Success, even in little steps, sure is great! The 6th grade teaching team at Ortiz MS in Santa Fe, N.M. should be absolutely BEAMING about how they transformed the first week of middle school, one of the toughest times in a student’s life, into one of the best. And I really want you to follow their journey, and learn, mentor and share with them that, yes we CAN transform learning, even in vastly underserved school communities.
I previously reported on the work that Julie Wilson and I are doing with Ortiz, a bilingual middle school with a history of low performance, serving a largely poor, heavily Hispanic community. Here are some of the notes and comments today from principal Steve Baca and his team who are on a mission to utterly transform this school:
- An amazing first two days of school focused on community building and trust; “student relationships are more like the middle of the year” rather than those typical nervous, tenuous first days of 6th grade.
- Students are less awkward with faculty and each other; students high-fiving their teachers in the hall; that has never happened before!
- Teachers relaxed the urge to “get to content”; “let the students be people first”. “We have them for three years; we will meet the standards by then.”
- No more loud whistle to get 225 students’ attention in the cafeteria; one calm hand signal does the trick!
- Teachers in every classroom reduced their own footprints down to a single teacher desk; increased “student-center” and learning space by 20%.
- 7th and 8th grade teachers are coming in to watch.
I urge you to follow their blog, appropriately named Transforming284MinutesofEducation! Julie and I will be revisiting and reporting in September or early October. I am going to link them up with Design 39 Campus and Vista Innovation Design Academy. This is a tall hill to climb, but if your school is struggling or feeling that change is uncomfortable, connect with the Ortiz team and share ideas for success!