Damariscotta Montessori and Searsport EIRs 2019

Damariscotta Montessori’s Educator in Residence: Ross

The last seven weeks in my EIR position at Damariscotta Montessori have been a challenging but extraordinarily fun experience. My first year in the program proved that the kids at DMS are definitely closely intertwined with the programs and curriculum at Kieve, as many of the students have very fond memories of their time here and even the younger primary students are excited to have the experience for themselves. Being such a small school and already having worked with the 1st– 6th graders a bit at Kieve as well as working with the 7th– 8th graders extensively for multiple years, it was not hard to feel accepted. Most students already new my name (though the original introduction as Mr. Richins has yet to completely wear off), and as such it was super easy to insert myself into the daily routine of these great kids.

On a daily basis, my morning routine is fairly consistent, with the majority of my early hours being spent helping out in Mrs. Tabor’s Lower Elementary classroom (grades 1-3),  mostly aiding in spelling, reading, and math. Recess is spent with Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Middle School, after which the rest of my work day varies depending on the day of the week. Monday’s and Wednesday’s, I spend time in the primary classrooms (pre-k) just being an extra hand. Tuesdays I work with the middle schoolers during recess and the 3rd through 5th graders from 1:30-2:30 doing TLS programing. Thursday’s afternoon is spent once again with the middle schoolers doing further TLS activities, and Friday is spent in lower Elementary once again giving a helping hand.

Though dealing with multiple different grades has been quite the transition from just dealing with middle schoolers, the teachers, the parents, and Lucy the dog have been a huge help in helping me connect with the kids, and I have learned a great deal about restorative justice and the idea of mistaken goals, a concept that DMS’s Mrs. Tabor is very familiar with and was willing to teach me and the assistant teachers about. Overall, I have had a wonderful seven weeks at DMS, and though I will be leaving them soon to come back to Kieve and TLS, I am excited for the relationship between the two to grow even stronger than it already is!

Searsport’s Educators in Residence:

As first time Educators In Residence, we are thrilled to be working at Searsport District Middle and High School this winter!  Searsport students are fun and resilient, staff members dedicated and patient, and we’ve been humbled to find ways in which we can support them. Searsport’s school social worker and our site mentor, Judy, has been an invaluable resource and ally to us in this regard. Grades 6, 7, 8, and 10 were identified as those that could most benefit from our support.

In the high school, we have facilitated some activities for the 10th graders during their weekly advisory blocks focusing on communication skills. We’ve also used their advisory to have open discussions about what they want out of our time together. We have also been welcomed in to 10th grade English class, where they are reading A Raisin in the Sun. In that class, we’ve facilitated discussions about interpersonal conflict, and are in the process of planning an experiential lesson about structural inequality. It’s an exciting opportunity to work with some older students on some difficult issues. Our other main role in the high school is to facilitate the 8-12th grade civil rights team. The group began with only a few students, but since the first meeting attendance has increased to about 10. This group is still in the early stages of figuring out what its goals are, but it promises to be a supportive community made up of motivated students.

We use any and every opportunity to spend time with the outrageous 6th and 7th graders, who are eager for more physical and social outlets.  We join them for lunch and recess each day, function as near-peer mentors for many of them, help out with their after-school program, and offer unstructured social time in the gym a couple days a week.  We also facilitate classic TLS activities in their homerooms each week with a focus on building trust, empathy, vulnerability, and above all kindness to oneself and others.

Lastly, we’re collaborating with our site mentor Judy to kick off a 6th/7th grade Civil Rights Team, which is already a large group of about thirty.  Right now our focus is on establishing group norms, building an understanding of basic concepts like rights and bias, and deciding what we as a team want to accomplish.  It is an exciting challenge to work with such a young age group on this meaningful and complex topic.

Overall, being EIRs at Searsport has been an amazing opportunity to form deeper relationships with students, to understand how the school works, to meet their needs, and to bring experiential learning into traditional classrooms. We’re pumped for the last few weeks!