#56JEFCOEDSchoolsTour: #1 Clay-Chalkville Middle School
I am giddy with excitement about touring Jefferson County Schools as part of my year as the 2016-2017 Alabama Teacher of the Year. So often, I have wanted to see what is going on in other classrooms, not only in my school, but around my district, Alabama, other states, and other countries. What a blessing it is to have this year to visit classrooms, to see best practices in motion, and share what I learn!
Which school to visit first? I knew that I would begin with my Clay-Chalkville High School feeder pattern. Shannon Petty, CCHS media specialist and my colleague of 17 years, suggested that I shadow her daughter, Julia Petty, at Clay-Chalkville Middle School. What a good decision! Keeping it in the family, I have decided to begin my tour at Clay-Chalkville Middle School shadowing Julia Petty, an eighth grader.
#1 Clay-Chalkville Middle School
CCMS runs a rotating schedule. Julia and her classmates seem to like the schedule as it provides some relief from routine. Attention tends to change throughout the day, so students get to experience each class at different times of the day. This is a type of schedule with built-in equity.
First Period: Julia’s math teacher, Mrs. Ward, was conducting a beginning-of-the-year review before diving into Algebra 1. What impressed me the most from my vantage point of observer was the level of interaction in the math class. Students were helping one another. The teacher was circulating to see what the misconceptions were; she then handled those misconceptions individually, or if necessary, with the entire class. This kind of interaction was not indicative of the math classes I had. The collaborative and relaxed environment in this classroom makes learning math less stressful, and when you have the support of peers, difficulties become bonding opportunities and success is all the sweeter!
Second Period: The signs in Julia’s science classroom tell me that this is a collaborative classroom. Tables are numbered with supplies for the group in color-coded containers. Rules, policies, and procedures are evident in this classroom, and school has been in only a few weeks. I am impressed by the way in which students work together. Not only do group members help one another as they try to answer difficult questions, but some group members also redirect peers who are not thoroughly familiar with the routines.
Third Period: Mrs. Wood had all of her students working on devices: either their own or Chromebooks. Students logged into Google Classroom and began working on the assignment. Compared to my classes, Julia’s English class was relatively small, so everyone was able to get online quickly. Students work collaboratively on an assignment in Google Classroom, with two students working in the same document but from different devices. Collaboration is a theme today.
Fourth Period: P.E. During the first half of Julia’s physical education class, everyone participates. First, students exercise. (I will blog later in the year about physical education classes, and I will give my opinions.) This is a girls only P.E. class, and they look like they are having fun. Next, the girls play tag football, and Julia is in her element. Although I know Julia as a volleyball and softball player, she clearly shows talent with a football. In fact, the girls (some opt out) who are playing clearly love the game.
I had to run back to my school when Julia went to lunch.
Next, I went to Julia’s choir class where the teacher [name] was reviewing classroom rules, policies, and procedures. Julia had volleyball practice at the end of the day, so we parted ways.
I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a good exhaustion. Julia is challenged throughout her day. The only thing that I found difficult was sitting all day. I wonder if we can challenge ourselves as teachers to find different types of activities for students to participate in so that students do not stay seated for most of the day.
Before leaving Clay-Chalkville Middle School, I visited Kristin Cox’s English class. Kristin’s students were proud to tell me the writing terms they had been studying. Concrete detail, evidence, and commentary were the terms, but they applied the terms to the text they were reading and gave examples of evidence to support the thesis and then the commentary, or analysis. I ended the day by visiting Janet Holmes, another English Language Arts colleague, and we talked until the bell rang. While we have had a three-year vertical Professional Learning Community (PLC), I have never been afforded the time to visit my colleagues’ classrooms. We have so much to learn from one another! How can we maximize the professional learning experiences within our schools and feeder patterns?
- Technology works well when everyone is connected.
- Different types of activities that get students moving are needed!