Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bettering Orientation to Foster Student Success

An important aspect of welcoming all students into the teaching/learning community is to
co-construct the environment with students. 
Inspired by research, and the observation that colleges do a lot more to orient their students than your typical elementary school, our team has been working to better orientations and relationship-building practices for all students ,and in particular, our students who live outside the school neighborhood and/or are new to the school. Today the team will meet to organize those efforts. Rather than one event, I suspect that our work will result in a number of orientation events.

Small-Group Introduction to the Classroom
Many neighborhood students drop by the school in the late days of summer to take a look at their classrooms. They also spend time with lots of other school students and families which helps them to know about any information that pertains to the upcoming school year. Students who are new or distanced from the school neighborhood, may miss out on those informal ways to prepare for the school year. With that in mind, one orientation we can provide is a small group pre-school morning to visit the school and classroom. During that morning students may have the opportunity to meet classmates, review their supplies, organize their desks, talk with the teachers, ask questions, and get ready for a great year.

Family/Student In-Take
I believe it's important to make our start-of-the-year surveys more comprehensive. We have found, as a team, that families are more open and responsive with paper surveys than online surveys. So we'll likely update our paper student and family surveys to include the kinds of questions outlined in this post.

Tech Connect
Our team does a lot to offer students tech access to all class materials and information via our TeamFive website. It's important that all families understand how to access that information, and that they have technology available to access the information. With that in mind, our orientation efforts may include the following:
  • Device-lending to students who do not have an adequate tech device at home
  • Information related to low-cost WIFI
  • Tech meetings with families who want to understand more about how to access the class tech sites and information. 
  • Explicit tech connect teaching to all students so students are able to access all aspects of the class website and more. 
Selfie Project
Through our research, we have learned about the importance of recognizing students' individual identities and names. With that in mind we'll foster the "Selfie Project."  and focus specifically on names. We will also forward a number of lessons about our individual and collective culture to foster a positive sense of belonging and community as well. We will show a video of all the student selfies at Curriculum Night. 

Co-Construct the Classroom and Develop Community
During the first six weeks of school we will co-construct the teaching/learning community with students by hosting many conversations and efforts to create, learn, and practice norms, protocols, routines, use of tools, teamwork, names, and other learning mindsets and behaviors outlined on this website and elsewhere. 

Curriculum Night
Families who live close to the school, generally attend the start-of-the-year curriculum night. Families who are new or live far from the school sometimes don't attend this important meeting that introduces the curriculum program. There is a lot we can do to help families in this regard including the following ideas:
  • call each family to introduce ourselves, answer questions, and invite parents to curriculum night. Also tell them how important this night is with respect to meeting other families and learning about their child's school program. 
  • provide transportation support (this can be discussed during the phone call)
  • add the curriculum night presentation to the grade-level website
  • if child care is an issue, invite parents to bring their children
Family-Student-Teacher/Administrator Social Event
In the early weeks of school, host a social event for new students and students distanced from the school neighborhood that includes food and fun. Reach out to local agencies for funding and support for this event. We had a similar social event last year which was very successful. We may want to host this event in conjunction with other school events. 

Family-to-Family Relationships
Find ways to develop family-to-family relationships for families who live close to school and/or are familiar with the school with families who are new or live far away from the school. I want to think with my team about ways that we may do this.

I look forward to updating what we can do to orient students to school and the teaching/learning team in ways that make them feel like full and welcome members of the school community. I know that these efforts will help to set the stage for student success.

Parent/Family Conferences
We want to make sure that reach out to families to ensure that every family and student attends parent-student-teacher conferences in both the fall and spring. If families need more time to meet, we'll provide that.

There's a chance that we can reach out for some financial support to forward this work as well via the NEA. We'll look at that grant option when we meet too.