I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
Last night, our school, Columbia Intermediate, held its Open House for 5th and 6th graders. We have recently made the switch to teams, based on our study of Taming of the Team by Jack Berckemeyer, an hilarious and informative speaker and workshop leader. Our principal is passionate about meeting the needs of middle school/intermediate students, and she felt that moving toward teaming would help us do that. I am part of the leadership team, responsible for helping move our building toward teaming. One of the things we wanted to do to support our students is revamp the way we do our opening programs. We used to have an ice cream social, and then an information session a week or so later. These weren't terrible, but they weren't particularly innovative, either, and largely involved the parents by having them sit and listen in a packed cafeteria. We decided to go back to an Open House idea, but with a few twists.
Our fifth grade teams are still in teams of two (with one three-person team), helping the transition between our three elementary schools, where students have been since kindergarten, and our intermediate building. Our sixth grade teams are in teams of four, helping our students transition to a junior high experience, where they will have many teachers. Teams chose names and mottoes (I work with many teams since I teach kids identified gifted in reading, but I was still assigned to the sixth grade Team Legacy, to give me a "home" - other specials teachers, like our intervention specialists, were also assigned teams). Some teams even chose to make t-shirts (Team Renaissance). Teams will be meeting at least once a week to discuss students and make plans, contact parents, meet with students, etc. I love the spirit of collaboration and caring this creates.
Our Open House started at 6, and by 5:30, there was a long line of parents ready to come in and learn about our school and its teachers. We arranged "Lockers and Lollipops," since students get lockers and locker combinations this year. In the past, this caused a lot of stress and chaos on the first day of school when students tried getting into their lockers for the first time. We helped alleviate this by giving them their locker combinations last night and having them try it out. When they were successful, they opened the locker and found a lollipop and a note of encouragement inside. Some teams set up scavenger hunts, Chromebooks with a Google Parent Information form, gave out creative team brochures, arranged ice-breakers, and much more. Students were able to go through the cafeteria line and tour the building. It was a night filled with energy and positivity. And we still served ice cream.
There is no doubt that students will start today feeling more relaxed and excited since they've met their teachers, saw that they will be taken care of and encouraged by teams, and experienced a staff who is ready for them.