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The reality of transition

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Yesterday I was visiting with my wife, an instructional coach in the same district, about the difficult days leading up to the school year. Our three daughters are adjusting to different schedules, we are trying to prepare professionally all while trying to soak up the last summer days together. My wife, Tamara, eloquently calls it “the reality of transition.”

It reminded me of this:

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This transition is made more difficult due to a documented lack of engagement in the profession. A “Fast Company” article by Brandon Busteed references a Gallup poll stating that 69 percent of educators are engaged in their work and “teachers are dead last among all professions Gallup studied in saying their ‘opinions count’ at work and their ‘supervisors create an open and trusting environment.'” With these numbers, it’s no wonder that almost three quarters of teachers dread the coming school year.

Teachers are not alone in the tumult of transition. This same Gallup poll found engagement drops dramatically among students as they progress through school. In elementary school, 76 percent of students feel engaged, while only 44 percent of high school students feel engaged. The lack of engagement among both teachers and students should alarm all educational professionals. It is hard to quantify the countless hours I spent modifying curriculum requirements to attempt a more engaging approach with students. Now I’m beginning to think we need to start reimagining the process, rather than enhancing the existing strategies.

In his TedX video “The Surprising Truth about Learning in Schools”, Will Richardson quotes author Seymour Sarason when describing the learning process. Sarason wrote “Productive learning is where the process engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. Absent wanting to learn, the learning context is unproductive.” The term “productive learning” resonated with me. In my career, I have struggled to instrinsically motivate students to engage with my curriculum. I used to joke, “if I could solve student motivation issues, I would be rich.” I even went before ND English teachers and presented various tools to help students engage with curriculum. I now think I was searching for solutions within the prescribed curricular box.

While reading George Couros book “Innovator’s Mindset” he discussed the topic of engagement. He writes “Engagement is a good thing, but I’ve since learned that we must also empower students and equip them with the skills to learn. It is imperative that we teach learners how to be self-directed and guide their own learning, rather than rely on others to simply engage them.” He uses this graphic from Bill Ferriter to clarify his message. 


Transitioning into the upcoming school year, I do not consider myself in the 69 percent of unengaged teachers (although that may have been true in the past). This is primarily because I’m in the process of reimagining my classroom. I’m hoping students will be surprised when they discover their student-centered English course is unlike anything they have experienced before. This will involve a student-centered approach where they will be managers of their own learning experience. It will involve professional community mentors to help students bridge that gap to their next steps. And it will involve authentic products for authentic, real-world audiences.

Late summer has a new feel in my household. My wife, in her new role as a coach, is excited to assist new teachers in their quest to provide the best possible instruction for their students. It is also the first time in years where I have been excited to get back into the classroom. I’m always searching for new strategies and philosophies to provide my students an advantage upon graduation. Offering opportunities for “productive learning” will provide the transforming transition I need, but more importantly my students deserve.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

The antsy time of year

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We are two-thirds of the way through our school year. Usually, this is the time period in which students start to get antsy. Winter is dragging on, gray skies remain consistent and school breaks are rare. While that may be the case again this year, I also find myself becoming increasingly unsettled as the year progresses.

My uneasiness this year is a culmination of years of reflection on my classroom mission. My district has taken on new initiatives the past few years (as all districts do) to solve the well-documented, disconnected nature between high school graduates and work place preparedness. One emphasis has been allowing teachers to communicate with business professionals in the area, discussing the skills they most want to see in potential employees and focusing on the four C’s (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication). Another emphasis is more data-driven and focused on curriculum continuity and viability. We have aligned ELA curriculum to the ND Common Core State Standards and redesigned units to address possible gaps. We have created common unit assessments, focusing on what we believe to be the most important standards, and we are required to meet and discuss assessment results to evaluate our teaching effectiveness. The implementation of these two areas no doubt costs money and time. However, these initiatives are becoming increasingly  contradictory.

The research and literature discussing skill-building for today’s work force mostly addresses the same concept: schools are missing the most important factors for encouraging future success. In his book Why School?, Will Richardson argues that schools are becoming obsolete. He says we are still operating under an “old world” system when teachers and information were scarce, instead of the current abundance of information that is reality. He says we should be focusing on “preparing students to be learners, above all, who can successfully wield the abundance at their fingertips. It’s a kind of schooling that prepares students for the world they will live in, not the one in which most of us grew up.” Instead of creating “learners”, it feels like we are putting an emphasis on the most assessable skills, not the most important.

Earlier this year my team created a learning goal for students for the purpose of evaluating our own professional growth. Of course, like many districts across the country, it needed to fit the parameters of a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). We were told to look at the skills we value most at our grade level and attempt to build student growth. Here’s the problem, as a freshmen English team, we struggled to find ways to measure the most valuable skills we wanted students to attain. This struggle was multi-faceted: 1) the goal window consisted of 60 school days, or one-third of the year 2) we needed the assessment to be uniform and 3) it had to be an important skill set. As the graph below represents, the most important skills are the most difficult to assess, especially given the time parameters set forth by a SMART goal.

 

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As a team, we settled on improving students’ comma usage to meet 80 percent proficiency according to a uniform scoring rubric. I can barely type it without getting bored. Ironically enough, an administrator rejected it and explained that “comma usage did not seem like something we have a passion for.” That is 100 percent correct. Unfortunately, all the areas we are passionate about are difficult to assess given the SMART goal parameters: critical thinking, resiliency, empathy, curiosity, creativity, etc. To appease the process, we broadened the goal and focused more on student growth than students reaching proficiency. It was still a “basic skill” on the “less important” side of the scale, but definitely easier to provide a uniform, viable assessment.

The process reminded me of a post from a couple of years ago by Dean Shareski (@shareski). He says I’m not anti-measurement. I’m anti- simple. It’s the same reason I hated SMART goals. When the concept was first introduced to me as a teacher it seemed to make sense.  You can’t improve what you can’t measure I was told. However, in all the years I was subjected to that idea, I don’t think I ever wrote one that I cared about. The moment I tried created a goal I realized it would be hard to measure. So instead I focused on writing goals that were easy to measure just to be able to say I had a SMART goal.” Like Shareski, I believe in accountability and student growth, but it should be more flexible to meet the needs of today’s learners. 

We need to align our purpose. We can’t continue to restrict student assessments to a simplified, out-dated system and expect to prepare them for an ever-changing employment environment of complexity and “abundance.” In his book, Richardson refers to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) definition of 21st Century Literacies. He argues that the majority of students today are graduating “illiterate” by these standards. It is hard to disagree when we are required to narrow our focus to meet a restricting criteria.

It won’t be as simple or cut and dry, but we should look at systems that evaluate today’s 21st Century literacies. This also means examining a self-directed professional development approach and a longer, messier process to measure professional effectiveness. In the end, it will allow us to evaluate whether we are really developing “learners”.  It will provide more meaningful results that will have an impact on student learning for years to come.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

A professional courtesy

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In a couple of weeks we will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Twitter. That once blurry, unfamiliar space for sharing ideas has flourished into a terrific resource for information – especially for teachers.

I have worked in my current school district for 11 years, since before Twitter existed. In that time, the district-driven professional development for teachers has changed only slightly. The state still decides the number of PD days districts need and officials have allotted time for individual buildings to decide how to use predetermined time increments. Still, this “sit and get” approach fails to put growth in the hands of the teachers. What makes memes so funny? They speak truth.

With major advancements in technology and communication methods, it’s time districts look to reevaluate professional development strategies. There is always talk about “elevating the teaching profession” or “respect for teachers”, but the current model of professional development falls well short of those sentiments. District leaders should trust that teachers want to improve their instructional practices. To show that trust, leaders should look at self-directed professional development.

Self-directed PD would be a pretty big shift from our current paradigm, where attendance is taken at all events and strict accountability strategies are in place. However, I always go back to the phrase I heard about academic rigor in the classroom “If a student can simply copy answers, is the skill being assessed really valuable?” So I ask, “If a teacher can gain the information through other means (email, media, etc.) is the PD really valuable?” The most successful PD has been described as continual and content-specific, with time for implementation and support. This model could be achieved by allowing teachers to search out their own growth via any number of sources, while still providing district support for the teacher when necessary. Again, this requires trusting that teachers are intrinsically motivated to improve in their professional practice.

Let’s use technology integration strategies as an example. In a survey by Samsung, 90 percent of teachers believe technology integration has a strong impact on student achievement. However, two-thirds of these teachers think they are not adequately trained to effectively implement new technology. My district, West Fargo Schools, has tinkered with alternative methods for improving teaching effectiveness and varying professional development experiences. We have allowed master teachers in our buildings to share best practices, incorporated walkthroughs to see other environments, visited community businesses and collaborated through Professional Learning Communities. Those are great strides from the large blocks of meetings we would sit in a decade ago. However, these strategies are still restrictive in the fact that they assume professional learning only takes place on those designated days with those activities.

In this Freakanomics podcast, Dave Levin, a former teacher and co-founder of the KIPP schools (Knowledge Is Power Program) says  “…we are not training teachers right now to meet the challenges of our kids today. Right? So to this extent we are sort of still training teachers for classrooms of the past. So we’re not teaching teachers well enough how to effectively differentiate for the vast range of skills the kids have. We’re not teaching teachers effectively enough how to use technology to further teaching, and we’re not teaching teachers how to make school relevant for what kids are really needing to succeed in the colleges they may go to or the careers they may pursue 20 years from now.” My district prides itself on the varied learning opportunities provided to students (AP, dual credit, STEM, AVID, intervention, etc.) and rightfully so, these are great programs to help achieve academic growth. It’s interesting that the same avenue has not been provided to teachers. The “one size fits all” model restricts growth.

Self-direct PD would also be more cost effective for school districts. Professional development is an expensive line item for most districts. The 50 largest districts in the country spend $8 billion annually on PD. Eric Schulzke (@eschulzkeexplains how the current model of PD is widely excepted nationwide, but shows little improvement in student achievement. The lack of results would be why my district has tried multiple PD methods in the last decade, all different variations of the “sit and get” approach. It’s time to let teachers drive their own learning. Authors @Myers_Berkowicz provide a variety of resources for teachers who are seeking to independently continue their professional growth. It’s time districts allow teachers to seek out their own learning opportunities instead of continuing the “one size fits all” approach. Growth would be driven by teachers’ instructional needs rather than district initiatives.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

The bottom line: compassion

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Introduction: This post was written on August 17, 2013. It was originally intended to be posted that week. However, events transpired that made it difficult to publicize a post with a theme centered on compassion toward students. Since two and a half years have passed, the topic of this post has caused me much reflection. I will post the original post as intended, but I will include editorial comments in italics.

As the next post on this new adventure called blogging, I would like to spend it as many educators do – looking to the year ahead, full of possibilities and excitement. Personally, I have a couple of new classes on my plate this year, which have me delving into new curriculum and scanning the worldwide web for new resources to help enhance my students’ learning experiences. 

However, it wasn’t until last night that I came to realize the one key ingredient for every successful classroom. As teachers, the content comes easy for us. We have a passion for our subject area and we want to share that passion with our students. Last night, I attended the wedding of a former student and it was the second wedding this summer that involved former students (I know I’m getting old-but that is for another post). This particular wedding was different – not in the expected way such an event separates itself from the rest. No, this wedding was held in the same church where I had attended a funeral eight months prior for a current student who passed away during the school year.

These two events, although common in their location, obviously reside at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Last night, I found myself reflecting on another, more abstract, factor they had in common. As I sat and witnessed these former students express their devotion for each other, I couldn’t help but notice the immense love that transpired throughout the room. It was obvious that each person there cared deeply for this couple and each person wanted the best for them. This was not unlike the other occasion, where the same room, which was standing room only, was filled with individuals who cared deeply for the deceased.

That common factor of deep, unwavering affection slightly surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to draw such a similarity between two drastically different occasions. It helped me to reflect on the connection I had with each of these students. The importance of developing a strong relationship with students started to become clear. 

Since this post, a colleague of mine has described this investment in student learning as emotional currency. Teachers often are deficit spending when it comes to their emotional investment in students. Creating a balance becomes essential, but it is difficult to maintain.

I hesitate to use the term “caring” for this relationship because it really depends on the specific teaching management style of each teacher. However, in every classroom it should be evident that the teacher has a passion for the content, but a stronger passion for the students. At a conference a few weeks ago, student speaker Kayla Hill mentioned “Teachers who do a good job, not only have a passion for what they’re teaching, but for whom they’re teaching.”

As the school year begins, I will not only search for ways to make the content come alive for my students, but I’ll make an effort to make sure each student in my classroom understands the passion I have for them.

This post, although written years ago, has been difficult for me to publicize. The time that has passed since I have written this has forced me to reevaluate my commitment to my students. My philosophy centers on student growth and preparing students for their next step. However, I have realized that it’s impossible for me to perform my job without giving my full commitment to my students. 

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

The most disheartening fact

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The most enjoyable part of my role as a co-curricular adviser is the opportunity for students to participate in the publications program for multiple years. It is different than a traditional class. Throughout their time in publications, I can witness them grow as young adults and journalists, but also as human beings. This extended time together allows me to become more familiar with them and their families. They also become extremely familiar with me and my family. This unique connection is what has made this past 20 months the most difficult of my professional career.

As students graduate and move on from my co-curricular programs, it is my deepest hope that they not only gather the skills necessary to be a multimedia journalist, but they also gain an understanding of how to function ethically and morally in their future communities. I try to model these skills for my students, even supporting their right to free expression to the point of being fired. In the publications classroom, we call ourselves a family. We commit to each other every year and it is always my hope that the bond never fades.

However, since a flawed investigation led to five criminal complaints against my friend and colleague, it has been difficult for me to grasp that certain students no longer feel that connection. This separation has been the most disheartening. During this last year, I received this note from a former student:

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At this student’s graduation party in 2009, a parent told me that if it wasn’t for my publications class, the graduating student would have dropped out long ago. There was a bond within that publications environment that tied everyone together. That’s what made this message so difficult for me to read. Aside from the fact that this student takes aim at my daughters, it crushes me to think this student believes I would express anything but the truth.

Whether they are aware of it or not, by believing the accuser’s allegations, former students are indirectly calling me a liar. The accuser’s allegations, which were not specific until long after the investigation, involve situations where I was present. The most difficult aspect of the past year has been dealing with this mistrust.

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It was difficult for me to understand why former students would suddenly assume I would turn my back on my moral code. Recently a colleague of mine shared a quote from renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, “One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview – not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases…but people prefer reassurance to research.” My students’ worldviews have changed since they were in my classroom and that has made it easier for them to consider me a “mysogynist”.

This worldview concept is evident in other former students’ discussions regarding this situation.

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To me, the sad reality is no amount of fact-based information will sway these perspectives. In fact, as someone responded on a previous post, “It is extremely important for me as an ally to stand with the women who have been violated in any way.” As a teacher, it’s hard not to stand up and clap for this former student’s convictions. However, it is also extremely disheartening that these convictions grasp so tightly to a skewed worldview and are void of the “research” deGrasse Tyson mentions.

A friend and supporter of the accuser posted this article on a social media site. The lines that speak to deGrasse Tyson’s philosophy include, “Many, many, many of your opinions will turn out to be uninformed or just flat out wrong. No, the fact that you believed it doesn’t make it any more valid or worthwhile, and nobody owes your viewpoint any respect simply because it is yours. You can be wrong or ignorant. It will happen. Reality does not care about your feelings.” It hurts that some of my students, who prided themselves on fairness, truth and accuracy in my classroom, would think I would stray from those same core values. I am proud of them for expressing their strong “feelings”, but disheartened that these feelings ignore the truth and “reality” they were taught to pursue.

It has been an emotional 20 months for me as I have reflected on my role in the classroom. These last few posts about this situation have provided me a means to share those thoughts. Moving into the new school year, I will return to my original intent of starting this site: to share my efforts, successes and failures in the ELA classroom. As the year begins, it will be a little harder to form that “family bond” we know so well in the publications environment. It takes time and effort to develop strong trust in these relationships. Knowing that an altered worldview can easily break that trust has been the most disheartening realization.

Stay tuned for:  “The bottom line: Compassion” Editor’s note: This was going to be the next post after my post on August 8, 2014 until the last year caused me to reflect upon my profession. 

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his nine year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us

Reflection on school board decision

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I believe in justice. Ever since I was little, I have always rooted for justice. It provides me with a sense of peace knowing justice has been served. Not only that, but when I see injustice it burns deep and affects all areas of my life.

In my 10-year career and even before as a professional journalist, I have seen and experienced injustice. I was unfairly removed as newspaper adviser in 2009, seen a coach removed from a long-held position with little explanation, seen the teacher’s union avoid involvement in a member’s nightmare and witnessed questionable decisions pass over administrative desks, just to name a few.

After the July 27th meeting where the WFPS School Board reinstated Aaron Knodel with back pay, I have never been more proud to be a member of the WFPS district. District officials took matters into their own hands and conducted a thorough investigation.The list of documents and interviews reviewed by district personnel was impressive. Completing their due diligence allowed them to see all aspects of this unfortunate situation and come to the correct conclusion.

This is the second thorough investigation that has been conducted regarding the information from this case. The first investigation was conducted by Chuck Anderson, a private investigator with more than 30 years of experience. He interviewed more than 30 individuals (BCI agent Mike Ness interviewed 12) and after the investigation decided to not even charge for his services. This is an excerpt from a letter he submitted to Dr. Flowers:

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State officials who pursued these criminal complaints received a strong message from the district’s decision. After two independent investigations reviewed the information related to this case, it should be more clear than ever that the state acted inappropriately. The incomplete investigation and lack of substantial evidence should never have led to five criminal complaints.

It is time the public starts asking the same questions jurors asked after the completion of the trial. One juror even questioned on the Joel Heitkamp Show how the state could put somebody through this with what they had and another juror on the Sandy Buttweiler Show noticed several discrepencies throughout the trial. It’s sad these issues are not being addressed by state officials.

The public response to the district’s decision was as expected. From online discussion threads, it seemed as though the majority of opinions were favorable. What surprises me is public opinion has swayed from the original discussion of criminal charges. Even my former students, who I would have hoped through my courses have learned to evaluate information in its entirety before reaching conclusions, have responded with negative and threatening comments toward myself and my family (the topic of my next and final post on the experiences of this past year). Even local radio hosts have noticed how public opinion has shifted, but people are still missing the fact that the original charges were brought forward by state officials in a damaging and irresponsible manner.

The public comments that are not favorable toward the district decision do not even reference the original investigation or complaints. They are mainly focused on student communication, which has already been addressed. It is disheartening to see the majority of people ignore the original complaints because they are focused on communication times and volume. I have already explained how this isn’t uncommon and Superintendent Dr. David Flowers mentioned the district mentoring initiative at the meeting. It is sad to see non-teachers struggle with this concept and ignore the larger issue: how five separate criminal complaints could be filed with no compelling evidence.

People are ignoring the fact that these communication statistics were taken out of context and combined with other faulty investigative methods to legitimize the criminal complaints. Those complaints cost a well-respected teacher his reputation and state taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers spared no expense during the trial process, even flying a private jet to Fargo for a deposition. In addition, BCI Agent Mike Ness enjoyed spending taxpayer dollars when he tested the “Twilight” book for DNA in more than a hundred places (listen at 30-minute mark here), only to have all results return as negative – proving definitively that Aaron never touched the book or sticky notes he supposedly wrote and yet state officials still proceeded with that evidence accompanied with the five charges. It is time these individuals are held accountable for their actions. It has been documented that BCI agents operate with some immunity and after this series of events it’s easy to see it is time for a change.

The WFPS district officials made a strong statement to state officials Monday night and restored my faith in justice. It’s time the public turns the focus on the main issue. It is obvious from various dialogues that we hold teachers to the highest possible standard; we should expect no less from our state officials.

Stay tuned for:  “The most disheartening fact” Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his nine year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us

Communicating with students today

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The annual North Dakota Council of Teachers of English conference in Mandan this week provided ND English teachers the opportunity to collaborate and reflect on their profession. One of the sessions involved discussing a Young Adult Literature text in small groups. The book, Period 8 by Chris Crutcher, is popular among young readers. It provided teachers a unique discussion about possible teaching strategies and literary strengths/weaknesses.

The novel centers around a group of high school students who attend a voluntary open period during their lunch hour, which is called period 8. This group is led by Mr. Logsdon, a teacher at the end of his career who develops strong, open relationships with each student in his room. His rapport with students is so strong that he works out with them, texts them, calls them and they feel comfortable stopping by his house at random hours when they are distressed. He plays a vital role in helping students find safety from destructive environments.

It is this behavior that led discussion participants to decide whether or not Logsdon is an effective teacher. Everyone agreed that his strong relationships with students made him a great teacher. In fact, one ND English teacher explained that the most effective teachers are those who have strong student relationships. West Fargo officials also recognized this during the 2008-2010 school years and encouraged “Relationships” as one of the BIG 5 components to the staff’s educational philosophy.

Recently, the process of developing and maintaining strong student relationships has come into question. With the recent false accusations against Aaron Knodel that led to a faulty investigation, five criminal complaints, a trial and possible reinstatement, the discussion of student communication remains the focal point.

The WFPS School Board and Superintendent Dr. David Flowers emphasized this in his statement July 13th. He said, “Our focus is on questions of behavior and judgement, and whether any ethical lines were crossed that would cause us concern or influence recommendations regarding Mr. Knodel’s employment in the district.” The fact that Aaron was exonerated from the false accusations will play no role in his reinstatement. Officials are evaluating his communication with a student and whether “ethical lines were crossed.” The only statistics available from this communication is the number of calls/texts sent and received and the communication time. The final district decision is on the agenda for the July 27th board meeting and my next post will reflect on that decision.

As a teacher and a co-curricular coach, the concept of evaluating ethical boundaries based on communication volume and communication times is deeply concerning. I have hundreds of communications with various students through various media (texting, voice calls, Snapchat, Twitter) each school year.

Here are a few text conversations I have had with students the past few months:

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This conversation refers to the day we were taking our group photos. I could not attend school due to illness. Notice the candid language used by this student.

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Here is another text conversation from the national journalism convention trip last spring in Denver. I require students to text me back immediately so I’m constantly aware of their whereabouts. The two eating location requests were accompanied by several phone calls so I could check on the student.

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This text conversation was last month during yearbook camp. Students had an 11 p.m. curfew, but chose to stay up in their rooms and work on their yearbook projects. I offered assistance via text messages. Notice the times of these texts. This assistance continued for another half an hour.

If an outsider evaluated my communication volume and time period without content, the perception of my communication could be skewed if accompanied with false accusations. Even as Aaron was exonerated from the criminal complaints, the public remained focused on the volume and time periods of communication discussed during the trial process.

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These comments concern me because of the role today’s teacher plays in a student’s life. Effective teachers no longer limit communication to classroom direct instruction. Understanding the various methods for extending instruction beyond the classroom differs between digital immigrants and digital natives. This article suggests that the former struggles understanding the communication methods of the latter. (Sidenote: The article also discusses how companies are creating a CXO – Chief Experience Officer, to guide customers’ experiences. A perfect example of how teachers need to prepare students for positions that do not currently exist) Properly preparing students for success is nearly impossible without expanding learning and communication beyond the classroom walls.

The agents at the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation simply focused on times and call volume without the content. (Sidenote: former Towner County Sheriff Vaughn Klier said BCI agents “…think they’re above the law.”) BCI agents used the communication volume statistics, in addition to the misinterpreted colleague comments and the unqualified hand writing analysis, to make the accusations against Aaron seem legitimate. Now that those accusations have been proven false, the fact that district officials and public perception see a specific volume and time frame of student communication as possibly unethical without knowing the content concerns me.

As a dedicated, passionate educator who wants to give students every opportunity to find success, it is difficult for me to see perception skewed over the volume and time of student communication. It seems as though teachers might have to choose between assisting students, who are digital natives, through various modes of communication or maintaining strict communication policies, possibly weakening student rapport and losing effectiveness along the way. That is a sad reality.

Stay tuned for:  “Reflection regarding WFPS board decision” Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his nine year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us

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