Jefferson’s Educator In Residence: Brian
I am Brian Sperry. This winter I have had the opportunity to spend my time, in the Educator in Residence program, with the students and faculty of Jefferson Village School. The EIR program is brand new to JVS, so needless to say, I could hardly contain my excitement to start this journey with them and share the Kieve-Wavus message. The things I help students with at JVS are ever changing; the social emotional needs of the student body are great, and just like with most kids in 2018, social media compounds the issues that they deal with. Whether the issues stem from home or from school, the students are followed by them and are bombarded, again and again, when they choose to access one of their numerous screens.
When I began the EIR position this January, numerous teachers and administrators told me that the need for social emotional understanding was high at JVS, but that there wasn’t much room in the schedule for me to teach our TLS curriculum or mentor students outside of the lunch hour. I saw this as my first task; find the time. I started off by working with whichever teachers were interested, or would give me any time out of their classes to work with students. The times seemed sporadic and my schedule was like a jigsaw puzzle; I would break up larger lesson plans into 15-minute chunks to be taught over multiple days, it wasn’t ideal but it was working. After a few weeks, a couple of teachers approached me about the changes they had seen in their students and asked if I could work with them on a more regular basis. I was invited to work with classes I hadn’t yet, and it was decided that I could work regularly with a group of the “tougher” students in the eighth grade; they had found the time.
Now, in my eighth week of the EIR program, I have a fairly regular schedule. I say “fairly” only because there are small gaps in it that I would love to see filled. I am using our TLS curriculum to teach social-emotional learning to every grade except the first grade and kindergarten, working more regularly with the grade levels that have the most need for it, and facilitating a social skills group with a number of eighth grade boys three days a week. I am busier than ever and am really making a difference in the lives of the students and staff here.
Teaching a curriculum similar to what we do at TLS takes up a little more than half of my time at Jefferson. The teachers identified the social and emotional skills that each grade or group of students is lacking, and I have tailored the curriculum for my classes accordingly. For example, I was told that the sixth grade has trouble working with others that they see as belonging in different social groups, so I work with them twice a week on accepting each other’s differences and compromising with peers. As my time with each grade has become more regular, it has been an absolute pleasure to watch the students fail, succeed, and grow together. Conversations about real social and emotional issues, that I didn’t think were possible week one, happen regularly after most activities.
The rest of my time at JVS is split up amongst a few other things; the most notable is mentoring students in smaller “social-skills” groups. In particular, I have had much success with a group of eighth grade boys I work with three times a week. These boys have had a hard time following rules, taking directions, and keeping up on their schoolwork. The work I have been able to do with them is centered on controlling their own emotions and making healthier decisions. Using these ideas, the boys are able to set goals, create and practice coping mechanisms, are willing and able to identify unhealthy decisions, and discuss why they make them. Though it has not always been easy with them, there have been moments when they seemed uninterested or wanted to throw punches instead of talk it out, a lot of progress has been made. It is really wonderful to watch these young men workshop ideas on how to better their situations and control their emotions with each other.
My time at Jefferson Village School has been well spent. Though it started off feeling like I was scraping together moments throughout the day to work with the students, now I feel like an integral part of the community. Teachers ask my opinion on tough situations and issues, and for the most part the student body is interested in discussing and working through the social and emotional issues that follow them day-to-day.
8th Grade All-Star Week
During February Vacation, we invite four high achieving students from a group of the schools involved in our Educator In Residence program to stay at Kieve and participate in what we call Kieve All-Star Week. This week is all about students working together to improve themselves and their communities. This year, 35 students from nine EIR schools joined us for the week. These students focused on understanding empathy, causing positive change in their communities, and practicing small group facilitation.
To better understand empathy, we ask kids to discuss their communities; the things they love about them and the challenges they find in them. We ask them to think about the hardships that other community’s members face and the things they themselves would like to see changed. By brainstorming the wants and needs of each of their individual communities, our hope is that students will be able to connect in some way with the members of their communities that need help the most.
During the course of the week, students discuss the challenges and hardships that are present in their communities; ultimately, they choose one and begin the action plan process. Students work together to create “action plans,” plans to help those affected by the challenges and hardships present in their communities or ways to help better their communities in general.
Students also have a chance to learn how to facilitate activities of small groups during this week. The students learn the basics of the team process and reflection from our educators in the beginning of the week, and then design their own experiential education activities in which they practice facilitating an activity and a reflection process with a group of their peers. Our hope is that these students can take their newfound facilitation skills back to their communities and create a positive change.
Kieve All-Star Week is a wonderful opportunity for these extraordinary students to take their first steps in becoming agents of change for their communities. It’s also an opportunity for us as Leadership School educators to continue our work with our students, allowing us to create a longer lasting change in the kids of Maine and their communities.
South Bristol’s Educator in Residence: Katrina
South Bristol is the smallest school participating in our Educator in Residence program, with only five classrooms in the K-8 school. Because of that, I am only there twice a week, but I’ve still had plenty of time to get to know the school and the students!
On Wednesdays I spend most of my morning working with Mrs. Giles-Brown, who is the Physical Education teacher. We see students from kindergarten to fourth grade, and she runs a variety of games and activities. One of my favorites is the roller blading unit for the third and fourth grade class. They’ve improved so much, and I love encouraging them and hearing all of the “did you see me do that?”, and “can you watch me practice my routine?”. After lunch I work with the kindergartners a little bit, either helping out in their classroom or running little activities to get them working together. I end my day in the fifth and sixth grade class working on their Quest project, which Mr. Bigonia describes as “poetic scavenger hunt designed to teach the quester about a particular location and to get him/her outside and active in the community”. It’s fun to learn about the history of South Bristol with the students, and I usually try to join a different small group each week to get to know the students better. (more South Bristol quest information here: https://southbristolmathandscience.weebly.com/quests.html)
On Friday’s I primarily work with the guidance counselor, Mrs. Edgar, leading guidance classes. She has been great about letting me run some TLS curriculum, some of which we’ve been modifying due to age and some really small class sizes. We’ve been working to frame our activities to focus on South Bristol’s character traits: self-control person, self-control school work, curiosity, zest, grit, social intelligence, gratitude, and optimism. Some discussions have gone better than other, but it’s been an interesting way to run the curriculum, and I think the kids enjoyed it.
One of my favorite activities so far has been the community maps project we did my second week there, where I asked every class to draw a map of their community. It’s a very open-ended prompt, but they did well with it, and it was interesting to see what they thought was important enough to add to the map (for example, the kindergarten students LOVE kittens, and made sure to include the cat tape dispenser in theirs).
In the few remaining weeks, I’m looking forward to having the fifth, six, and seventh graders at Kieve for a day, and spending more time with all of the students at South Bristol School.
February Adventure Camp
During February vacation, Kieve hosted local students for Adventure Camp, a day camp for kids in grades pre-K to 6th. Many of the kids have joined us for the camp in previous years, so it’s always fun to see familiar faces and catch up with the kids.
One of the favorite parts of Adventure Camp for some participants is the climbing wall in Buck, where they have the opportunity to climb each day they’re with us. Typically the climbing wall is open, and then the oldest group gets to try a trickier element on Thursday, and everyone had the opportunity to try the flying squirrel on Friday.
Other highlights for the week included lots of outdoor play, slime making, melty beads, and delicious meals from the dining hall.
We’re looking forward to another great week of camp in April, for more information visit our website: https://kievewavus.org/kw/educational-programs/the-leadership-school/adventure-camp/263