Vassalboro, Wood Hill, and Richmond EIRs 2020

Vassalboro’s Educator in Residence: Jack

At Vassalboro Community School, Ms. Smith’s fourth grade class is learning about fractions and percentages.  So in the spirit of “practicing what I preach,” here is a little math about my time as an Educator in Residence at VCS.

The program is 10 weeks long.  10 weeks is 70 days, but take away 2 days per week to account for weekends, 5 days after that to account for February vacation, and another 5 days after that to account for cancellations due to winter weather, and I’m left with 40 days at school.  40 days at school multiplied by 6.5 hours students spend in school (8:00am homeroom – 2:30pm dismissal) equals 260 hours of time students spend in school while I am an EIR.

Now imagine the entire year in a student’s life.  24 hours in a day multiplied by 366 days in a year (remember: 2020 is a leap year!) equals 8,784 total hours in the student’s year.Divide 260 hours of time students spend in school while I am an EIR by 8,784 total hours in the student’s year to discover that students will spend a grand total of 2.95% of their entire year at VCS while I am an EIR.  And frankly, that’s not much time at all.

At The Leadership School, we pride ourselves on building deep and meaningful connections with our students.  The winter season is often viewed as a time to strengthen those bonds through consistent interactions over the course of ten long weeks with the student body at one particular school.  Especially when compared to the short programs that normally fill the TLS calendar during the fall and spring, EIR is cherished as an effort to finally take the time to embed oneself in a community of students.

But in reality, as my shorthand mathematics prove, the EIR season is a mere infinitesimal shard of my students’ year.  And as an educator, I often question the realistic impact I can have on the lives of students I work with daily.  Do my 2.95% really make a difference?

Jack and site mentor Meg Swanson

When I work one-on-one with students who often struggle to focus during the day, my 2.95% makes a difference.  I consistently spend one-on-one time with three students who are all participating in VCS’s pilot check-in-check-out program, and if I was not there, maybe those students wouldn’t hit their daily behavior goals.  When I coteach a flex class three times a week, my 2.95% makes a difference.  During Wednesday’s team challenge period, I’m teaching students, but I am also teaching my faculty peers about what we do at TLS and beginning a dialogue about social and emotional learning strategies.  When I host rotating lunch groups with 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, my 2.95% makes a difference.  Providing a time to slow down during the day and share lunch with a small group of friends in a quiet setting helps students recharge and feel valued within the school community.

In all these ways as well as the many other projects I’m invested in at VCS, my 2.95% makes a difference in the lives of others.  Though only a fleck of their year, the time students spend at VCS while I am an EIR is meaningful and worthwhile.  I am sowing skills and ideas that will continue to flourish during the other 97.05% of their year.  While my influence may only be a fraction, it is part of my students’ whole.  And every percent counts.

Wood Hill’s Educator in Residence: Hartel

My first year as an EIR has been such a cool experience. Wood Hill Middle School is one of the few Massachusetts schools that make the trip up to TLS and it’s been great to be on the other side of things. By that, I mean spending time in the school with the students rather than them spending time with us at TLS. It’s been great to see both sides of the coin and how that will change and influence the way I lead and facilitate activities. I’ve been doing a lot not only at Wood Hill but also at the two other middle schools in Andover, West and Doherty. I really enjoy seeing how the schools function and what they do similarly and differently even though they are all no more than 10 minutes apart from one another.

At Wood Hill I spend most of my time in the gym helping out with the PE classes. I started this because I felt like that was the best way to get to know everyone since almost all of the students have a PE class at least twice a week. The only problem with this is that sometimes I don’t see students all that often because of my strange schedule. On Mondays, I’m at Wood Hill for the first 4 blocks of the day, then I head over to West for the last 2 blocks, Tuesday is Wood Hill all day, Wednesday is the same as Monday, Thursday is my day at Doherty, and Friday I’m back at Wood Hill all day.

My schedule is hectic like this because I’m working on goal setting with the 8th graders at all three schools. We’ve been working through setting goals for yourself and a group or team and how goals can change and be impacted by ourselves and others. It’s been awesome seeing the different ways each school deals with the challenges thrown at them during the activities we do and how they react and overcome the adversity involved in accomplishing their goals. I’ve had some awesome experiences working with all of the 8th graders and trying to help in getting them more prepared to enter high school together. I’ve been working on some follow up activities with the 7th grade staff and it’s been great to kind of have power to plan and situate activities for the entire 7th grade to run in smaller groups once a month. The February focus was on communication, so Patrick (the Wood Hill Principal) and I agreed to run ‘The Maze.’ I really like ‘The Maze’ and it’s an activity I’ve done a lot not only at TLS but also at the summer camp I work at in NH. I got some good feedback as to what I can do better in planning and making sure everyone has everything they need in order for these activities to be successful. With the 6th grade I haven’t been doing much outside of working with them during PE class and trying to get them excited to come to TLS next year. They’re a great group of kids and I can’t wait until I get to see them again in the fall.

I’m running an ultimate Frisbee club after school on Monday, which makes Monday probably my busiest day, but it’s a great way to end it. We’ve been playing different variations and games involving frisbees and I hope I’ve gotten some of the students into it seeing as Andover High School has a team that is fairly successful. It gives me some more space to be creative and get to learn more about the students on a bit of a deeper level than during a 50 minute PE class.

I really enjoy the busyness of working at 3 schools a week because it keeps me busy and always on my toes. All of the 8th graders are kind and willing to give all of the activities I have a shot, which says a lot about themselves and the Andover community. Time has flown by in Massachusetts and it’s crazy to thing that there are only 3 weeks left of the EIR season. I’m going to miss Wood Hill, West, and Doherty a lot when the season’s over, but hopefully I can pick right back up with the current 6th graders next year when they come to TLS.

Richmond’s Educator in Residence: Sam P.

Life at Richmond Middle School for the past few months hasn’t seemed like months at all. Though we are going on eight weeks of EIR, it doesn’t seem like it at all. I think that there are several reasons for this, but most of all it is because of the people who I have had the opportunity to work with, the students who I see each day, and my co-workers at TLS who have been through this experience with me.

Let’s go back to that first week of EIR, since that is where it became clear (and at the same time very unclear) what the next ten weeks of my life would look like at Richmond. The school had been through some ups and downs already, with a new principal leading the way, a long term sub in for the French teacher, as well as drama that comes with living in a small, tight-knit community where connections go very deep. The newest ripple in the Richmond pond when I arrived was the departure of one of the middle school math teachers, and one of the people who I planned to look to for support, who left for a job she couldn’t turn down. This left her students with a few different subs for the first three weeks of my EIR, and with me. I didn’t know what I was doing, the subs didn’t either, but I decided that my time was best spent making connections with the students who had just lost a teacher. One of my favorite parts of the EIR experience has been taking over the advisory for that classroom, playing games and facilitating activities for about 45 minutes each day.

I have been welcomed by so many of the teachers to share their classrooms, get to see their curriculum and teaching style in action, and to give mine a try as well. For example, in one literacy classroom I do a warm up each day, that can range from Rose, Bud, Thorn to questions about the class content, to Rock, Paper, Scissors, Split. It has been really fun to see how that particular group works together. Being in all of these classes has allowed me to work one on one with students, as well as with whole groups and has definitely tested my confidence in my teaching ability, and helped me to grow as an educator. Outside of class, I get to hear about how the basketball team is doing this season, and even see a home game for myself.

Pizza and conversations with fellow EIRs Nell and Claire

One aspect of EIR that is so amazing is how each different educator takes on the opportunity to make a difference in a community this winter. Being able to hear about my fellow EIRs’ experiences has given me new ways to think about my own and reflect on how I can be a more effective educator in this setting.