This past Monday I had the opportunity to visit J F Kennedy High to share some information about our new email system. In between sessions I had the opportunity to visit a few classes. There are incredible things going on at JFK. The first thing you notice when talking to any faculty member there is the positive attitude they have towards their students. This attitude in conversation was also evident in their classrooms through their interactions with students. I truly believe a positive relationship with a student is the catalyst for motivating him/her and helping them reach their full potential.
One of the teams I visited was the Masterminds! What a great name for a group of kids. This team inspired me not only on the surface but they have really made sure these kids know they have potential. Instead of sharing with their kids they have an A,B,C,D or F they use the following terminology: Master Guru, Philosopher, Scholar, Apprentice, Recruit. Each of those titles correspond to a letter grade but all have a positive connotation. Imagine getting a recruit on a paper instead of an F! F could shut a kid down while Recruit insinuates they could be on the path for Master Guru Status. The kids also know what each of the status' mean and how to increase to the next level. One of the neatest things I saw was how Ms. Thiel used her district website to promote the student achievements. She posts her Master Guru list(not only for academic but for character) on her web page. Below are some excerpts from her Master Guru page.
We often times look for ways that technology can help in our classrooms and our own websites are a great way to praise kids to build those positive relationships with students. I remember my mom wanting every newspaper with her kids names in it and how proud I was to show her when my name was in it. Our websites allow us to publicly praise our students daily.
Another great feature of Ms. Thiel's classroom was her center driven approach. When I walked in she was working with students in a small group setting, there was a center where students were working on hands on manipulatives, and then there was the computer stations. I really liked this approach because often times as a classroom teacher it is difficult to sign up for an entire computer lab. Using her approach she was able to stay in the classroom and use the few computers that were available to her.
So how did she guide students in what needed to be done? She was using Edmodo for her students to interact and to post assignments. She had links to videos that students were directed to watch, links to interactive math games, links to quizzes etc.... Some of the assignments students had to take a screen shot of their results to submit while others she required them to message what they learned. Students and teacher were able to track the progress of the student. Edmodo is the perfect marriage of the student's need for online social media and the teacher's requirement of curriculum and standards. There are a multitude of resources for Edmodo that can be found on our district wiki. Explore and give it a try.
Often times we are faced with not having enough technology to do what we want. Ms Thiel and the staff at JFK are taking what they do have and making it happen. And that makes the kids smile....and me too.