CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.
What are the voices in the 203, my sixth and seventh grade math classroom? This morning, perhaps because of the heat, the room is more subdued than usual with each student lost in their own plans for moving forward. I find satisfaction in watching students clothe themselves with the mantle of purposeful learning. During check-ins on this Workshop Wednesday, students in the 203 get right to reviewing their weekly plans, creating evidences, exploring pre-assessments or learning vocabulary. There is a rhythm that exists compelling each student forward along their own pathway.
Jackson asks about factoring. Charlotte and I discuss using decimals to check her fraction work. In this corner, a student is helping a friend with multiplying Integers “because 9 x-9 is -81.”, in another a student is reviewing a civics slide show for social studies. That's OK too, as no measurement topic (MT), those assessment areas that we focus on at Hall-Dale Middle, is more important than another. It all comes down to moving forward. Our expectation is that tomorrow you will be further along your path than you are today.
Often, incoming sixth-grade students are overwhelmed before they get aboard the Good Ship 203 with their sea legs under them. Eventually, a student or two will quickly embrace the freedom that personalized learning offers. Myra is one such student. She spent much of the first class period or two engaged in a conversation with her BFF. Yet, over the past week, Myra’s questions are more focused and her work is top quality. She has moved ahead of the class in terms of MT's completed.
She is now helping other students not just in her 7th period class but other class periods as well. Speaking with her, she relates that she wants to do well, “to get 4's.” I can also see it in her eyes that she is proud when I suggest that she is a leader. Being human, she is not perfect, but amid the early winds of a new year, Myra is emerging as a student who is beginning to take advantage of the freedom the 203 offers.
There are students who only need to see me for 10 minutes to ask questions about the topics they are doing – and then go off and be productive. They don't require the daily hour seat time in math class. Dorothy is one such student.
She recently was struggling with an application of the distributive property. She was very happy when she solved it. She was “initially really confused, I knew that I did all the evidence and I knew what I was doing. Sometimes you forget about using different measurement topics.” Perseverance and a growth mindset are most assuredly Dorothy's companions.
The 203 provides all students opportunities to be so self-aware. “I think that you can go on a pace that's comfortable,” she says. “You can move around the MT. You don't have to do every single piece of evidence if you know it. It does feel like you are more in control of how well you are doing, how much you get done and how fast. I know where I am. Doing specific things to move myself forward. Not just doing ‘math’ as it was in the elementary grades.”
Whenever I see her, she is focused and has flourished in the learner centered system. “I like it,” she offers, “because you don't have to be physically in the class to move forward. The only questions I have to ask are “How do I do it?” not “What do I do next?” Whenever I wonder about student agency I think of Dorothy. She has it.
In practice, when students buy into the promise of moving forward at a pace not tied to the seat mate next to them, I see an improvement. Chloe, shares that frustration. “Waiting is annoying,” she says, "It was frustrating that I could finish the 5th level MTs and not be allowed to start the 6th. I had to wait." “Math is my favorite subject,” she readily tells me. That's a good thing as she wants to be a doctor. She likes the system in the 203 because she is not held back. “I can learn differently – either faster or slower depending on what I need. Unlike in the elementary school where I had to sit, listen to a lesson and work with others and wait.”
The mantra in the 203 is KMF, “Keep Moving Forward”. Personalized learning is more than just a buzz phrase but rather a promise that all students have the voice and responsibility to move themselves as they need. Hall-Dale Middle School provides an environment that will meet them where they are. The 203 will help them to move forward as they need. That is the real voice in the 203.