A Teacher’s View on Successful Ways to Turn Around Student Success

“Improve Lives. One Life at a Time.” – Corey Griffith 
 Image result for student successThis post features Atlanta Educator, Corey Griffith fifth grade teacher at Woodson Park Academy located on the west side of Atlanta, GA. Corey specializes in the utilization of culturally responsive strategies, which promote academic achievement and success for all students. His sole mission is to, “Improve Lives. One Life at a Time.”   He can be reached on Twitter: @coreygriffith9, LinkedIn: Corey Griffith, YouTube: Corey Griffith .
Enjoy this experience from a teacher on successful ways to turn around student success. Remember, it takes all of us, every stakeholder; parents, community, advocates and business leaders to support Educators in helping every student find their pathway to success.
 Q: What are the top academic areas of difficulty you’ve found in working with students? 
 A: Overcoming barriers, which can range from a faulty understanding of the alphabetic principle or limited vocabulary, to a lack of preparation, exposure and enrichment, while simultaneously striving to achieve proficiency on benchmark and state tests is undoubtedly the single most difficult challenge I face each year. Being that the bulk of my professional career has been devoted to improving educational conditions and outcomes for schools within economically challenged communities, I have grown accustomed to embracing the challenges, the pressure, and the scrutiny that comes with this particular set of circumstances. It is no secret that ELA/Reading are inextricably tied to every content area and assessment tool used to assess a student’s level of mastery. The focus on curriculum pacing and state tests forces teachers to continue pressing the gas and offers little or no time to pause, reflect, and satisfy deficiencies that are detrimental to the analysis and comprehension of grade-level texts. This would not be such a problem if the evaluators of teacher and school effectiveness would place greater focus on growth rather than on that of mastery/proficiency. Year after year, I witness countless students and teachers who show exponential gains in academic achievement, become reduced to a sense of mediocrity or even failure for not reaching or surpassing the bar labeled “proficiency.”
  Q: In what ways have you found success with homework and continuing education at home?Image result for college and career readiness
  A: Homework has become increasingly tougher to ask of students for a host of reasons. I only assign homework when it is absolutely necessary. I don’t rely solely on parents to help students with homework, which often lies outside the scope of their own ability and experiences. I’ve found that by adhering to the following guidelines, homework is less of a punishment and more likely to be completed with ease.
  • Homework must be able to be completed without a teacher being present.
  • Never send a student home with an objective/task that they haven’t shown proficiency in.
  • Homework is simply practice.
  • Homework must always be a reflection of the standard/objective that was covered that day.
  • Homework must be checked first thing in the morning.

 

Q: As a classroom teacher, do the administrative/paperwork and other assigned duties outweigh your focus on teaching?

A: The national trend in teaching to more clearly document and measure what’s taught and keep teachers accountable could very easily take a significant toll on my mental and physical health if I’m not careful. The planning alone is a gargantuan task, and is constant throughout the year. The daily need to satisfy student, parent, school, and district responsibilities creates a cloud which reduces the energy and excitement that should be present in everything related to teaching and learning. The focus on teaching has taken a backseat to the “checks and balances” which have become non-negotiable. The litigious nature of society has teachers, schools, and districts walking on eggshells as we try to satisfy EVERYONE. In doing so, it’s easy to forget whom we truly come to work for.

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Q: In what ways have you found success in turning around student achievement?

A: My philosophy of teaching and education has allowed me to consistently and effortlessly bolster student achievement throughout my career. A.B.C. is my abbreviation for Allowing the Basic Culture of the student to dictate how I assess, teach, inspire, and motivate. Since first stepping into the teaching profession, I’ve always paid very particular attention to the culture of my subject/student. It is only then that I can employ strategies, which are effective and aligned with students’ cultural identity. Often times, teachers are very knowledgeable of the content, but their strategies are ineffective due to the cultural detachment.

 

Q: Share a success story on student achievement and growth as a classroom teacher.

A: Each year that I have taught, including the current 2016-2017 school year, I have had to remain confident in face of doubt and uncertainty as to the effectiveness of my pedagogy, which doesn’t fit the traditional mold. There has not been a year where students did not excel tremendously, and I credit this to the conceptual framework, which Jackson State University utilizes to consistently produce responsive educators.

2016-2017 marked my first year with Atlanta Public Schools.  Hard work and dedication has once again led my students to being recognized for showing the most growth on the Reading/ELA Star benchmark assessment. I’m very grateful for every opportunity that I have to impose positive change. Their minds are buckets, and I have the power to fill them with what I choose. It simply takes courage on the part of the teacher to do what he/she knows is best for the students that he/she teaches.

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