Archive Page 3

Happy Easter from the College of Education


Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthews 28:18-20

Examining the Shortage of School Counselors

scales-303388_640By Sabrina Bartels – While chatting with my dad on the phone last week, he excitedly told me that he had seen a story about school counselors on the local news. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect; there is often a very negative connotation to a school being on the news. However, this story was a pleasant surprise. It was a special report that begged the question: Is there a school counselor shortage in Wisconsin?

According to the report, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) suggests a 250:1 student to counselor ratio in the schools. However, this ratio does not hold true in many schools. In the report, it was stated that the average student to counselor ratio in Wisconsin is 450:1.

It’s not that we as counselors don’t like having more students. I always think that the more students, the merrier. I also see it as the more students I have, the more lives I can help change. At the same time, as needs in the school are evolving, an increase in students means that I have less time for each student on my caseload.

When my parents were in school, they didn’t have a counselor until high school. Even then, my mom and dad say that they really didn’t see their counselor, unless they needed their high school transcript. My husband, who is only four years older than me, told me that he only saw his counselor twice during his high school career. This is in sharp contrast to what I do on a daily basis: There are students I may see one-on-one every day of the week!

I have students with varying needs as well that need attending to. I meet weekly with some students who have anxiety. For some, they are struggling with issues at home, and I meet with them maybe twice a week. I have students who are behavioral concerns that I meet with on a daily basis; students I meet with on an as-needed basis with drama; and students who I see every other week for academic concerns and organizational skills. And this doesn’t even touch on the responsive services I provide (for example, a student is crying and gets sent down to me,) and the times I am teaching!

I feel as though students nowadays have higher personal and social needs than we did back when my parents (or even I) were in school. With more parents working full-time or juggling multiple jobs, students don’t get as much “face time” with their families, or find it harder to find time to talk with parents. And with the boom of technology, students are finding more ways to interact (both appropriately and inappropriately) via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, Instagram, and Vine. This means that a lot of students may seek out their counselor for advice. In a middle school, that can be quite a number of students!

I do appreciate the fact that the news began to question the student-to-counselor ratio, since it means that more and more schools are seeking counselors. It means that counselors are making a difference in their schools. It means that people are seeing us counselors as important.

We are worthy. We are an integral part of a student’s development. Our focus on social and emotional health, as well as our emphasis on academic and career readiness, is critical to students. We are helping students navigate the choppy, dynamic, and sometimes terrifying waters associated with growing up.

It is so incredibly gratifying to hear that people reach out to their counselor. It reminds me that what I do on a daily basis has worth and that it really matters. There are nights when I come home and feel as though I did not make a difference; seeing that Wisconsin is calling for more counselors lets me know that I am doing something, even if I’m just listening.

Check out the report here!

The Identity Transformation of Male First Generational Students

first gender identityBy Nick Rocha – First generation students often face a multitude of academic and social challenges when they are transitioning into the college environment.  A first-generation student is someone whose parents have not completed or obtained a four-year college degree.  There is an increasing amount of research centered on the connection between social class and academic success, but there is a need for research that focuses on how identity formation strategies are challenged or sustained as students transition from high school to college.  How might certain students socialize and form identities based on their experiences on campus? Does the approach students use in high school translate to the approach used in college?

When considering how students formulate identity about themselves, it is important to take into consideration the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and other statuses when attempting to examine patterns and connections.  “Intersectionality thus provides a framework for understanding how multiple dimensions of identities affect experience, opportunities, and outcomes” (Wilkins, 2014).  As we take each category and status into account, we often get different experiences, explanations, and approaches to identity formation.  So for example a white lower-class first generational male will have a different strategy to define themselves as compared to a black lower-class first generational male.

Based on Amy Wilkin’s observations and interviews of first generational white and black men, the white students mentioned that they did not receive proactive support for their parents in regards to attending college.  They were warmly supportive of whatever decision that the students made regarding occupational goals, even it if meant not attending college.  They also employed a “blending in approach” to identity within high school.  This tactic involved glossing over class differences between themselves and middle-class students; white lower-class students would engage in low-cost activities such as video games, playing Frisbee, and hiking in attempts to develop a social network of friends.  They also avoided trouble such as drinking by changing their peer groups and engaging in sports.

This technique of “acting normal and blending in” translated well into the college atmosphere.  The participants mentioned that they opted out of partying due to it feeling “immature” and being contrary to their academic goals.  They mentioned that they were often bored and lonely due to avoiding social parties, but managed to establish alternative strategies for finding friends.  They used their tactic of blending in to develop peer groups that were often academically focused and supportive of their identity as an academic learner.

For the first generation black students, they mentioned that their families’ prioritized education by moving to certain geographical areas in order to attend certain schools, enrolled their students into desegregation programs, or obtained scholarships for private schools.  Of the students who were interviewed, many of them attended high schools that were predominantly white and as a result their identity was tied to their race and their conception of black masculinity.  Sports were a major status indicator for blacks.  “Sports provide an adult-sanctioned way for boys to demonstrate masculine competitiveness, toughness, and physical prowess, without necessarily compromising academic commitment” (Wilkins, 2014, p.181).  Since black masculinity was limited in predominantly white schools, it was considered valuable and rare.  First generation black males utilized the approach of “standing out” within their high schools; they were not coerced by their peers to fit into the black masculinity identity and this allowed them to integrate well within their social network.  This changed drastically when they attended college however.

Both groups experienced social hardships during the transition into college culture.  Black first generation students, however, struggled to implement their strategies to form and sustain their personal identity in college. Black students who do not play sports are often socially invisible as black masculine men.  “They are marginalized because they do not fulfill peer expectations of youthful black masculinity” (Wilkins, 2014, p.183).  Black first generation men struggle to find social spaces in which they can express their own identity without being coerced by their peers to fit into the adolescent black masculinity stereotype and often found managing relationships with their peers to be emotionally exhausting.  Race became a more impactful factor in identity development for black first generation men compared to their white counterpart.  One student mentioned that all of his peers would talk to him about football even though they were in an engineering class and they ignored his attempts to talk about engineering with them.

Examining the characteristics and strategies utilized by both white and black first generation men provides insight into the challenges and experiences that first generation students face when transitioning from the high school environment to the college environment.  More research should be conducted to examine identity strategies when social class is taken into account and when student’s high school environments are primarily minority students.  “Standing out” may not be a tactic used by black students when their school environment is not primarily white.

Additional research should also examine the differences between gender and how identity development might be different.  According to Chambliss and Takacs (2014), student friendships are critical to student retention.  Educators and social scientists should take a closer look into how identities are reinforced and challenged in college and how a student’s peer group might influence the strategies and techniques that first generation students take in developing their own identity.

Schools and the Perpetuation of Trauma

Logo-primary.jpgBy Nick McDaniels – I live and work in a city that has been plagued by violence of historical proportions.  Recently, my school system has made it an initiative to instruct teachers about the effects of trauma resulting from violence on students.  What the school system wants is for teachers to understand that students who witness acts of violence, have violence perpetrated against them or a family member, may exhibit off-task behaviors in class.  What the school system wants teachers to do is to adjust our interactions with students to accommodate their responses to trauma.

Forgive my tone, but thank you for pointing out the obvious.

In this way, Baltimore has a school system not unlike many urban school systems, where a city’s problems with violent crime places limits on classroom learning.  And, Baltimore’s initiative, as patronizing as it may be for those of us who work the day-to-day in the classroom, is a good one.  Honestly, we as teachers need to be reminded that sometimes, or perhaps even often, classroom misbehaviors may be the manifestations of other experiences.  In fact, it registered for me that the other day when a student called me an @$%*&# because I changed the presentation slide too fast, that anger was probably not really directed toward me.  These reminders help.

But what about our role in the perpetuation of this “trauma?”  Gone are the days when schools can be considered the safe-havens away from neighborhood violence.  There are small fractions of many student bodies that perpetrate acts of violence against other students, repeatedly.  These students, due to a drastic reduction in suspension, expulsion, alternative schools, intense intervention services, are often inserted immediately back into the student body where they can repeat offend.  These offenders are often themselves impacted by trauma, but in school, instead of helping them cope, we allow them to inflict similar trauma on others.

As a student, after you have been robbed in school, beat up in school, threatened in school, only to return the next day to see the same perpetrator sitting again next to you in second period, you will undoubtedly feel the perpetuation of the initial trauma.

By allowing students to engage in physical fights with one another and putting the students immediately back into the same classroom, we are letting students know, as they learned long ago in our communities, that if you experience trauma, no one will help you avoid future iterations of the same trauma.  On the contrary, we are going to force you to endure the memory of violence against you through compulsory education.  And so these emotional impacts (fear, hopelessness, etc…) of trauma manifest themselves as anger, and hence, more violence.

Quite frankly, an explanation of misbehavior as a result of trauma is not enough.  If we refuse to isolate students from future trauma in schools, then we are offering no more than insulting lip service to a dire problem.  The answer, as I have said many times, is not to increase suspension rates for violent in-school offenses, but to increase services for students exhibiting violent behaviors and isolate them from students who are not exhibiting such behaviors during treatment.  If we are not protecting the kids who have yet been untouched by trauma from those who have and have failed to cope in a healthy way, then we are ensuring that every student will eventually be impacted by trauma as a result of violence in schools.

Lessons on Professionalism and Teaching from Field Placement

images.jpgBy Amanda Szramiak –It’s always a little daunting to get the email from the field placement coordinators addressing you and your cooperating teacher. The long, polite email that thanks your cooperating teacher for doing a service for the education community is an awkward introduction especially since you know nothing about this person. You can Google the school you have been placed at and do a little detective work, but usually you have no idea what this experience will entail.

I have heard horror stories about difficult field placement. I have had nothing but great experiences in the schools I have been in, and I have been so fortunate to work with teachers who are genuinely interested in helping me becoming a successful teacher. I sympathize with my peers who have been less than lucky, but I have always been thankful for my great luck. While field placement entails good and bad days, I think it important to develop skills in learning how to deal with so many people in the education world.

Represent Marquette Positively. As a Marquette student, it is important to represent MU in a positive way. During my field placements, I try to make sure I am giving Marquette a good name. Whether I ask my cooperating teacher questions to strengthen my teaching or I say hello to the secretary, I make sure to always have a smile on my face.

Be overly prepared. Why yes, I already finished that lesson plan I am teaching in two weeks and it is already in your inbox. You want me to cut this paper in half? Already done. Being overly prepared in every aspect that I have control over in my placement has helped me tremendously. The last thing I need is to forget to write a lesson or bring certain forms back so I find it extremely helpful to be as prepared as possible for my placement hours.

Don’t take it out on the students. I don’t take the bad days out on the students. I think it is so important to realize that everyone in your field placement school is going through something. The students or teachers could be having bad days so I think it is important to remember that. I also think it is imperative to try and not take your own bad days out on the students.

Make friends with others in the school. The security guard loves me. Every time I check in and check out, he has a smile on his face and he always asks how I’m doing. I also have made friends with a teacher in passing, and their smiles reassure me on rough days.

Use this as a learning experience for future jobs. I have been thankful for all my positive experiences. However, I did always wonder how realistic it was that I had just happened to be in great classrooms with amazing students and equally wonderful co-ops. I didn’t necessarily want a bad placement, but I was worried that I would get to my first year teaching and be in for a rude awakening. On good days and bad days, my field experiences have given me some really helpful ways to deal with people in the working world. I have learned so many different classroom management strategies, and I think this will only help me in my future classroom. I want to make meaningful lessons that engage my future students rather than just reading verbatim off a textbook. I have learned to appreciate my field experiences as they will help me become a better educator.

The Most Terrifying Question I Have Ever Asked in a Classroom

Introduction: As a brief aside, attending Marquette’s College of Education was an invaluable experience. I could go on about the specific aspects that have served me most; simply put, I appreciate Marquette for the professional problems that I have not had to deal with. I have hosted several field students from various local colleges and universities. Marquette’s field students have been most prepared to positively impact student learning. I am thankful for that, and for the opportunity to share a little about the greatest unforeseen gift Marquette has given me: my (now) fianceé Jamie.

As teachers, I know you’re pressed for time and being pulled in a million directions at once, so to save time I thought about describing the proposal in a format familiar to us all.

Marquette University Lesson  (Proposal) Plan Template
The Most Terrifying Question I’ve Ever Asked In a Classroom


Yes or No- That is the Question                                       Subject/Grade Level/Lesson Duration

Section A. Lesson Preparation

Rationale – Why is it important for students to learn the content of the lesson?
This question assumes the reader has any vested interest in the story that follows.

Description of Learners – What factors must be considered in order to accommodate the diversity of learners in your class?

1. What are your girlfriend’s developmental skills? (Cognitive? Physical? Social? Emotional? Motivational?)
Jamie is kind, light-hearted, thoughtful, and sentimental. To know Jamie is to know care, compassion, and the consideration of others. She embodies Marquette’s identity of Cura Personalis, care for the whole person—towards me, her family, and especially her students.

2.How can the personal/cultural/community skills of your girlfriend be utilized in this lesson?
Although Jamie is a math teacher, she is also somewhat of a natural historian. I’m not sure whether it is innate sentimentality or just the need to photographically document her life, but Jamie is an ardent supporter of the ‘photo collage.’  As such, it will be important to incorporate elements of this asset into a marriage proposal.
I’m not kidding. She must have been responsible for half of Kodak’s revenue prior to acquiring a digital camera.

  1. What prior knowledge, skills, and understanding must I have in order to successfully engage in this lesson?
    Prior Knowledge– Jamie is the youngest of eight. It is a big Brady Bunch sort of family and spread out from the South Side of Chicago to Sarasota, and everywhere in between. Mine is almost entirely concentrated in the New York metropolitan area. She often laments about the inability to see our families as regularly as she would like. I knew that key elements of a proposal would somehow involve incorporating as much of our families as possible.
    Skills– Jamie has an uncanny ability to recall specific conversations and details from the past.  I knew that the proposal would need to involve her desire to revisit special moments in her life.
  1. What preconceptions/misconceptions/misunderstandings/errors might Jamie have about the concepts in this lesson?
    Jamie is a very perceptive and inquisitive person by nature. To avoid an error in execution, it is essential to maintain a level of secrecy once I acquire the ring.
    I think that she knew I had bought the ring, so I employed the skill of her friends to mislead her. Additionally, I intentionally waited until the week after Valentine’s Day. I knew that she thought that if I hadn’t proposed on Valentine’s Day, then it wasn’t going to happen for a while. This would buy me some time.

Objectives/Learner Outcomes and Assessments (formal and informal)

  1. List the measurable learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, dispositions) that Jamie is expected to demonstrate as a result of the lesson?

A. Jamie will follow the guided clues to lead her on a scavenger hunt to some of her favorite places.
B. Jamie will ultimately arrive in the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center at Marquette University and view the proposal video.
C. Jamie will accept my proposal for marriage.

  1. For each of the above outcomes, what ASSESSMENTS will you use to evaluate each of your learning outcomes? (Give a brief description).
    A. Jamie will follow the coded directions on four cards that will lead her to three locations, which will serve as three formative assessments. The first location is her favorite restaurant for breakfast with her mom. The manager will give her the next card. The second location is a nail salon. Her technician will give her the next card. The final location is Marquette’s College of Education. The formative assessments will be verified by Jamie’s arrival at each respective location.
    The difficulty of writing these, like any assessment, was finding the appropriate level of rigor while still allowing for learners (Jamie) to succeed. I had not initially planned on sending Jamie to have her nails done (I was thinking paid shopping spree at Nike instead), but one her friends quite astutely pointed out that if I was giving her a ring, I had better make sure her nails looked the part for pictures. Thanks, Sam.
    B. Jamie will arrive in the Hartman Center at Marquette. I knew Jamie had spent considerable time there working with the students, and since we were both Education majors, it made sense for her summative assessment to take place here.
    This would not have been made possible without the direct and willing assistance of Tina McNamara. Not only is she an exceptional advisor, but also one of my favorite St. Thomas More parents. Thank you Tina for your help and for navigating me back on to a successful academic track during my freshman year.
    C. Jamie will accept my marriage proposal.
    Assessing this was quite obvious. I was fairly certain of the outcome, but I’d imagine that everyone still has that fleeting moment of doubt. Also, my father had secretly flown in from New York for the day, so it would have made for an awkward moment at the ‘Arrivals Terminal’ had she turned me down.

Standards Addressed – What Core State Standards (English/Language Arts, Math, Disciplinary Literacy) or Wisconsin model academic standards (Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language) are specifically addressed in the lesson? Please list the number and text of the standard. If only a portion of a standard is being addressed, then only list the relevant part(s).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text.
I definitely had to look this up. Nevertheless, Jamie would need this skill to decipher my attempt at clues leading her to the next location.

Materials/Resources/Technology – List all materials/resources/technology needed to support instructional procedures in this lesson.

  1. Computer to play my video: I was able to set up my laptop on a table in the Hartman Center.
  1. Proposal Video: This was definitely the most time consuming. For months leading up to the proposal, I had to sneak around and meet with her family/friends to film them for the video. Ideally, I was looking for words of congratulations, advice for the future, or fond memories of Jamie and me. Some people proved too inaccessible to reach first hand (Alaska and Washington D.C.), but they were more than willing to send me a video. The group below details the full checklist that I had:
  • 3 Brothers (Chicago, Chicago, Madison)
  • 3 Sisters (Waukesha, Brookfield, Chicago)
  • 2 Nephews (Waukesha, Chicago)
  • 2 Nieces (Chicago)
  • 2 Aunts (Sarasota, Chicago)
  • 1 Uncle (Chicago)
  • 4 Former Daycare Parents/Children (Brookfield)
  • 9 Friends (Waukesha, Washington D.C., Alaska, Waukegan, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, New Berlin, Gurnee)
  • 5 “Moms”- Told you it was like the Brady Bunch (Gurnee, Brookfield, Chicago, Queens-NY)
  • 2 Fathers- (Brookfield, Queens-NY)
  1. Ring: I must have checked my pocket 100 times that morning.
  1. Future Mother-in-law: Needed to block a tour of prospective students from entering the Hartman Center while I was on a knee, mid-proposal. Yes. That happened.

Section B: Content/Procedures/Sequence (Include estimated time for each activity)

Content outline

1. Introduction: Flowers with first clue
2. First Stop: Breakfast with her mother
3. Second Stop: Nail Salon
4. Last Stop: MU Hartman Center
5. Closure: Proposal

Instructional strategies/learning tasks/sequence of activities (include what you and the students will be doing that supports diverse student needs)
1. Jamie and I had plans to see each other the day before. I was not thinking and had already picked up the flowers that morning from the florist, so they were sitting on my kitchen table. When she came over, I needed to hide them in a hurry. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the good people at Maytag for engineering a dryer large enough to hold an entire floral arrangement.

Section C: Closure

Summary of lesson – How will you bring the lesson to a close? (One-two statements that you will say at the end of the lesson)

Statement One: “Will you marry me?”
Jamie’s response: “It’s a princess cut!” followed immediately by, “DUH!”
Statement Two: “Now what?”
Her sister’s had planned a party at her parent’s house in Brookfield.

Assignment – What independent work will be assigned?
The next step is the planning process.
I will save that for another day, but let me just briefly mention that I have since learned there are more than thirty ways to fold and place a napkins on plates. Who knew?

Section D: Self-Assessment and Reflection (To be completed only if and after you teach the lesson)

  1. Was the lesson successful? What DATA or EVIDENCE support your conclusions?

Gleeson Picture


Kevin Gleeson (Class of 2011) is the Social Science Department Chair at St. Thomas More High School on Milwaukee’s South Side.

When and if to Talk to Student About Politics

3002972826_5f146862c0_o.jpgBy Peggy Wuenstel – As the rhetoric around the upcoming election heats up, conversations in the classroom inevitably are peppered with some of what our students are hearing and seeing on the airwaves. It is always a careful line to walk when kids ask you to participate in this exchange. While it is always our responsibility not to present our political opinions as fact to students, it is also our right to have those same opinions.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a teacher is to be a consistent, appropriate model of participation in our system of government. I proudly wear my “I Voted” sticker back to class after casting my ballot and welcome their questions about the process. I answer factual questions when I can, and when I can’t, make the promise to find out, just as I would in every other area in which they ask for information. I help them to distinguish between fact and opinion and to consider their sources, even as early as kindergarten. I have fielded a lot of questions this year about why anyone would WANT to be president. We are raising a generation of kids who do not see female or candidates of color as historic, unlikely, or impossible. How encouraging is that?

I am also aware of my role as a role model and the necessity not to use that in inappropriate ways. They know which aging blue mini-van in the parking lot is mine. As it is visible from my classroom, my choice of bumper stickers reflects that caution. They are issue-related, not candidate-specific. I am unabashedly pro-public education, anti-money in politics, and pro-income equality.  I am active politically in the community and the political action chair for my local education association. I have promoted local referenda, campaigned for pro-education school board candidates across the spectrum of elected offices, written opinion pieces, and financially supported individuals and causes I believe in.

My selection as one of Wisconsin’s Teachers of the Year in the turbulent year of 2010 presented me with a new set of responsibilities and directives. I must be the kind of teacher who knows what is happening and participates in the decision making at all levels possible. It has changed my life. Being informed, active, and concerned about the welfare of the others is the kind of role model I want to be for my students.

I was providing a reading lesson to two third graders a few weeks back about former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. (This was before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, so their engagement surprised me even more than if it had followed the media coverage of his death and resulting controversy about a new appointment to the court.) The online article traced her path from student to justice, but did not thoroughly explain how a justice is selected. Much to my delight, they asked, and the process of presidential nomination and senate confirmation came up. I briefly discussed that this is one of the reasons that it is important to choose a president whose values are those we want on the Supreme Court and how the system of checks and balances is outlined in The Constitution.

One of these students is of Hispanic heritage and the other’s background is African American, although he has been raised by loving Caucasian parents who are educators. The only difference this has ever made is in the need to provide reading selections and lessons that are diverse and inclusive. On this day, they gave me the instruction. V, the first student, said vehemently, “We’d better not pick Trump then. He wants to send all Mexicans back to Mexico and I don’t want to go.” V was born here and his parents run a successful local landscaping business. J, his partner in this reading group replied, “Well. I’m black and he doesn’t like me either.” My teacher radar kicked into high gear, realizing that some kind of explanation was going to be needed.

They provided the direction for our conversation, asking me directly, “Are you voting for Donald Trump?” My response, “It is not my place to tell you who to vote for, or to influence your decisions about things like that. What I can tell you is that when I choose who to vote for in a presidential election, I look for the best leader. That, in my view, is someone who tries to bring people together and make everyone feel like they have an important part to play in making our country work well.” They said in reply, almost in unison: “Then you are not voting for Donald Trump.” My smile was my response.

I like to think about a broader definition of politics when I consider whether or not to discuss it directly with students. They need to have a basic understanding of how schools are funded, how elections work, or don’t work, and their eventual place in it. As a mentor of mine once told me, “It is not my job to tell you what to think, it is to give you something to think about.” And these kids are paying attention to some things. We need to make sure that that partial knowledge doesn’t pass for comprehension of the issues and direct the hard choices that have to be made.

This anecdote from back in the recall election days illustrates the point. While helping a fourth grader complete his Wisconsin government test, he had trouble recalling the first name of Governor Walker. I suggested that he remember the signs he had seen in the community and the ads he had seen on television to help him complete his response. What did he write? Recall. It will forever be a reminder to me that if we want kids to look for the whole story, we have to be willing to tell it in a way that inspires them to be an informed participant in democracy.

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