Archive for the 'College of Education' Category

Is Your Compassion Fatigued?

13-heart-shape1By Elizabeth Jorgensen

As graduation nears, student excuses amass, skipping increases and academics succumb to prom plans and dorm decorating. The school days drag and the problems compound. And when students want exceptions or extensions, I’m less likely to budge. But a few weeks ago, I realized my post-spring break impatience has a name—and, it turns out, seniors aren’t to blame.

As I sat in Arrowhead’s back-to-school teacher in-service, our school’s Director of Student Services discussed Compassion Fatigue. According to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, “Day in, day out, workers struggle to function in caregiving environments that constantly present heart wrenching, emotional challenges. Affecting positive change in society, a mission so vital to those passionate about caring for others, is perceived as elusive, if not impossible. This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society’s flagrant disregard for the safety and well-being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers. Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.” That’s it! That’s what happens to me, I thought.

The Director of Student Services recommended battling Compassion Fatigue with mindfulness, meditation and yoga. He recommended proper exercise, nutrition and sleep. He also reminded my school’s staff of the importance of self-reflection and supportive relationships.

He warned that Compassion Fatigue could lead to burnout, emotional exhaustion and negative feelings. I wondered how the increased challenges teachers face impact Compassion Fatigue. I also wondered how pervasive this feeling (in teachers and in our school)—especially considering he started the school year with it.

Then, a few weeks later, DPI sent an email. The email stated that “A DPI-ConnectEd subscriber requested help for ‘the emotions and stress that teachers go through,’ which are ‘getting dangerously’ out of balance for many educators. ‘I am concerned that these incredible, dedicated people will step away from teaching. Some of them already have.’” DPI recommended self-care, awareness, balance, connections, and “small, manageable steps.” DPI, like my district, provided resources, “as part of the self-care module, including a step-by-step guide for developing a plan and a sample self-care plan.”

For me, knowing I’m not alone—and being able to identify and name my feelings—makes me feel better. This year, I’m prepared for what feelings might come, especially as second semester nears. I’m planning to take DPI’s suggestion and follow the ABCD’s of self-care: awareness, balance, connections and develop a plan. I hired a personal trainer, I’m making time for myself, and I joined professional organizations (including Marquette University’s College of Education’s Alumni Board).

Although there’s no quick-fix cure to Compassion Fatigue, I’m hoping my patience and compassion will increase this spring. And if (or when) Compassion Fatigue sets in, I know I’m not alone and I know what I can do to minimize its impact.


Giving Thanks.


Marquette in Milwaukee

podcast-microphone-1458764347DK7Earlier this month, Dr. Bill Henk, Dean of the College of Education, and regular Marquette Educator blogger, Sabrina Bartels, participated in the second episode of “Marquette in Milwaukee.” The podcast helmed by Marquette University President Michael Lovell is exploring the ways in which we interact with our community.

The episode entitled “Education in Milwaukee” honed in on what Marquette University can do in a city where the educational needs are many. Joining Dr. Lovell, Dean Henk, and Sabrina was Jonathan Dunn of Milwaukee Succeeds. In the space of one short hour, the conversation not only illuminated some of the issues facing P-12 students today but also explored how Marquette–and particularly the College of Education–can affect change today, tomorrow, and in the schools years to come.

To listen to the full episode and to subscribe to the podcast, check Marquette University out on SoundCloud today.

End of Quarter Reflection Benefits Students—and Teacher


By Elizabeth Jorgensen

The end of first quarter at Arrowhead Union High School was Friday, November 3. On this day, I asked my students to reflect on the progress they’ve made during the first nine weeks of school.

Students started by re-reading their six major pieces of writing. Then, they wrote a letter to me. I provided the following questions as guidance:

  • How have you grown as a writer/person because of this class?
  • What assignments pushed you?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • What did you learn about writing?
  • If you had to do first quarter over, what would you do differently?
  • How has my feedback impacted your writing or writing process?
  • In which ways have you applied the concepts of this class to other classes?
  • Which pieces are you most proud of?
  • What was your biggest struggle?
  • How does the writing in creative writing compare to the writing you do in other classes?
  • What did you wish you had the opportunity to do, but didn’t? What do you hope we work on during second quarter?
  • How did your expectations of creative writing compare to the course so far?

Not only did students reflect on their progress, but they also provided me with powerful, valuable feedback. Three common themes permeated the letters: teacher feedback, personal growth and the writing process (specifically composing multiple drafts). I was shocked by many of the responses. I had no idea the impact my feedback had on my students. With 180 students each semester, too often we don’t get the time to connect one-on-one. However, these letters revealed how each student felt about the course, their progress and my teaching.

I hope you consider asking your students to spend time reflecting, not only for them, but for your insight into them and their learning. Here are excerpts from my students’ reflections:

“I think that this class has improved my writing entirely and has made me both a stronger writer and a person. A significant part of my improvement came from your end, as my teacher, commenting on my work and helping me to improve each and every piece to perfect it any way possible. I think that every teacher should provide feedback to their students like you do because it is extremely helpful and has taught me how to write more efficiently.”

“The advice you have given me and even the compliments on my writing has allowed me to discover how much I love to write. I am still going through a lot of things personally including my adventure in discovering who I am. I have shared multiple pieces we have written in class with my therapist and she used the word catharsis to describe what writing has done for me. This was a powerful moment for me as a person because in my mind all I was doing was doing what was asked of me, when in reality it was much more than that. I realize now that having an outlet that wasn’t self-destructive gave me opportunity to feel proud of how I was coping with a situation rather than regretting a behavior I normally would use to cope with stress or anxiety.”

“Before this class, I never proofread my work and I would never compose multiple drafts for a single piece of work. This class has shown me the importance of proofreading and creating more than one draft. All of pieces have been edited, proofread, and peer edited. For me personally, I found that getting feedback and having someone edit my work helped me revise parts in my work that I might have overlooked otherwise. These edits made me realize how importing editing is in the process of writing.”

“Writing in this class is different than other composition classes I have taken. In past classes, we have wrote just essays and focused on the topic and didn’t dig deeper into the meaning of it. In creative writing, we dig deeper into the origin of a writing where it came from. It helps me have a better understanding of the work I’m composing. This class more than other composition classes has help me improve my writing…This class is challenging but in a good way. If this class was super easy then I don’t think I would take away as much. I like how you comment on our papers very quickly. No teachers have done that before for me and it really helps me see from a different point of what a certain piece of writing needs.”

“Creative writing does not compare to the other writing classes I have taken. In the other classes you are just expected to write papers. In creative writing, we learn more about the type of writing and we go further into detail about the piece. I have learned more in creative writing than in any other writing class. Creative writing is one of the best classes I have taken because I have become a better writer and learned new techniques to tighten up my writing.”

“The revisions are the most helpful part to me in this writing process…Writing my other essays, teachers gave me feedback after I already turned in the paper. When the teachers passed my paper back, I saw my grade and didn’t try to understand why I received that grade. This is why the comments during the writing process make me think how I can improve in this piece. In the long run, I will become a better writer because I will try not to make these same mistakes again. These comments helped me see many problems in my writing that I don’t see.”

“Getting constant feedback from you on everything that we write I am sure takes a good chunk of your time but I am thankful you do it because it definitely helps me going back into a piece multiple times and being able to change things and just make the piece better. I feel like you actually care about us and our writing and want to make us better which is not a feeling that I can say I get from every teacher.”

“I’ll admit, before this class, I was the person who would always type their essays the day of, rushing through what I now realize is a process of contemplation, reflection, and constant editing until a state of perfection (or however close one can get) could be reached. However, I feel that with each project I learn to respect that process even more, and have actually begun to value my writing, and to feel an obligation to take care of it, so I actually can feel proud of it.”

“[This class] has helped improve skills that you wouldn’t normally associate with writing such as problem solving, thinking out of the box, self-reflection and time management. These skills can relate to many different activities besides writing as well as assisting me in being able to be clear and concise in my work. Even if you don’t want to be a writer, I would recommend this class because of the different forms of self-improvement it can offer. This class has met my expectations in being able to make me feel like a better writer.”

“Your philosophy that writing is an art form and not a specific science really resonated with me. I also believed that before this class, my writing could not have gotten any better, but without a doubt, it has improved more than I could have imagined.”

“The writing in this class has challenged me the most, by far, than any other class I have taken. I thank you for showing me how better of a writer I can be.”


A Creative (Writing) Approach to Assessment

bubbleBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Assessment and grades in my creative writing class reflect progress, improvement and growth. Over the course of each assignment, students complete at least three drafts. After each draft, I provide students with feedback, suggestions and corrections. To complete this, I use the “suggesting mode” on Google Docs.

After each draft, students receive points (which reflect the student’s ability to address my feedback and elevate language choices, the plot or writing quality). For a grade, I look for improvement, specifically assessing if today’s draft is better than yesterday’s. Grades in my   creative writing class reflect the work a student does to update his or her draft and make intentional and purposeful choices.

Each assignment, task or draft is worth four points. I remind our students—through words, practice and assessment—that each part of the writing process has equal importance. In my classroom, the brainstorm is worth as much as the first, second, third and final drafts, and is worth as much as peer editing or submitting a piece to a writers’ market. Through this grading system, I encourage students to value each part of the writing process.

I expect each student to hand in something (anything!) each day. I remind students that writing is not about being perfect on the first try—and that if they put something (anything!) down on paper, they will receive not only feedback, but also points. This system allows for not only differentiation and personalization, but also student success in developing writing skills and confidence.

Here are two screenshots of feedback I provided students:

EJ 1


Jorgensen sijo presentation

In the classroom, I focus on building confidence through affirmation and skill development. Mini lessons encourage students to implement stylistic devices or action verbs or varied sentence structures. Peer editing provides an additional resource. Because my students are juniors and seniors, I encourage them to assume ownership of their writing, grade and performance.

There are, of course, students who fail to complete daily work. In these instances, a conference is the first step. Often, this initial contact propels the student into action. Losing four points day after day can also motivate (as students see how quickly not doing daily work can dig an academic grave they can’t escape). If the student remains resistant, a phone call or email home can be the impetus needed. If a student continues to refuse, connecting with a previous teacher or guidance counselor can provide insight (what motivated a student to work in a previous class can often continue to be a motivating factor in creative writing). Additionally, everything students do in creative writing is sent to a writers’ market. This authentic writing—with hard deadlines and strict requirements—works to motivate students through the allure of purpose, publication and monetary awards.

This blog was taken from an article I wrote (“Accommodating All Students: A Co-Teaching Approach to Creative Writing”) for the Wisconsin English Journal’s Creative Writing issue.

Where Do We Go From Here?

sunset-1207326_640By Stephanie Nicoletti

It seems like every time you turn on the news or log onto any social media outlet you find out something terrible has happened in the world. Whether it be a terrorist attack, gun violence, gang violence, the list goes on and on. It seems like we all want to solve these problems but the only way we know how to is by arguing, belittling on social media, or just talking in circles.

Every day I greet my first-graders and think this is my chance to make a difference in our world. I may not be able to make a political difference other than voting, but I can do something even more powerful– I can shape our future. Teachers have the opportunity to teach children empathy and problem solving. We are in charge of making sure our future world is a safe one and better than the one we are living in now. It just starts with our children.

The Cost of Telling the Truth

truth-257160_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Throughout my (several) years of education, I’ve been blessed with a wide variety of amazing teachers. And when I really think about what makes some of these teachers stand out in my memory is the fact that they built a relationship with me. The things they may have done and said may have been small to them, but they meant the world to me. They showed me how much influence and power simple words, actions, and caring can have on a student.

Here’s one example: during my junior year of college, I fell ill with the dreaded “swine flu.” It was right before midterms, and it was awful. I had emailed the professors whose midterms I hadn’t taken yet, explaining my situation and how I was leaving campus early. My wonderful philosophy professor (Dr. Theresa Tobin) emailed me back, telling me to take care and that we would figure out the midterm situation when I returned. It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t going to fail my midterm, or that me being sick would count against me. I am not sure she knew exactly how much peace of mind she gave me that day I went home.

All relationships are built on trust, and I unfortunately had to break the trust of one of my students recently. In terms of confidentiality and mandatory reporting, I had to report the situation. The student begged me not to, even though we had talked about how I had to. Despite all that, it didn’t make anything easier. And with how the situation is unfolding now, I wish things could’ve been different.

It’s taken a lot of discussions with my coworkers to come to grips with the fact that I had to report the situation the student told me about; even though I know I did the right thing, I still worry about my students and the situations they must face. I am also sad, confused, and frustrated by the fact that my connection with this student may be permanently affected as a result. I am worried that this student will not talk to me at all anymore, or may refuse to meet with me and discuss his concerns. I worry that his trust in me is broken. My relationships with my students are precious, and I do not take the fact that they confide in me for granted. Even though my students know the limits of my confidentiality, it doesn’t make things easier when I need to report something that they say.

I’ve talked a lot about the hard aspects of my job, and this is definitely one of them. And of all the difficulties I mention when it comes to counseling, I believe that this is the part I struggle with the most. It’s not easy to feel like you’ve “betrayed” a student’s trust in you, especially when the majority of your career is spent building trust and relationships with your students. It’s even harder when that student actively resists meeting with you, which makes it much more difficult to follow up.

I’m still figuring out how to proceed from here. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had to report something, and it sadly will not be my last, but it is one of the first times a student has resisted talking to me as a result of my reporting. I keep telling myself every day that I did what was right, even though it definitely wasn’t easy or what I wanted to do. My hope is that the situation will work out for the best for my student, and that he is able to go forward living a happy, safe life.

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