Teach Wonder

Core Teaching Practices: Building Respectful Relationships

November 07, 2021 The Center for Excellence in STEM Education Season 1 Episode 11
Teach Wonder
Core Teaching Practices: Building Respectful Relationships
Show Notes Transcript

Can we capture the conversations and experiences of an in-person workshop and bring it to our listeners? That's the challenge  we gave ourselves this summer. This episode is one of a series we'll be bringing you. We've threaded audio from conversations with teachers together with interviews from the team  leading this project and finally project reflections. Listen to the this episode to learn more about Core Teaching Practices, what it means to build respectful classroom relationships, and the concrete steps individuals are taking to grow their own practice.

Links:
High Leverage Practices: Teaching Works
Building Respectful Relationships
Core Teaching Practices


Music clips:
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay
Music by Zen_Man from Pixabay
Music by Jacob_Field from Pixabay
Music by sscheidl from Pixabay
Music by BlenderTimer from Pixabay

Teacher Wonder Theme Music:
David Biedenbender

Ashley O'Neil:

Who taught you how to teach? Who taught you how to unlock the door, hang your coat up on a hanger and spend six to eight hours a day with a group of children. How to make those hours a meaningful collection of experiences that build their confidence, teach new skills, and leave them knowing more than they did when they first met you. We hear this often, but teachers are funny collection of things. We have a deep knowledge base of content, phonics, chemistry, jazz music, literature and the Romantic period, the Cold War. And we're given this group of individuals, strangers really, who range from enthusiastic about us to totally averse to the general idea of spending the day with us. And then we're given this list of standards. And we're tasked with co-constructing this bridge from where our students are standing to where the standard said, and to where we want our students to be for their own well being. I read a book in sixth grade that mentioned a girl studying for her test by sleeping with under her pillow. If only that path from student to learning was that straightforward. The reality is a far more complex and nuanced process that we're all perfecting and trying to understand. We know that relationships matter, because we need to move from that ambivalence toward interest to help students engage in a task. We care if a student has access to Wi Fi for homework, meals for sustenance, and a bed for safety and rest. We go to kids soccer games and buy their bake sale brownies, dress up in period clothing and rap math facts, engage in lively debates and messy science experiments. Because we know that there's more to teaching than feeding students facts in succession. So how do you we learn to teach? So how do we learn to teach? Who taught you to do it? We've been discussing this question, how do you learn to teach in a lot of different ways as a team. And one of the ways that we've been addressing this is to consider the core teaching practices. We'll get to those practices more in a moment. But first, let me set the scene for you. So good things never happen in isolation, tidy things do great things do not. So we gathered a group of teachers from our region to discuss this idea. How do we learn to teach and to really try to better understand our practices using core teaching practices. For the purposes of this podcast, we'll call these teachers, our CTP teachers. That's not a name to signify their mastery of the practices, but rather a way to indicate their shared commitment to learning together. This episode is a peek into the discussions and challenges that came up in our first week together. In addition to hearing excerpts from our work with the CTP teachers, I also sat down and had an interview with the three individuals who are responsible for this event happening in the first place.

Julie Cunningham:

I'm Julie Cunningham, and I'm the director of the Center for Excellence in STEM education. My

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

name is Kevin Cunningham, and I am a an associate professor in teacher education at Central Michigan University. So

Dr. Corey Drake:

I'm Corey Drake. I'm a professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. To me

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

core teaching practices are the foundation of what teachers do to support student learning.

Julie Cunningham:

So I would say core teaching practices are skills that when teachers do them well in the classroom, so mostly they are non content specific. And when teachers do them well in the classroom, they improve student understanding of whatever it is the instructor is teaching. If they're done relatively well, they do so in an equitable manner. They make a classroom, classroom instruction more equitable.

Dr. Corey Drake:

When I think of defining core teaching practices, I go back to another name for them, which is high leverage practices, which I think came out of teaching works. And for me, that's useful, because I think high leverage for what and I think of core teaching practices as practices that, as Julie said, are likely when done well to increase and support student understanding.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

They are based on research regarding what things that teachers do will best support student learning.

Julie Cunningham:

And I would also just add that there's this a snap this checkbox of I did this skill, check it off, right? It's this idea that I'm always looking to improve the skills to make my classroom more equitable, my instruction more equitable. My students, I will give my students a better opportunity for learning.

Dr. Corey Drake:

The other piece that I think is important is that teachers can continue to learn and build their practice through enacting the practices so they are generative generative practices in the sense that when you for instance, elicit student thinking when you start doing that, you learn more about the student thinking and they need to continue to build your practice of eliciting and so they're generative, both for student learning and for teacher learning.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

I would also point out that Michigan Department of Education has directed teacher education programs in the state to work toward ensuring that all new teachers have these skills are aware of these skills, understand how important these skills are to their work with children.

Ashley O'Neil:

There are 19 practices, we tiptoed into the waters of three. The first was building respectful relationships. And we started with reflecting on our own experiences in the classroom, particularly looking at our college preparation to become a teacher. Some interesting ideas and patterns emerged. Okay (Background noise) are we doing this one questions at a time?

CTP Teacher:

Okay. How did you learn to teach?

Ashley O'Neil:

A lot of cited outside experience babysitting volunteering, that gave us time working with kids,

CTP Teacher:

we all had something outside of the classroom, whether it was nanny or camp where we get to practice building relationships with children directly,

Ashley O'Neil:

we brought up our early experiences and our career.

CTP Teacher:

So I actually focused more fun, like outside of the classroom, because I felt that a lot of like, the practices that I still use in my classroom today, I learned from my mentor teacher, where I actually still work with, I think, I wasn't afraid to ask for help. You know, there were mentor teachers there. just that relationship and having someone else to work through ideas with and

Ashley O'Neil:

timely support and feedback in the moment is really powerful. Having a mentor whose advice you trust and who you can ask questions of as they arise, instead of what you're trying to anticipate in college, three years before you actually have your own classroom is really different. There's a difference between learning on the job as an early teacher versus what you're learning in college and preparation for your work in the classroom. When we trace our own learning back, some different priorities emerged. One of our goals this week was to start the conversation about how our college education contributed to our teaching practices, and how those experiences could be strengthened. Knowing what we know now as classroom teachers.

CTP Teacher:

They did a really good job of everybody they hired for teaching classes for education courses, they were either currently in the classroom, or they were just retired from the classroom. So I was very lucky in that so we're, we're, every every professor I had was involved in a classroom recently, more currently, which was really nice.

Ashley O'Neil:

Having teachers who were recently in the classroom experience are worked really hard to be up to date on current practices in the classroom came up a lot, as did professors who gave thoughtful insights into what it was like to be inside of classrooms that were different from experiences that students would have had in their K 12. Learning.

CTP Teacher:

And understanding children from different backgrounds and things like that. We also talked about not being afraid to ask for help, saying, you know, I'm not good at this, how do I get better.

Ashley O'Neil:

Many of the positive experiences focused on practical advice that instructors were able to give teachers advice that only increased and it's relevant as teachers tried it out in their own classrooms. Relationships also became a theme in the conversation, partially because we were talking about that core teaching practice of building respectful relationships. But also because the memories of these teachers that they were sharing are moments that stuck with them 510 and 25 years after graduating, I'm never surprised when people's favorite memories of their chemistry teacher about the serial party that they threw after a big test, or about the time their drama teacher stepped into sync backup for them at the talent show. These memories are based less than what they learned and more than what they felt. Those same ideas don't fade after high school. And so hearing how that plays out when students are learning from their teachers, how to be teachers is really interesting.

CTP Teacher:

I think you said earlier that allowed us to teach the way we're taught. And I think if you know some of the professors teach in a way that they want their teacher candidates to go out and teach in the classrooms and go long ways. And I remember never wanting my students to feel that way. There is like a stigma or typeset about how you're supposed to teach those but I mean, how often do professors hold Based on I mean, by the time you get to your higher level teaching classes are usually smaller. And I don't remember any of my professors ever asking me a question about where I came from or what I did, or what I'd like to do. And that probably would have gone a long way to buy in with some of the but they were just people with syllabus at the front of the classroom, doing what they do. And I just spent all the work that they expected on me, I never built a relationship with any of my education professors that I can recall. And if that's true, that's really too bad. And that never happened. To go off that, like I remember, I don't like the fact that we spend the first couple classes like playing get to know your icebreaker games where he was like, these are good shoes and costume, which I still use. And that was impact of like reviews from actually reading my reading over time. There's no way you know, when you're insolvent, where you leave seven savings a day. Worth it, you know what I mean? And so I think it really hammered for me that I don't want my kids to feel like they're doing busy work, because you're not going to grow and learn, you're not going to enjoy school.

Ashley O'Neil:

I think it's important to pause here and remind you that these honest reflections were encouraged in our time together, plenty of positive experiences were shared stories about professors giving a thoughtful debrief after an observation, sharing relevant stories about their own classroom. And at least four of the people in that room were also college instructors, specifically teaching pre and in service teachers. So the point here wasn't to list our grievances and go home, it was to talk about what made these individuals, the teachers they were today. And to talk about the ways in which college, the biggest and most formal part of that equation helped or hindered their experiences as teachers. And this is also a great spot where core teaching practice has come back into play. Here's Corey,

Dr. Corey Drake:

a why for the core teaching practices as part of why you're naming which is it helps us gives us language and elements of teaching practice. That mean we can expect then all new teachers to know and be able to do a set of things. Whereas before, those things were not well defined, right? In the same way that you kind of know good teaching, or you don't know good teaching when you see it. That's how programs ran right. And so the idea behind core teaching practices is not just that, we've identified the set of things, but that we can share the set of ideas, right, we have a common language, a common set of ideas that we're all working toward, that we could assess, that we could observe that we could work on together.

Ashley O'Neil:

And across the board, these professionals agreed how their teachers taught the relationships they did or didn't build the examples they said, mattered just as much if not more than the textbook and the content delivered. So if developing respectful relationships is so key. What does that look like as a core teaching practice?

CTP Teacher:

Like, sometimes it's not about the content, but the other social and emotional skills that you can build with them in your classroom. So it's not always a focus on content, but it will teach them how to be good human beings so....

Ashley O'Neil:

Yeah, first, I think it's helpful to identify what we mean when we say building respectful relationships. One of the resources that we have been and will continue to rely on his teaching works, and their definition of building respectful relationships, I want to share some phrases and words that jumped out to me, intentionally build and sustain respectful relationships with students manage power dynamics in ways to increase student participation, engagement and achievement. have relationships that are characterized by trust care, joy, and appreciation, develop relationships in all aspects of teaching, including small conversations, notice a student's nonverbal signals and how you respond to an acknowledged students during a lesson. And here's the cool thing about core teaching practices.

Julie Cunningham:

But this idea that there is a definition for a Core Teaching Practice, there are some expected outcomes of building respected, respectful relationships. That's something that we can decompose when we see others do it. We can look for the parts of it, we can pick that out of right, we can watch somebody who's doing building doing some skill to build respectful relationships, we can decompose it look at the parts of it, and we can look for parts that we've defined that we've identified. And then furthermore, the idea that we can practice this the idea that we could rehearse it the idea that we now I could practice it, I probably should practice some of these things before and or with your children.

Ashley O'Neil:

So here's the setup for what the teacher said, the CTP, teachers viewed three brief video clips of teachers interacting with students. They discuss the aspects of the video in groups with specific questions and skills that they were looking for. Then we met as a whole group to debrief on our conversation and findings. In the first video, a teacher is greeting all the students as they walk to the start of class.

CTP Teacher:

And so for the first video, you notice that the teacher is trying to shake hands with every student We looked at, you know, greeting students by me making eye contact, you You know, made like physical contact definitely plays a factor in kids trusting you using the native language to greet them in the morning, making them feel like you know-

Ashley O'Neil:

In the second video, there is a teacher asking students to make connections and recall information previously learned. He calls on a student and the student starts to answer and then pauses, his eyes move to look at his peers. And finally to his teacher, the teacher waits when the student doesn't answer, he offers him a choice of more time and moves on. The clip then cuts to a moment when the students are talking in groups. The teacher kneels by that first student's desk and talks through the answer he was going to give. The group then comes back together and the teacher calls on that student to give a response,

CTP Teacher:

the teacher just normalized the student behavior in front of the entire class like oh, yeah, we all get that, then all they have is everyone saying, hey, you know, it's okay to do that. Like, sometimes we lose, I mean, back to the student, making sure the student had the answer, giving them that redemption, and then offer a choice about going forward, do you want to have us wait? Or do you want to have us come back to you, even that choice builds trust in the teacher now putting them on the spot.

Ashley O'Neil:

In the third video, we saw group of students talking intensely, the teacher comes over to make sure they're doing the task she just directed the rest of the group to do, the two boys in the group are very focused on explaining the situation that she just approached, and the two girls are waiting a little bit more quietly. There's some back and forth between the teacher and the boys as she tries to get the group into the activity while listening to their explanation.

CTP Teacher:

And in video three- letting the student talk, you know, that student just started going on, listen to the students whole thought on interrupting them as much as we want to be like, I have other things to do. asking the students to describe the task, like, what are we supposed to be doing here and kind of guiding them through, these are the expectations, you told me some of them, you know what they are letting that kid get everything out, we can use that to communicate the instructions again, and I'm just telling or redirecting them instead of like, this is how we need to be, you know, making sure that they were heard iContact and just, you know, listening to the student as he was able to get all that ou Letting him know that you want to hear what he has to say in his explanation, and then redirected to correct behavior and nature that was gonna happen before she left.

Ashley O'Neil:

So earlier, we heard Julie say that core teaching practices can be decomposed broken down, and that Deacon compensation allows us to look for and define aspects of the practice that are foundational, as Kevin says,

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

making teaching are far more concrete, and tangible.

Ashley O'Neil:

So in the teachers were able to pick out those moments in a video when teachers were or were not building respectful relationships with our students, they were articulating the moves that the teachers were constantly doing to build a few key things.

CTP Teacher:

So then through all of that, our final takeaway was that consistency is key to building trust. So you can do this a couple of times, and it might not work. But to do this, every time that's something on it is the most important thing to build trust with your students.

Ashley O'Neil:

We in that second video, it sounded like he was always presuming competence. It was never that the student didn't know the answer is that he needed more time to think of his wording and how he wanted to articulate that. And even when he was talking to him at the table. He was presuming that this student had the right answer, and then just kind of silently fed him some of the language to me to get him there, which I like the division of tasks to say, you know, but it is in his head. Maybe you need help kind of particularly into the group and then giving him the choice for what to do.

CTP Teacher:

he actually went back to the student we talked about, if you do that is a choice, you have to remember to go back to them because sometimes teachers would forget and then if you don't go back to them, you might lose interest from that student one moment he said he was going to come back to to me and he never did. So making sure to go back and -

Julie Cunningham:

I think to what you're kind of getting at the consistency again, right, of doing thisregularly, that you think of when you're you're prepping for your first class in the morning or you're prepping for your students to enter and then how much you want those last few minutes to yourself right to just get whatever it is that you want to get done. And how and maybe is kind of intention to stand out in the hallway and greet suit. versus getting your last little bitof prep done. Right. And but how far that goes. And maintaining that being consistent with regularly hair, shave day or question day or whatever it is right just on day..

Ashley O'Neil:

Teachers should be consistent, steady, reliable. Both in doing things to intentionally build relationships, and to give your students a sense of security, knowing how you're going to respond. And that you'll follow through when you say you will.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

Being able to point out very specifically, this is what is being done. And this is why this is effective. And it gets to this, this idea that, again, Cory and I have have taken from the work of Teaching Works. And that is teaching is something that absolutely can and must be taught.

Ashley O'Neil:

After viewing three videos and talking for about 45 minutes, these teachers were able to come up with a pretty concrete list of things that are helpful in building respectful relationships. Now, let's think about how this relates to becoming a teacher, to walking in the door, hanging your coat and doing this teaching thing.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

These are not things that you should just sort of figure out on your own. These are not things that either you have a natural understanding, and ability to do.

Ashley O'Neil:

So teaching is teachable. And doing the best for students starts with doing the best for teachers. Giving them the tools and the language to develop teaching muscles that make their classrooms more conducive to curiosity and learning. Teachers can learn how to lead a discussion how to interpret student thinking to build understanding for an individual or for the group. And while there isn't a hierarchy of core teaching practices, the decision for this group of core teaching practice teachers to start with building respectful relationships was intentional.

Dr. Corey Drake:

Building respectful relationships is foundational to all of the others. I, I can't imagine a situation where you could do any of the other practices Well, if you weren't building respectful relationships with students. So you know, from that perspective, it makes sense to start with that building respectful relationship is embedded in all of the other practices. And so we need to keep explicitly working on it kind of throughout the teacher education process.

Ashley O'Neil:

Some evidence of this, during our conversation about the three videos, one of the groups focused on the group work aspect of the third video.

Julie Cunningham:

And Erica, even though our conversation was a little bit off topic, will you share your what you said about group work about,

Ashley O'Neil:

For most of us, this was an afterthought. But this was the bulk of their conversation went in a totally different direction.

CTP Teacher:

With project based learning, we were asked to do a lot in groups. And I know the first couple years we did it, we got a lot of parent pushback, you know, a lot of kids complaining that it wasn't equal and not everybody was doing what they were supposed to do. And so the teachers often get in the middle of group conflict. And, you know, I even tell my co workers this is like, number one reason kids don't get along in group is they don't know what's expected of them. They- somebody is misbehaving nine times out of 10, because they don't know what it is that they're supposed to be doing, they don't have a job, they don't have a task, they don't have that knowledge. And so rather than, "hey, you guys give it to work," you know, they they get that a lot from teachers, staff, ask them, you know, what you're supposed to be doing is the target certain kids and, you know, there's just they always don't know what they're doing, and knowing who they are. And heading that problem before you even have, it saves a lot of heartache. But I just assumed a lot of that as a new teacher, I just assumed that I just gave the directions. So why don't you all know which wasn't doing?

Ashley O'Neil:

this conversation is evidence of how practices build on each other. It's important to model behavior and strategies for students to implement norms for work. And the way in which this CTP teacher was analyzing the situation was grounded in that respectful relationship building she had done and was continuing to do with her students. She mentioned that this wasn't always the case. In her early career, that she just thought, Hey, I said it, you should be able to do it. But with time and practice, she uses her lens of understanding students and their needs to help them in this specific learning framework. Here. It's project based learning. I know Julie mentioned that this conversation mirrored course, but I think is actually a great fit. Part of building respectful relationships is knowing your students. Knowing them, as Corey said, is pervasive into your teaching, because it helps you make more informed decisions in all areas of your teaching. So we've talked about the conversations and insights that we've gained from our core teaching practices this week. We hope that they left us some good reminders and ideas, maybe a new understanding of some of the practices now that we've been able to decompose them and be so explicit together. There is, however another element of this project that also matters when we think about what it means to help teachers.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

And I want it to be something that my future candidates my students do in the future. How successful if I do these things do you think that is likely to be? And this is not a loaded question. I'm not expecting yes or no or, but what are some of your thoughts on that?

Ashley O'Neil:

It's not a loaded question. But it is a complicated one. In addition to thinking about these practices with practicing teachers, how to identify the skills strengthen these skills, we want to go back to the beginning.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

The finding more explicitly what it means to to teach well, defining more explicitly what teacher educators should be teaching.

Ashley O'Neil:

If you remember earlier in the episode, we asked teachers to talk about how they learned to teach, we asked you to consider what experiences shaped your skills and practices in the classroom. And throughout this episode, we've shared the concrete ways in which the core teaching practices specifically building respectful relationships can be defined and articulated. And they can be done so in a way that's different than that previous murky answer of it's just good teaching. And because we know that good teaching is definable, and teach, teachable, it's important that all teachers are considering it, and they're learning and they're practicing those skills, including instructors teaching future teachers.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

You know, this is something that, you know, we continue to learn and continue to develop, and through our learning, hopefully to, to help our teacher candidates to progress more quickly, then, unfortunately, we were able to do as as teachers and learners ourselves.

Ashley O'Neil:

When we think about the Core Teaching Practices and their fit in teacher preparation, there are aspects of the individual practices that fit individual students and teachers in specific contexts. But there's also a broader picture and need to be considered.

Dr. Kevin Cunningham:

If we, as teacher, educators are not adequately preparing our our students to meet their obligations in the classroom, that is going to tend to have a greater impact on students in K through 12. classrooms that are some of our most vulnerable students. And they need our best instructors. And so we have to, as teacher, educators, ensure that all teachers have these these basic competencies,

Julie Cunningham:

We're saying building respectful relationships, and we've given some examples. But we haven't mentioned checking our own biases as we build those relationships. And I don't want to be remiss about that. And I'm thinking that I had just some great, great conversations with pre service students this year, who worked with us in the center, when we did that biases survey, and everyone thought back to examples of their own family household, their own family growing up, right, their own K 12 education, and then where they are sort of in in life right now, whether they're freshmen through seniors, and just just ask themselves, right, thoughtfully about what, what lenses do I wear when I come to the classroom? And how does that color the way I build relationships? And what do I need to do to make this and I think we're saying it when we say respectful relationships, but what do I need to do to make sure that I'm building these equitable, respectful relationships,

Dr. Corey Drake:

Equity arguments around core teaching practices, and like I think they raise both of them. And re one is Kevin's argument that it provides kind of a foundation are a baseline, like all new teachers should be able to do this set of things called the core teaching practices, so that the kind of the distribution of teaching quality and teaching practice is more equitable. And students who have been marginalized are not having to have less qualified teachers, right. And then there's another argument, which is that maybe these core teaching practices identify how what equitable teaching looks like, right? And so when you're in the classroom, and I think that is where we still are working and still have work to do, which is to figure out, you know, eliciting student thinking, for instance, could be done in equitable more equitable or less equitable ways. And so part of the work is to figure out, what does it mean to do each of these practices equitably?

Ashley O'Neil:

I want to end this episode with the rest of the conversation that I had with Corey and Kevin and Julie, in which they talk about some of the concrete ways that they're practicing building respectful relationships in their current professional contexts.

Dr. Corey Drake:

One thing that we do a lot in our methods classes, but I've also worked with in-service teachers on is just pausing periodically and thinking about every student in your class and naming one strength of that student because what that does is both are a part of a respectful relationship is a strengths based relationship where I'm seeing what students can do, what they do know, not what they don't know, or can't do. And so naming a strength, but it also ensures what you were just talking about Ashley, that I'm hearing everybody that I'm seeing everybody that I, I know what they're thinking, and they're understanding, because I'm hearing from them, and I'm seeing their work. So that's one place I like to start, like, just pause, whatever you're doing and look at your class list and think about what's one strength you could name about each of your students is one place to start.

Julie Cunningham:

I am teaching EDU 107 this semester, which i an Introduction to Teaching which is where students ar supposed to be deciding whethe or not they really want to g into teacher education. I ca look at almost every topic probably every topic, but fo sure almost every topic in Ed 107 through the lens of teacher building respectfu relationships with thei students. So I was able to star at the beginning of thi semester, and all of the conten really can can go through that that teacher lens. And so i gives us a nice, a nice them and a way to sort of ground thi the coursework right i something that's very tangible And again, that that we all ca practice within the classroo that I can model that we ca discuss that we can reflect on that the students ca participate in. I've had fu challenging myself, to be reall intentional and reall thoughtful about ways in which can work with students on thi idea of building respectfu relationships and modeling i and having conversations abou it, having them do some wor towards it. And it's it's jus really been a fun semester i that sense. It's been really fu