Friendship, Prescott, Union, Loranger, and St. George EIRs 2020

Friendship, Prescott, and Union’s Educator in Residence: Julia

Ask any new EIR about their first week and you will hear a similar description: a whirlwind, filled with the excitement of the unknown, and undoubtedly tinted with a sense of nervousness about shaping a meaningful 10-week program. My first week can be characterized in much of the same way, although with the added challenge of arriving at the right school on the right day and remembering the correct names of students attending different schools. 

As I faced the task of meeting three staffs, learning three buildings, and integrating into three different school cultures, I had my ever patient site mentor, Kayleigh MacFarlane, at my side to whisper correct names, guide me to the staff room, and introduce me to classroom teachers. In her role as school guidance counselor, Kayleigh splits her week among the schools, teaching SEL lessons to K-6 classes while incorporating one-on-one meetings and lunch groups. During the week, I am lucky to facilitate lessons and lunch groups with Kayleigh, gaining the perspective of a trained guidance counselor who brings many of the TLS standards and core values into the school system. Beyond Kayleigh’s insider perspective, her past experience as a TLS Educator and a pioneer of the EIR program is invaluable as she readily sees and suggests ways for me to better fit TLS curriculum into her guidance lessons, gym class, and recess. 

While at first I found it daunting, I now find myself incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work at Union, Friendship, and Prescott at the same time. The rotating schedule allows me to facilitate a teambuilding activity multiple times with different groups of the same age. The differing student groups and school cultures push me to adapt games, language, and activities to match the level and needs of the different groups. I can say with confidence that my ability to be flexible has been tested and strengthened in the past months. 

Outside of facilitating TLS curriculum and assisting Kayleigh with guidance lessons, I collaborate with Megan Bates, Medomak Middle School’s EIR, to interview current middle schoolers about their transition from Prescott, Friendship, or Union and the advice they want to give current 6th graders. When the interviews are complete, they will be compiled into a video to be shown to current 6th graders in the coming months, as part of the program to prepare them for their move to the middle school. 

This past week, I was able to take the 6th grade class from Friendship Village School to Kieve for a morning of climbing and teambuilding. The class was extremely excited to be going to Kieve, as Friendship has a tradition of sending the oldest kids for a day program. I was blown away by their communication with each other and their ability to deviate from their usual friend pairs and groups. I heard students cheering for each other, saw everyone climb, and noticed how proud the 6th grade teacher seemed as her students thrived as a team outside of the classroom. Over lunch, which included brownies from the Kieve kitchen, we talked about future trips to Kieve through Medomak Middle School that involve overnight stays with their future classmates. The consensus is that those trips can’t come fast enough– and I have to agree, I can’t wait to see my students back on Kieve’s campus, ready to grow and challenge themselves. 

Loranger’s Educator in Residence: Austin

One week. At this point in my time at Loranger Memorial School, I have one week left. If I were to describe my experience at LMS in Feelings Marketplace cards it would be mixed up, lost, kind, happy, super, creative, brave, silly, shy, friendly, strong, stupid, bold, big, proud, accepted, respected, excited, alive, embarrassed, popular, and now, as it comes to a close, a little sad. And who would feel any different? The Educator in Residence program has really provided a unique opportunity to shake things up in a positive way for myself, my peers, and for students all over Maine. It’s actually kind of daunting at first. The job is really unknown and it seems like something way bigger than you. You set goals with a site mentor that align your interests with the needs of the school, and these are like torn pieces of a map with no outlined way to fit them together. That was my first assignment. Fit them together. So you set up meetings, establish a schedule, just start somewhere, anywhere, and with collaboration and a little introspection, you figure out what you need to do. These past nine weeks, I’ve done a little bit of everything at Loranger.

The front entrance at LMS and the threshold I step through every morning in hopes I make a difference.

Typically, throughout the week I spend three days in the classroom, coming up with creative ways to incorporate The Leadership School curriculum and theatre games into a review of the subject content. When I’m not playing games, I’m observing classes to get a sense of direction of where I want to go and to help one-on-one with classwork comprehension. Outside of the core curriculum, the sixth graders have one extra hour with me every Monday, in which I try to transport them back to Kieve, but mostly I just want to cultivate a safe environment in which these students can laugh and grow together. Then, I tie it back to their experience at Kieve if I can.

When I’m not in the sixth grade wing you can find me a few steps over in the 3-5 wing. These past few weeks, the third graders and I have played Freeze Dance, Simon Says, and completed a hula hoop pass as well as a five minute meditation (quite impressive for their age). This is to help cultivate some self-management and self-awareness as well as social awareness and the ability to collaborate and work well with others. The fifth graders and I have been working on these skills as well, while also preparing for their trip to Kieve in the fall. The biggest and most recent success with them has been learning LEADSTAR (our eight guidelines for clear and effective communication) and drawing parallels in LEADSTAR games to the realities of listening and communicating outside of the classroom.

Austin and co-instructor Meg facilitating LEADSTAR charades with this years sixth graders at Kieve

I also lead a meditation class on Wednesdays, an improv group on Fridays, and make sure I connect with the students during recess, before homeroom, as well as after school during Drama club rehearsal. (Shameless plug! Come see LMS present Anne of Green Gables on Friday, March 6th!) However, all of that being said, the biggest thing I’ve learned these past few weeks through the EIR program is that it’s not so much what you do, but how you do and how you make others feel. Having the opportunity to connect with these superstar students, make them laugh, and build them up is how I know I’m doing work I can really hang my hat on, and I’m so glad to have had so many different opportunities to say to these students “Hey, how are doing? And also I’m an adult you can count on.”

St. George’s Educator in Residence: Nell

Hello! My name is Nell Houde and I am lucky enough to find myself surrounded by ocean on 3 sides at the St. George Elementary School, located in Tenants Harbor. The first time I drove down the peninsula this fall to meet the teachers and students I would be working with all winter, I knew I was walking into something special. Not only was the drive to school incredible, scattered with ocean views and lit by a rising sun, but as soon as I stepped foot into school I was greeted with warmth, excitement, and readiness. It seemed like everyone knew who I was and why I was there. This was in large part thanks to the efforts of Amy Hufnagel, my site mentor, and the 6-8 team of teachers at the school, who were already busy crafting my schedule and preparing their students, even though my first full day at St. George was still months away.

View from my daily commute! Taken on the side of the road.

Fast forward to my first day of EIR this winter: I showed up to school at 7:45 with the buses, got a pair of keys and a school email, was shown my daily schedule, and was told “you have the entire 6th grade for 75 minutes starting in an hour.” I gulped. I can’t say I felt confident about being alone with the entire 6th grade after a 6 week break from facilitation, but thankfully I was outfitted with a repertoire of games and activities that I knew would woo these middle schoolers. In the hour before my time with the 6th grade I looked over my notebook and tried to think of my favorite “get to know you” games. I slowly felt more and more prepared, and when the time came to join them in their classroom I took a few deep breaths, opened the door, and introduced myself to the class. Somehow I filled that first 75 minute block, and that gave me all the confidence I needed to jump into my many responsibilities at St. George feet first.

My time at St. George has been similar to my first day, in that I have a lot of independence and responsibility, and I get to work with the middle schoolers a lot. I see each middle school grade, 6th, 7th, and 8th, three times a week for over an hour each block. During that time I’m primarily leading them through SEL activities that are part of the TLS curriculum. I’m also supplementing those activities with different SEL activities I find in books and online. Seventy-five minutes is a long time! I usually end up doing three to four different activities in a block. In addition to my long blocks of time with the middle schoolers, I also have “lunch bunch” with 4th and 5th graders, I go to 4th and 5th grade CREW time in the morning to lead SEL activities, I go to snack with the K/1 students, and I spend Friday afternoons doing science experiments with the 5th graders. Outside of the 8:00-2:30 school day I also run an afterschool program three times a week called Forest School. There are sessions for 4th and 5th graders on Mondays and Wednesdays, and there is a session for 2nd and 3rd graders on Thursdays. This has been running since my second week as an EIR at St. George, and it will run until my last week here. For our last Forest School, I will be taking the 4th and 5th graders to the climbing wall at Kieve, something last year’s 5th graders got to do with the previous EIR, which I’m hoping will become something of a tradition for 4th and 5th graders at St. George. Forest School is one of my favorite parts of my EIR because I get to explore the incredible ecosystems around the school, including a dense coniferous forest and a sprawling salt marsh, with the students in a free-form way.

Exploring the frozen salt marsh behind the school.

I have adored my time at St. George. The school is filled with educators who inspire me, and who I am learning from daily. My site mentor, Amy, is a mentor in every sense of the world. She has been so supportive of me as a member of the St. George community, but she has also extended her support to help me navigate what it means to be a 23 year old on this crazy planet! My relationship with the students of St. George is a constant source of joy. I feel as though I have been able to strike a balance between “educator” and “peer(ish)” and “role model” in a way that has made the time I get with them incredibly productive. The hardest thing I have had to do this winter is start telling them that these are my final two weeks at St. George this year. But thankfully those conversations always end with me saying “but don’t worry, I’ll be back next year.”