Introduction and Classroom Learning Community

Carving stone Long rows of standardized desks, students trudging into class painfully uninterested and disengaged waiting for the sound of the bell to signal the end of another seemingly purposeless hour.  Hour to hour, class to class, worksheet after worksheet, standardized multiple choice exam after exam, the teacher plans out carefully constructed lessons of lecture distributing her wealth of knowledge to unreceptive vessels.  Lecture after lecture the students disengage when school is supposed to exist for them.  Why are these students not retaining the information? Why aren’t these students reciting back all the knowledge they have been fed from chalkboard note-taking sessions and study guide completions?  Why do these students accept less from themselves, their classroom, and their teacher than they deserve?

A teacher can see behind the stone facade that masks student potential. How does a teacher unlock the masterpiece that lies within each and every student?  How does a teacher engage her students to want more, to know more, to be more?  Students in a traditional educational setting struggle to find their place in the world of learning.  Education seems something more done to them than they are a part of the design and implementation of their learning.  Students should be more than receptacles of information teachers fill up and pass along from class to class, hour to hour.  Students who are valued, encouraged, motivated and who have high expectations set for them achieve. Too often as educators, we allow students to slip through the cracks disappearing behind layers and layers of paint covering who they really are.  Teachers do not expose the original work of art that lies beneath the facade.  Students need to be collaborators in their learning working with their teacher and peers to change the picture of education. Students need to expect more from themselves than they have done previously raising the standard of achievement and learning.  No more should a student desire to just finish a product, but instead produce a creative and interesting new way to demonstrate their understanding. Teachers should work together with their students. By engaging their students in meaningful, relevant real world projects, teachers are communicating a larger message to all the learning matters.  By assigning projects that must be completed on time and only see one version, teachers are halting the learning process. Instead, teachers and students should be engaged in learning as a process with multiple revisions of student work and reflection on the learning process throughout.  Then, learning becomes the focus, not simple completion. 

Students must be held to a higher level of expectation, be participants and leaders in constructivist learning environment collaborating with their teacher and peers, revising piece after piece thus moving from blank canvases to wonderful masterpieces of art.

CLASSROOM LEARNING COMMUNITY

Field of work:
Arapahoe High School is one of three high schools located in Centennial, Colorado part of Littleton Public Schools.  We have always been the dominant high school in our district as well as a leader in the state regarding state and national testing.  Our college remediation rate, which measures the student’s preparedness for college level classes, is one of the lowest in the state.  About 92-94 % of our graduating seniors go on to college.  We are an open enrollment school with two feeder middle schools.  A number of our students come from these two feeder schools, but we do have a good percentage of open-enrolled kids as well.  Students are open-enrolled based on a letter they write to our principal, previous academic achievement, and possibly an interview.  We have a school that is primarily Caucasian, suburban, and upper middle class.

Most ninth grade English classes have around 30 kids. For freshmen, we offer Humanities classes, regular ninth grade comprehensive English as well as Honors.  We are also offering some single gender classes.  There are two 1-1 English classes at AHS. The ninth grade class as a whole usually numbers around 500-550.  Our curriculum is undergoing some revision aiming for more alignment towards essential learnings defined at each grade level rather than a large curricular approach.  Personal Learning Communities is an additional focus in our school district.  The aim is to give teachers more time to examine current practices, create common assessments, and ultimately, ensure that all our students are receiving the same education.  We have been participants in a massive staff development effort examining how kids learn best and how technology can support that learning. 

Our administrative staff is led by our veteran principal Ron Booth who has hired over 98% of the teachers at our school. He has been the principal over 20 years.  His administrative staff consists of 5 assistant principals all with various levels of experience.  The teachers in the English department in which I teach vary in their experience from 30 years to 3 years.  I am considered a veteran teacher in my department and in the school with this being my 11th year. 

We have a tremendous community support.  At our school, both parents usually work and many have received their Masters degrees. The parents are mostly upper middle class with strong ties to the community.  Many parents volunteer at the school or support their child in extra curricular activities.  Well over half of our students participate in extra-curricular activities. 

However, even with all these advantages present in our students’ lives, we still have a number of students who chose not to invest in learning.  There are a small number of students who do the minimum and get through with D's and C's on their report cards.