This year, things are really changing in the middle school at Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education! Not only is the school’s climate changing, but so is the culture. The biggest change started when the middle school wing moved from the basement of the school to the main floor. Last year, students entered the school building and spent their days in classrooms with no windows, which as you can imagine, influenced students' mood and ability to learn. Now, each classroom has at least one window (usually more), and students are more focused than ever.
The school also supports City Year in our attendance goals. City Year posts a monthly update on attendance for each grade in the middle school, right outside of our City Year room, for everyone to see. Students can now see how their entire grade’s attendance looks in comparison to other grade levels, which motivates them, and results in a friendly competition of what class will have the best attendance for the day.
The changes to school climate don't stop there. Each morning, students line the halls and are led in short mindfulness activities to get them ready for the day. Every Thursday, City Year leads mindfulness, and you can almost always find a Student Success Coach participating in the activity with their students! Having all of the middle school participate in an activity together at the start of every day has helped to build community. Everyone knows and has interacted with each other (even new students get to see everyone in the middle school on their first day), and overall, I think mindfulness has had a huge impact on the middle school. Students enter classrooms focused and calm, which has contributed to productive and positive classroom environments.
Lastly, the middle school has introduced differentiated reading blocks, which means that each middle school Student Success Coach gets to work with students in each grade. Students are split during reading time based on their reading scores, which gives them the ability to work with students on their reading level, who may not be in their same grade. That also means that the small tutoring groups City Year has for math and literacy, may consist of all three grade levels!
Overall, the changes in the middle school have had an amazing impact on our students’ energy and their willingness to learn, and we are excited to continue seeing positive change in the year ahead!
Article written by Semaj LaShae, Proud Team Leader on the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education Team