Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reflecting on our Foundations

The principal of our school started something interesting a few years back, and today I was able to feel the full impact of what he’s been up to.

Reflection Day.

Staff and students are given one day after mid-term exams to reflect on the past semester and look toward the future. Grades are in, exams are over, and we are ready to move on. Teachers are encouraged to use this time in their own way and given the freedom to plan creatively. Some suggestions given were to discuss the midterm, review study skills, gather student feedback, or work out time management issues.  Of course, with any new idea or initiative, there were those that grumbled, and those that doubted. But, there were many who embraced the idea and made the day productive and inspiring.

As the technology integrator in our building I get the opportunity to work with many different teachers on any given day, so today I got to see a wide variety of things happening. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to immerse myself into Reflection Day in our newly created Freshman Foundations classes for the first three periods. 

I am a member of the literacy team and together we spent the summer writing curriculum and planning for this new course. It is a one-quarter mandatory class for all freshman students.  The objective is to lay the foundation for a positive high school learning experience and helps these students prepare for their future. The units include technology skills, study skills, research, and literature circles.

Today we gave the students the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learned and help us by offering feedback as to how to improve the course. The students responded. And we cringed a little as we awaited the results. It’s hard to hear the truth when you’ve invested so much. While there were some negative responses, and a lot of constructive criticism, much of what they said gave us the opportunity to take a moment and feel our impact.

Here are some of the great things they said:

“Freshman Foundations has helped me stay organized and officially introduced me into high school. It helped me stay on top of my work and maintain my grades.”

“This class taught us study skills, time management and even a way to make applying to colleges easy with the help of an ePortfolio.”

“Google docs helped a lot with organizing essays and online papers for our classes.”

“I tried this strategy (SQ3R) in science for a small quiz and it turned out that I got a 100.”

“The most helpful part was being able to create an e-mail/page for ourselves in order to create a more positive digital footprint.”

 “I learned about the website EasyBib and how it can automatically cite websites and books.”

“Now, I know exactly what I need to do for the next paper I am assigned.”

“We learned how to selectively highlight and write notes that will support a thesis and help write an effective paper.”

“The most helpful part of Foundations was probably learning the levels of reliability for internet websites.”

“I also liked this course because it got me to read Crank and now Glass. This series is my favorite now and I probably would have never read it without this class. 'It broadened my horizons'.”

Today, I am especially thankful for those I work with on this project, those who supervise me, and those who voted to allow this course into our curriculum. The opportunity has been very rewarding.