Tagged: building relationships

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TEACHER VOICES: Heidi Guibord, #1

Building Community Through Snacks, Art, and Conversation

Heidi GuibordEd. note: Heidi Guibord teaches Art at Island High School in Alameda. This is her first post for TEACHER VOICES. Heidi has practiced the visual arts for more than 30 years. Please check out Heidi’s website, which includes galleries of her art works. Indeed, Heidi understands art, teaching, and young people.

favicon The common denominator for young people who attend continuation schools is that they have been unable to navigate their power successfully in other schools. The more specific reasons are complex, layered, and unique to each student.  Most do not want to attend and would rather be back at their old school.  They have had difficult relationships with teachers and administrators, and as I have learned, are reluctant to trust adults.

My first month teaching was rough: new location, new art teacher, new students, new system for me to learn. Former colleague Jessica Gammell once told me that in order for students to respect teachers, there must be trust. In order to build that trust, teachers need to hold high standards and be as consistent as possible. Although I was trying to get basic classroom routines set while trying to figure out school behavioral and academic norms, I needed to build better classroom culture. I also needed to get to know students better, and 55-minute periods don’t always serve that.

At the beginning of October, I started an after-school class that meets 1-2 times a week. Initially designed to serve as an option for credit recovery, the after-school art class has also served to be the place where community has blossomed. I bring in snacks, since students are hungry at the end of the school day. We work on class projects or try new materials.

Just as important, we have conversations. I have listened while my students have shared why they are at a continuation school, what they are frustrated with, and what their plans are after high school. We have discussed whether ouija boards really work, if Lil Wayne is, indeed, attractive, and what the best breakfast cereal is. We’ve also created paintings that will be shown in a holiday presentation through a local business.Those who attend come to my regular class a little more bought into the idea that I care about their education.

So far, 15 students have attended, with seven students earning credits toward graduation as a result of consistent attendance. This is a good start. In looking at the data, I have realized that six of these students are close to graduation. Starting next year, I plan to reach out more to students who are not as close and figure out what projects would get them to attend.

I need to find organizations to help donate snacks, as that seems to be a crucial component. In terms of the power I have as a teacher, I also want to listen with more intention to students and respond with support and opportunities for them to feel empowered in their high school years — and beyond. favicon

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Want to get to know your readers? Ask these 3 questions.

readerfavicon The first step of any strong independent reading program is to do a preliminary diagnostic of your students and their reading skills and interests.

Many schools invest in online or paper assessments to determine students’ grade-level equivalent. Many teachers give out reading inventory surveys for their students to complete.

Both of those are good ideas. I do them.

But this year, I’ve found out that it’s pretty easy to figure out the reading lives of students. Here are my three quick-and-easy questions:

1. What are you reading now?
2. What was the last book you read?
3. What book would you like to read next?

Yep, that’s it! In about 30 seconds, I can find out a lot of information.

Question #1 separates the avid readers from the rest. If the student has an answer to the first question, I’m ecstatic. I won’t ever have to worry about him or her. All I have to do is make sure he or she has access to a Kindle or a library. (About 10 percent of students have an answer.)

Question #2 is where it starts getting interesting. If the student answers within a few seconds, and if the answer isn’t something like Clifford the Dog, then the student is a regular reader. Too many teacher-assigned texts have likely sapped this student’s interest in reading, but independent reading will soon turn that around. My move is to make sure this student has one or two good books in a row to read, and then everything will be fine.

On the other hand, if the student has trouble answering, or doesn’t remember, or reveals that he or she has never read a book before, then the student is a reluctant reader. (Some teachers prefer the term “emerging reader.”) I write this student’s name down. After all, no regular English class with whole-class novels and nonfiction articles will change this student’s relationship to reading. Independent reading could work, but only if I do a good job building a relationship with the student, finding out more about his or her interests, assessing reading skill gaps, and vigorously following up on them.

Question #3 is my favorite because it gets at the student’s interests. If the student is a regular or reluctant reader, who hasn’t read in a while, specific titles of books are hard to come by. That’s OK. I ask him or her what kinds of books he or she would like to read.

Usually, though, the student does come up with an answer. And the answers are very revealing.

Just two weeks ago, when the Kindle Classroom Project expanded to its second classroom, I asked the students Question #3. Here is what some of them said:

my bloody life  life in prison  child called it  goosebumps

Alex: My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King, by Reymundo Sanchez
Johnny: Life in Prison, by Stanley “Tookie” Williams
Brianna: A Child Called It, by Dave Pelzer
Mariyah: Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine.

So, what would you be able to notice? And what would you ask next? For Alex, Johnny, Brianna, and Mariyah, what would be your next move? favicon