As part of the larger Transformational plan, Southport aligns our classrooms in a “Family” model to address learning challenges like meeting the needs of children at all levels, high, low, and middle of the road, and helping our students to develop 21st century skills. I met with the teachers in early January, 2012 and the PTO board in late January to share the initial outline of this structure and begin to gather ideas to strengthen it. Since then, we have been hard at work planning what classroom instruction will look like and how we will meet children’s needs. Here are some of the highlights.
- Design the day around student needs, co-teaching where appropriate or dividing the students into differently sized, flexible groupings for different lessons at the student’s level
- Maximize existing teaching talents through strategic assignments in vertical teams or families, integrating subjects where appropriate ie.. literacy throughout the curriculum and creating joint ownership of all students in a “family“, where all teachers are invested in the students’ success
- Cultivate personalized relationships with students through individual attention, through teacher looping, reduced group sizes to provide individual or small group lessons, or bringing special education or Language Acquisition Programs together to function as a team to best serve our student needs
- Students will move fluidly within the family as learning needs dictate, so kids can learn with similarly-abled peers and all children will have the opportunity to have Individualized learning plans
- Our school day will be organized into longer blocks of time to allow in-depth learning opportunities with flex time built into the day for enrichment, tutoring, small groups,
- We can eliminate a myriad of road blocks like too many breaks in the learning day, week, year; too restrictive learning environment; too little time for creative solutions to interventions and concept extensions; too little time for horizontal collaboration, much less vertical articulation; too little time for professional development; and too little time for technology training by adjusting our schedule to lengthen the school day slightly and aligning days off, half days, and early release days
- Provide a more consistent learning time, more consistency in the learning week, additional minutes in the student day, more time for both horizontal and vertical collaboration, more consistency in professional development, and more opportunities for technology training
- The new Friday schedule provides families with a consistent schedule rather than haphazard ¾ and ½ and full days off for planning purposes and continuity in family and supervision planning, our day care will be prepared and costs will be negligible, and allows time for extended family getaways without missing school
Remember that our district transformation and elementary redesign are a works in progress. The framework that we are putting in place will be the structure for bigger ideas like guided reading, guided math, small group instruction, and learning. Will your first grader be in the classroom all day with a fifth grader? No, but they may connect for partner learning similarly as they do now when they “buddy-up.” Will your second grader be able to learn on a third grade level if he or she is ready? You bet, and the family structure concept will make that easy without much disruption or travel time! Will my child have a different teacher for every class? No, they will have a “home” where they will spend most of their time. Different teachers will help facilitate small group instruction, utilizing space much as we do now. Some students may travel across the hall or next door to learn at their level, similarly to how some students do already.