Our biggest change we are working on for next year is the move to block scheduling. Having 80/90 minutes for core classes is a dream come true for most teachers. It has taken many meetings and looking at lots of different schedules to find something that is right for us at IMS. We have several different challenges that affect our scheduling including sharing 3 teachers with other schools: Our band, chorus, and GEMS teachers. So we also had to work around that. But I think we have gotten pretty close to what we need. I have given copies to the teachers and asked them to look over it and see what issues might arise. This is a community effort. I need their input. They asked for it, I know they want it, but I also know they see things I didn't think about. This change is so important for the students. More time in ELA/Math/Science is a priority. There will be time built in for remediation and enrichment so that we can hit students of all levels.
The counselors role is changing as well. The job description is now so much better. We are making several changes to go with that. She is moving rooms so her "classes" will be more private. She will still have the smaller private office inside her room but this helps with any students who pass by and look in. Students that miss a lot of days and students struggling are students we plan to spend more time with. Right now I check grades every 4 weeks and conference with struggling students but I feel that isn't enough. We want to do more. Our counselor is going to meet with them in group and individually to try to get to the root of the problem. Chronic absenteeism leads to failing grades and failing grades lead to drop outs. We want to work on that earlier in their school career.
Talking about attendance. Our attendance rate is "good". But if you understand ADA then you know a single percentage changes you from good to bad. There is no in-between. We want to increase that overall and the only way to do that is to address the chronic absences. Our counselor is one way but we also plan on providing rewards to those who have perfect attendance weekly/monthly/ and for the year. In the past we have used free food coupns from local restaurants, gift cards from Wal-Mart, and a reading device such as a Nook. I plan to look for more rewards to get them to come to school. If they don't come, they can't learn.
A big change we are also working on is a new break area for both 5/6 grade and 7/8 grade. We have an amazing PTA that has helped with the purchase of some items such as concrete picnic tables. But we are also sewing grass, putting in a basketball goal, and adding flowers. This is a huge endeavor because it requires the cutting of some trees and such but we can handle it.
The last item I'm working on may be the most important because it deals with the health and stress of my teachers. I'm looking for grants to build a small exercise room for the teachers. I feel that a healthy teacher is a happy teacher. We are often going straight from school to games with little time in between. If any of you are like me once I leave I'm done! So I would like to get 3 machines: an elliptical, a stepper, and a treadmill. I know I would feel better if I just took 30 minutes a day, so I would love to be able to give my teachers that opportunity.
I have so many hopes, dreams, and a few fears but I know I can tackle each one of these items. I guess I will do it like you would if you were asked to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.