Today, Wednesday, November 3rd, Renee and I trekked through the hail and snow to visit the classrooms of our PL Fellows. It was a tremendous experience to step into the world of our second cohort and see what they were doing in the classroom. While we were on the road we were delighted by a great many things that we saw.
Specifically, we were excited to see the wonderful nurturing learning environments that we saw. In Auburn, we have some great classroom cultures. And as we covered in our cohort's first sprint, a nurturing learning environment is the bedrock of personalized learning. Our students need to feel like they are safe and cared for. We then can meet them where they are and help them on their way.
We first headed to Herman, home of the Hawks, the visit Christine Siddall's kindergarten classroom. While we were there we were warmly greeted by the class and were included in some of their activities. Christine empowered students to share news from their lives and to greet one another with a warm smile. We especially loved the tooth chart that celebrated when students lost their teeth.
The road trip continued on to Seward, home of the Bees. We stopped in to see Lynn Stock who serves as a school counselor. We were excited to hear her vision to incorporate some personalized learning through her unique lens. Renee and I made the brave choice to step into Amanda Maher's classroom. There, her students were working on serfdom in the Middle Ages. They were writing paragraphs on their devices. When I asked them if they would want to be a serf, they confidently said, "No!". Instead they said they'd rather be kings, queens, clergymen or my favorite (with enthusiasm)...nuns.
We then stopped to meet up with the Owls of Owasco. Specifically a pair of Nicoles. Nicole Hoey didn't have a class at the time but you could see that she had started a routine of checking in with her students. On her white board students had responded to the prompt using stick notes (picture below). Nicole Beatson was in the middle of an exciting gym class where students were diving to protect their bowling pins from an onslaught of enemy dodgeballs.
Off to Casey Park we stepped inside Jessica Monahan's classroom. She too was teaching her students about serfs. She helped students make strong personal connections to the material by linking Covid-19 with the Plague of the Middle Ages. We popped across the hall to meet up with Brandy Burns. We discussed last week's parent teacher conferences. To develop a nurturing learning environment Brandy had students reflect on their progress. Finally, we visited Erin and Andrea's room, where they were enjoying lunch. We were excited that as partner teachers they will be able to help each other through the Fellowship experience.
Renee and I took a quick respite for lunch then we were off to Genesee. We stopped by Claire Minnoe's class where her students were working on a number of activities. She also was engaging with students in a teacher pull out group. Next, we caught up with Merissa Petrosino and saw something quite unique. All of her students were on the floor! "On the floor?" you might ask. Merissa realized that students were having a challenging time making it through the afternoon endurance-wise. For 10-minutes the students would listen to calming, meditative music which helped them relax and center for the afternoon. Merissa shared that taking those few minutes have tremendously helped her students engage with their Phonics work in the afternoon. We finished our Auburn Roadshow in Danielle Cronk's room where the students were eager to talk to us and welcome us into the room. That is a great indicator of a nurturing learning environment.
Finally we met up with Melanie Maher, an instructional coach for Seward and the Jr. High. We are excited to see her unique lens as a coach can view personalized learning.
As we pulled back into Tubman after a long day of exploring Auburn's schools we realized a couple of things:
1.) We have an exciting new cohort that is anxious to accomplish really exciting things this year with personalized learning.
2.) Our classrooms seem to be ripe for upgrades. The teachers have the skills and the students are ready to take brave new risks in the classroom.
3.) Our teachers have created nurturing learning environments in their classrooms.
In the future, you will be hearing more about the Personalized Learning Fellowship. But more importantly you'll be hearing from our PL Fellows. They'll take us into their classrooms and explore some of the great work that they are doing.