This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Lori Dougherty & Jordan Robinson
After all of our work on the Fluency Project, and after attending Don Wettrick’s presentation, we started thinking about how we could incorporate some of these ideas into our classrooms. Therefore, we chose to combine our third period rotation classes and do some innovative work with the students. Since we have never done anything like this, we are trying to write syllabus as we go. We told our kids that they were “going to be the guinea pigs” for this new class and they have been willing through every step of the process.
At the start of the semester the students were asked to answer a series of questions about things they would like to see done at the school, ways they could contribute, and how they could leave things better than they found them. After several brainstorming sessions and discussions, and after narrowing down their focus, nine small collaborative groups (in a class of 24) were formed based on similar interests.
The students worked together to create proposals that stated what they wanted to accomplish and why, the steps that they would need to take, the resources that might be needed, as well as possible obstacles they may encounter. After the team of teachers discussed the proposals with them, students created PowerPoints or iMovies that were presented to the middle school principal, Anne Haverty, as well as Mary Lu Hutchins, Mary Rose Creedon , and our talented and gifted teacher, Amy Vavrock. These educators provided feedback, offered guidance, and asked thought-provoking questions of the students. Their participation was invaluable to our students and offered them the chance to take their ideas a step further in some cases.
Since then, the students have begun the process of implementing their ideas and blogging weekly about their progress as a means of reflection. They have done research, found products and prices, held some fundraisers, and developed the beginnings of finished projects. They have reached out to our athletic director, the superintendent, head coaches, principals, and other teachers, and they have done such an incredible job. There is still a great deal of work to be done before the semester ends in January, and some will not see results until the spring or beyond, but we are so proud of the work our students have done so far and cannot wait to see how things turn out.
Some of the best work has come from individuals that we would never have expected it from and it has been truly wonderful experience watching our kids get excited about something and take responsibility for seeing it come to fruition. One 8th grade group is working on raising money so that their basketball team can purchase warm-up jerseys. They sold raffle tickets for a Subway gift card (donated by our AD) and were very excited about how well they did. Ben, Lamar, and Alex talked about the teambuilding aspect of the project and that it was something that got them working together. “It’s been a fun class and a good learning opportunity.” Hopefully the other projects will see positive results as we continue with this learning process.
Lori Dougherty graduated from West Virginia University in 1990 with a degree in education (K-8 Multi Subject). She began a career as a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of Peace School in Wheeling and then went to Bridgeport Middle School in 1996 where she is currently the 8th grade ELA teacher. She received her master’s degree in reading from WVU. Lori has been involved with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project “Teachers as Thinkers” as well as the Leadership Council at Bridgeport Middle School. Lori currently is a member of Cohort 3 of the Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Lori’s special interests include reading, running, and cooking.
Jordan Robinson graduated from Ohio University Eastern in 2015 with a degree in Middle Childhood Education grades 4-9 Science and Social Studies and a generalist endorsement in ELA grades 4-6. Jordan began a career as a teacher at Bridgeport Middle School in 5th and 6th grade science. Jordan has been engaged in Leadership Council and the GenYES program. Jordan currently is a member of Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Jordan's special interests include spending time with family and friends.