back notes and information which she hopes will motivate her students and help them strive.

“I want to keep them going, to motivate them,” she said. “I learned a lot of strategies to help the kids that I work with. One thing I thought was really cool was teachers send postcards to their kids. Let them know when they’re doing good. Tell them something they are doing good to keep them motivated.”

Similar to Beverage, Dickenson wants to work on vocabulary with her students to ensure they have an understanding for the questions they are asked to answer.

“A lot of our kids, they know the material, they just can’t read the question,” she said. “They don’t know what the question means, and it’s not a true reading of our kids if they don’t know what the question is. I think we really need to work on our vocabulary.”

Dickenson added the training taught her to set small goals instead of one large one at the beginning of school year. Students are able to focus on smaller goals and feel accomplished when they succeed throughout the year.

“Instead of setting huge goals at the beginning of the year, we should set goals for every ten days to meet,” she said. “Let’s be practical. If we set a goal at the beginning of the year, are we really going to follow through with it? Let’s set smaller goals for smaller periods of time to make sure that they are being met.”

The board thanked the four educators for attending the training and reporting on the experience.

See next week’s edition for personnel and miscellaneous management.

The next board meeting is Monday, July 27, at 7 p.m., in the board of education conference room.

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