aka a component to our vision to impact Everett High…
Weird transition? Decide after you read to the end of this post.
If you read my last post that gave you a quick update of how our November went, you heard about what Ben’s doing in his 9th grade science classes. Basically, ninth grade is the year that determines if kids move on to be successful or drop out. You can read an entire article in The Atlantic that inspired Ben to take on what he calls “Homework Party Fridays.”
No, they don’t just sit around and party in class on Fridays. But a few Fridays a month, I get someone to come watch Serafina so I can join Ben at school for his 9th grade coordinated science classes. He also teaches physics which gives him the unique physical space arrangement to have 2 classrooms back to back (albeit smaller than 1 large classroom). He takes the kids who are behind, failing, or otherwise need more help and I do an extended learning activity (differentiation, anyone?) with the rest of the kids. We each end up with 15-16 kids rather than him having all 32 at once…and trying to teach to all of their learning levels, which is something that teachers are charged to do but requires superhero powers to accomplish most of the time. Since I’m also an employee of the Everett School District, I have the necessary background checks, etc in place to make this possible (and the science teaching background, of course).
To make it more of a party, we entice his ravenous teenagers with treats. Who doesn’t want a cupcake with your school’s letter and mascot on it? (We’re the Everett Seagulls…I know, really tough. Actually, you should the bird on one of Ben’s shirts – you wouldn’t want to meet that ‘gull in a dark alley if you know what I mean.) These were done up special because today happens to be a rivalry day between us and the other high school in Everett. The girls and boys varsity basketball teams play back to back tonight but both schools get into it (or so Ben has told me, as it’s been a big deal at school all week).
Ben is making a concerted effort to stem the tide of ninth grade failure in a required course at Everett High. This is a huge undertaking, requiring extra time to create a differentiated lesson, organize missing work according to each student who is behind (this can take forever!), researching and making alternative versions of assessments so students can demonstrate their knowledge in other ways, and all the extra grading and data analysis that comes with students repeating assignments and completing new ones that affect their grade.
Teenagers these days (cliche totally intended) seem to need extra motivation to get things done. Food tends to be quite enticing, even if it’s boxed cake mix cupcakes with a blue E/yellow seagull piped on top. Or maybe it’s the chance to be part of the party. Whatever it is, Ben has 96 ninth graders. This week, his grade and homework completion data showed that he’d end up with half working with him and half “partying” with me. That means about $10 of treats just for today’s 50 or so kids. Multiply that by the 20 or so Fridays Ben wants to do this and we’re out $200 just on cake mix, frosting, etc. Which brings me to the title of this post: teachers at the grocery store.
Go to your local supermarket on a given school night and you’ll find at least one teacher purchasing supplies for their classroom out of their own budget. Just the other night, I ran into a gal filling her cart with chocolate pudding cups that were on for a screamin’ deal. I commented that it looked like she was buying for a classroom full of kids and she said, “Actually, I am.” She’s a 1st grade teacher and her students were going to use the pudding as finger paint to practice their letters and numbers on specially laminated sheets she had already put together the day before. Engaging? Delicious? Memorable? Kinesthetic? Education pedagogy writers would be drooling.
What about reimbursements, you ask? Talk about red tape. Most of the time it’s not worth the effort it takes to jump through all the hoops to get paid (unless it’s a large purchase, like the calculators we bought for his classroom that took more than a month and a half to get paid back for) nor is it worth waiting for. And then people question whether or not you really needed the supplies you purchased. What about the marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers I bought for my chemistry students at The Center School to learn about stoichiometry? Trust me, I can teach you stoichiometry in 20 minutes with
s’mores z’mores. A lot of times, though, this is considered fluff (no pun intended with the marshmallow reference) so even if I can convince someone that it’s an educational expense, it ends up not be applied to the department budget because it’s unnecessary. Tell that to the kids who actually understood this difficult math-of-chemistry concept thanks to using tasty treats as manipulatives.
Point being…teachers will always pull out of their own pockets to help their students learn. After handing a kid a cupcake today upon his successful completion of all of his work plus the challenge problem needed to earn the treat, he thanked me and proclaimed, “I actually feel like one of the smart kids!”
Next time you vote on a school board levy or bond measure that affects educator pay, just remember the teacher at the grocery store.
P.S. Ben has asked parents to contribute but so far, none have. Hence my near-weekly Thursday night baking sessions…