Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Welcoming Homeless Students

The number of homeless children in US schools continues to grow. Much of the increase is driven by the uncertain economy. Families are dealing with joblessness, less access to medical care, increased hunger and greater instability in the family unit. The nation's official poverty rate is 15.1% (2010), the highest since 1997.

Often associated with urban areas, homelessness and poverty is prevalent in rural areas as well. Rural families headed by women have a significantly higher poverty rate, generally 10% higher than other families.

Homeless children have legal protection under the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act (1987). The law requires that state and local educational agencies assure access to school, despite one's housing circumstances. Homeless children can remain in their school of origin, even if they move into housing in another district. Schools must provide transportation to their original school and homeless students can enroll immediately even without the documents normally required of new students.

The National Center for Homeless Education offers some tips on creating a welcoming school for homeless children.
  • Welcome the student like any other new student.
  • Talk with your teachers about how to create welcoming classrooms.
  • Identify the important information that parents/families will need.
  • Maintain a supply of materials at school that are available for students who may not have them.
  • Understand your obligation about accepting the student and providing transportation if needed.
  • Talk with the family about what the student studied at their previous school.
  • Establish a place that students can complete homework either before or after school since they may not have a place where they are living.
  • Be sensitive to word choice when talking about homeless students, and their families, with others in the school and in your community.
  • Model welcoming and respectful behavior.
Additional resources for creating a welcoming environment for homeless students are available from:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Working with Generation Y Teachers

As Baby Boomer teachers retire and are replaced by members of Generation Y (born between 1977 and 1995) we have come to appreciate that Gen Y employees have a very different set of characteristics shaped by a far different set of life experiences.

They are . . .
  • Highly educated, value education and attribute their success to education;
  • Very comfortable using technology and expect it to be available in the workplace;
  • Tend to be creative, innovative and self-confident;
  • Committed to making a difference and contributing to positive social change;
  • Want to be connected, updated and included and involved in their work;
  • Desire relationships with co-workers and supervisors;
  • Looking for opportunities for growth, challenging work and assignments and flexibility in work schedules;
  • Possess collaborative skills, are committed to team-building and expect to be held accountable.
So, what are some strategies for working with Gen Y teachers? A report from the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (www.tqsource.org) identified ten strategies. They include recognizing their unique qualities and how they differ from teachers born in prior generations. They also suggest:
  • establishing a shared vision and goals with Gen Y teachers
  • encouraging shared leadership
  • creating a positive, supportive and welcoming school culture
  • involve Gen Y teachers in decisions and welcome their feedback
  • value the gathering and use of data about student learning and instructional practices
  • providing open, honest and personalized support and mentoring.
I hope you find the ideas thought-provoking. While the tools are not new, the application to Gen Y teachers is different than it would be for Baby Boomers. Just as Baby Boomers changed American society, so will Gen Y. They hold tremendous potential for making a difference in the lives of American students. I'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience with Generation Y teachers.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Decision Fatigue

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about whether the time of day you make a decision impacts the quality of that decision. Well, the evidence is clear that there may be an impact. It is called decision fatigue and it describes a phenomena where the quality of one's decisions made later in the day deteriorates.

The research shows that during the day one's mental energy is depleted, particularly if you focused on complex tasks and decisions. Decision fatigue can cloud a person's judgment and explains undesirable behaviors such as losing focus during meetings, getting angry with colleagues, becoming impulsive or making decisions without consideration of the consequences.

There are things you can do to minimize the effect. They include:
  • recognizing the problem and monitoring your behavior during the day;
  • planning your day so that you schedule important meetings and decisions early in the day;
  • avoiding back-to-back meetings so that you have time to recharge your 'mental energy' between meetings;
  • taking short mental breaks;
  • sleeping on decisions and avoiding making complex decision late in the day; and
  • being clear about your goals so that you minimize the drain of energy associated with sorting through complex issues.
A Research Brief that describes this term more fully is available at the Resources page on my website at www.ronwilliamson.com. I would enjoy hearing from you about your experience with decision fatigue and ideas you may have for avoiding the impact.