Opinion
Education Opinion

If we divide up the work of teaching, who watches the whole kid?

By International Perspectives on Education Reform Group — May 16, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Greg Gunn

In our brief about different ways of dividing up the work of teaching across multiple people and roles, an important question naturally comes up: in such a system, who in the educational process maintains a view of the whole student--their academic growth across all subjects, their evolving motivational and emotional states, and their personal growth?

Of course this is not a new problem; high school students, for instance, usually have many different teachers teaching different subjects, each with an isolated view of that student’s growth. New differentiated models force this issue further, but also offer new ways for the educational team to keep a holistic view of a learner.

This role of watching and supporting the whole student consistently over time--a step beyond a traditional advisory or homeroom teacher role--must be explicitly assigned by the teaching team to ensure that it is done for every student. It can be assigned to an individual or to the team itself, but it has to be owned and understood.

Some schools have relied upon guidance counselors to keep the whole-student view. This can be effective, but unfortunately in many cases these counselors are spread too thin to build real relationships with most students, are not actively involved in students’ day to day lives, and don’t have ready access to most information about the student. Instructors are in the best position to understand the student--but the challenge becomes how to enable them to have a whole view.

One of my most instructive experiences on this front was working as teaching assistant to a wonderful team of middle school teachers many years ago in Stamford, Connecticut. One of this team’s best practices was the weekly student focus meeting, in which we selected a handful of students to discuss as a team. For each student, each teacher would provide his or her own perspective on how that student was doing. If we had a concern in any area that we felt needed to be addressed with the student or the student’s family, the team member with the best relationship with the student at that moment would volunteer to have that conversation. This flexible approach proved to be extremely effective at heading off problems, keeping students on track, and making each student feel like the whole teaching team was committed to their success.

While this team-based approach is becoming more widely used (sometimes as a general practice, sometimes in the context of response-to-intervention or other targeted approaches), it is not the only way to do this work. For instance, in schools where students spend a lot of instructional time with tutors individually or in small groups (like the MATCH School or schools using the Blue Engine model), tutors can develop an extremely strong relationship with students and provide an excellent view of the student that complements the perspectives of classroom teachers.

Whether it is an individual or a team taking responsibility for the whole view of a student, a number of tools can help do this work more efficiently and reliably. Some of these include:

Lightweight case-management tools. These tools allow a team to make sure they discuss every student on a regular basis, decide on follow-up action items, assign items to specific team members, and ensure that item are completed. Aggregated data reports about a student. Pulling teacher notes, student portfolios, assessment data, and attendance and behavior records into one place can save lots of time and make it easier to see important patterns about the student. Email in place of meetings. Since it is often difficult to assemble the whole teaching team in a meeting to discuss a student, email or other communication tools can allow rapid collection of the whole team's perspectives and opinions efficiently. Automated alerts. Some data systems are emerging that can send out automatic alerts to the teaching team when certain patterns emerge that an individual instructor might not see, such as poor attendance in only certain classes, or sudden student difficulty across multiple subject areas. Web-based resources. Better search engines can allow whoever is watching the whole student to rapidly access information, resources, and new ideas and opportunities for that student given an identified need.

By formally defining and assigning the role of watching out for the whole student, and providing this role with the right time and tools, teaching teams can make sure that no student falls through the cracks no matter how the work of instruction is divided.

Greg M. Gunn is a venture partner at City Light Capital, a New York City-based impact-investing firm, and co-founded Wireless Generation.

The opinions expressed in The Futures of School Reform are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)