Oct 8, 2009

Why I've Become A Believer of Our Oakland School

I know all my students' teachers. I meet with them at least once a week. Their classrooms are only a minute from my own. Further, my students all have the same teachers. They talk about us the same way we talk about them. Even further, my students have a teacher who communicates with their parent at least once a month. If that's not a tight-knit school community, I don't know what is.

Yet, I teach at the largest public high school in Oakland.

How is this possible? Let me explain. It's new, (we've only started this year w/ just the freshmen class) and I firmly believe in it's effectiveness. If you're a big school looking to rid yourselves of big school cons and replace them small school pros, consider this:
1. Our school has 2000+ students and 100+ teachers. Think: big school.

2. Within our school of 2000+ is a "house" of 600 freshmen and 24 teachers whose classrooms situate only one corner of our large campus. Think: school within a big school.

3. Within our house of 600 are 6 mini-houses of 100 freshmen who share the same 4 core teachers. Think: small school within a school within a big school.

4. Within our mini-house of 100 freshmen are 4 groups of 25 who are paired with 1 teacher who commits to their success. (Phone calls and emails home, check ins, personal attention, all of it). Think: family within a small school within a school within a big school.
Logistically, the setup requires extra extra attention. Extra summer hours were dedicated to stitching together a masterpiece of a master schedule. Extra beginning week time was dedicated to balancing each house. However, things are now set, wheels are now rolling, and what we have is the greatest sense of community I've ever felt at this school. We've cast a net so that no student falls between the cracks.

Checking in with my students' other teachers is done with ease. Not only this, but what you've created is 4 sets of 6 teachers who all teach the exact same course load. Efforts to collaborate, share effective methods and lessons, create common assessments, etc are done with the same ease.

The geniuses who planned this restructuring did so masterfully. At least I think so. What do you think?


Dan Callahan said...

Welcome to the Middle School Team structure for a school. It's pretty great.

Maggie said...

How well does this method work for students on the "Honors" track and sometimes take different classes than the majority of freshman students?

Eyawn said...

Maggie, at our school, all freshmen are placed in the same science/history/english class. to solve the math issue, all math teachers teach geometry and algebra. Those students who are beyond geometry take classes "outside" the house. Though there are none to my knowledge, I'm sure students who are 'advanced' in other subjects can do the same.

Kate Nowak said...

That's pretty cool! Will the 25 students stay with the mentor teacher until they graduate? Or the kids stay with the same core teachers next year? (I kind of doubt it, but thought I would ask.)

Eyawn said...

That remains to be seen. We began w/ the freshmen class this year and we're currently in the process of setting up a similar structure for our sophomores next year (which is this year's freshmen class). I doubt we'd be able to retain every teacher and every student so I'm sure we'll occur at least some shifts, but I think it'd be excellent if they stayed w/ the same group.

Krizia said...

I just realized that this is the model my school utilizes (like Dan says... Middle School Team structure). It truly is, in your words, "the greatest sense of community I've ever felt at this school."