Loranger’s Educator in Residence: Sam M.
A few blocks from the Old Orchard Beach coast sits Loranger Memorial School, a home away from home for many, including myself. My name is Sam Mengual and this is my second winter working at Loranger. I have experienced a huge amount of growth between my first and second year as an EIR. While my first winter was primarily spent getting to know students and faculty and helping out as an extra set of hands around school, my second year has been improved by the incredible amount of freedom I have been given by teachers to create my own curriculum.
My schedule remains relatively the same week-to-week with my home base in the 6th grade. On Mondays I work with Ms. Gaudreau’s math classes combining The Leadership School curriculum with the math unit the students are currently in. This past week, I combined the TLS activity, “Xerox,” where one must describe how to draw something to their partner without showing them what it is, with tangram sets, which are seven geometric shapes that when combined create an image. For this class I gave one partner an image of an animal made up of tangram shapes and the other partner a tangram set. The partner with the image had to explain to the partner with the shapes how to create the animal without giving any visual ques. Students got to practice their geometry vocabulary along with their communication skills.
On Tuesdays I work with Ms. Rossignol’s English and language arts class. This winter I have found that this is the most difficult subject to combine with TLS curriculum, which is not what I expected. I’ve had success combining our activity, “Feeling’s Marketplace,” with writing fiction stories. I split the class into two groups and play a Catchphrase style game where each team tries to get the opposing team to guess the emotion words I hold up on cards behind them. After the teams are done guessing all the emotion words, I split them into small groups of four or five students and gave them seven different emotions they needed to incorporate into a fiction story they wrote together. In this activity, the students get to practice their writing skills as well as describing and talking about emotions.
Wednesdays are typically a prep day for me. I plan my lesson plans for the next week and coordinate TLS programming for the spring season. Thursday begins with me working in Mrs. Cone-Sabo’s room with the special education 6th graders. Unlike the other traditional classrooms, this class ranges from four to six students, so I have the ability to do more one-on-one work with the students. I help them with their coursework, facilitate some of my own activities, and play games with the students as a reward. Through my work in this class, I have learned many techniques to facilitate activities and teach children with different learning abilities, and I have found the value in working closely with students to help them be successful.
I work in Mrs. Seaver’s science class on Fridays. My undergraduate degree is in science, so I was most excited to work within this curriculum. This winter, the students have learned about astronomy and are now working through a weather unit. A few Fridays ago I ran an interactive activity where the students worked in small groups of three to act out different aspects of the solar system. The groups worked together to understand how different planets orbited and rotated on their axis while the rest of the class offered the actors constructive feedback. We had a discussion about the importance of feedback and what good feedback is then practiced those skills in the classroom. The students worked on communicating feedback in respectful way and understanding how the solar system works.
Along with working in the 6th grade I work with each of the three 5th grade homerooms once a week. My work with the 5th grade is different from the 6th grade because they have not been to Kieve yet. I focus primarily on running TLS activities with the students to give them a taste of what their experience at Kieve will be next fall. The work I have done with the 5th grade has proven to be beneficial because it allows the students to get comfortable with an educator and have some background in our curriculum before, which makes their transition to living and learning at Kieve much smoother.
Being the Educator in Residence at Loranger has given me the opportunity to work in a traditional school setting and be a part of a team. The incredible women on the 6th grade team, my mentor Matt Michaud, the school social worker, and Judy Milligan, the school guidance counselor, have all taken me under their wing and helped me learn more about my own career goals. I walk out of our weekly Tuesday meetings amazed by how much they do for their students on top of teaching. They are truly inspiring, but never look for praise or thanks and also have the greatest most compassionate hearts of anyone I have ever met. I genuinely don’t know how they do it all. They are more than just mentors; they are also my friends. We share laughs, movie reviews, and recipes at our daily lunches and even get together outside of school. It’s been amazing to see what the lifestyle is of a teacher and how I can see myself fitting into this role in the future.
For my last week at Loranger I will continue to follow my weekly schedule with Friday as a culminating event called STAR day. The STAR acronym stands for “safe, taking responsibility, accepting and respectful.” Four TLS educators will join me at Loranger for a day full of TLS activities and climbing with the portable wall for the 6th grade students. In April, three educators and I will meet the 5th grade students at University of New England for a ‘field day’ with climbing and more TLS programming. The 5th grade class will also come up to Kieve for a visit in May to tour the cabins, have lunch, and get a feel for what staying at Kieve will be like. These visits after the winter is over creates continuity for the 5th grade students and eases their transition Kieve as 6th graders in the October because they already know some educators, how the daily schedule works, and what the cabins and food are like.
My time as an EIR at Loranger has been the most valuable thing I have done as an educator at The Leadership School. While I love living at Kieve and working with a new group each week, spending two winters working in one community has been an invaluable experience. I have gotten to know students on a deeper level and understand their relationships with peers and what their lives are like outside of school. Having all of this background knowledge about a student helps me teach the full individual. I have loved my experience in Old Orchard Beach and I am so grateful for the faculty at Loranger who have given me the freedom to try out different activities in their classroom.
King’s Educator in Residence: Sam C.
King Middle School is nationally recognized as a successful model of Expeditionary Learning. The approximate 500 students that comprise the school’s sixth, seventh and eighth grade population contribute to King being one of the most diverse – racially, economically and ethnically. On my first day working with a classroom of sixth graders, I learned that eight different languages were spoken among the twenty students present.
Within the parameters of expeditionary learning, King students participate in eight to twelve week learning expeditions. Each one starts with a kickoff event to gain students’ interest and ends with a culminating event where the students showcase their knowledge in an interactive way. In addition to being graded academically, students receive HOWL (habits of work and learning) grades in respect, responsibility and perseverance. Each student belongs to a small community, called a crew, which meets once every six days for 45 minutes. A seventh grade teacher explained this as “an opportunity for students to develop of sense of community through participating in communication, relationship and teambuilding skills. In these small groups, every kid has a chance to be accounted for, have an informal check in with an adult, and for classmates to get to know them on a deeper level.”
I have had the incredible opportunity to be welcomed into the King community for ten weeks each winter, for the past four years. I have watched students fail and succeed and learn and grow during their middle school careers. One of my favorite moments this winter was watching a very shy and timid sixth grade student who was afraid to speak in front of her peers last year, stand up as a seventh grader and present at her culminating even in front of students, teachers and community members at the Audubon.
As the Educator in Residence program has expanded, so has my role at King. The school is made up of two houses: York and Windsor, each with a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade group. During my first winter, I facilitated TLS style activities each week with one house and supported students in other houses academically. This winter, I have had the opportunity to work directly with students in five of the six houses. The teachers at King have been very supportive of The Leadership School message as it ties directly into the crew activities they run with their students each week. They have trusted me to take over classes each week and instead run TLS initiatives. I am able to prepare 6th grade students for their trip to Kieve in October, continue the message from 7th graders experience at Kieve, and challenge the 8th graders social emotional learning even further.
When students run up to me asking, “What class are you in today? When do we have you next? And “Is today a ‘Sam’ day?” a smile immediately takes over. Being able to teach students experientially is a privilege. I start each of my classes reminding students of my two expectations. The first comes directly from TLS, “I expect you to treat each other with kindness and respect,” followed by, “I will never speak over you.” This gives students agency and the tools to be successful in a social emotional realm.
Each day looks, sounds and feels a little different. An onlooker from the outside of the classroom I am working in may see objects flying around the room, kids with cards on their forehead, or students squished together, balancing on a few polydots. As people walk past, they may hear excited yelling from being successful in a challenge, arguing over what idea to try next in a team exercise, bartering as students trade resources or cheering for a student who is facing their fear of heights. Students feel a range of emotions through each activity, ranging from frustration to excitement to happiness to a revelation from the light bulb going off as they recognize the deeper meaning of the activity they just participated in. Each challenge ends with them debriefing each part of that experience.
Teachers have been able to request bigger themes and issues that they want me to work on with their students. It has challenged me to put spins on old activities and create new ones, which is what experiential education is all about.
I have also had the opportunity to work directly with my incredible site mentor Rhonda, in the gym each week. I set the traversing wall as part of the introduction to the climbing unit. Rhonda and I run belay school for students and then they have had the opportunity to climb the wall and high elements in the gym. This is certainly a highlight for many.
Looking back and looking forward, I have experienced firsthand the value that the EIR program has, especially over multiple years. I have seen improvement in students from year to year, over the winter and from one activity to the next. In my final week, I plan on doing a fun closing activity with each house. For the eighth grade, however, the two students who participated in Leads Week will have the opportunity to facilitate and debrief an activity for their classmates. I am sad that we only have one week left but feel very fortunate to have this opportunity. I may be headed back to Kieve soon, but will remain a part of the King community. I will continue to coach the girl’s track team and will return to perform in the faculty talent show in April (as it is King’s biggest fundraiser for the seventh grade trip to Kieve in October).
Sam C. also wrote about her time at King back in 2015. Check it out here: https://kievewavus.org/blog/news/king-eir/