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Curious about what a day teaching at Harlem Link might be like? Keep reading!
Teachers settle into their classrooms and finalize the day’s plans with their co-teachers. Children eat breakfast together in the cafeteria, getting fuelled up for a day of learning! Responsive Classroom tells us: when basic needs are met, children are focused and ready for engaging learning activities.
Teachers pick up classes from the cafeteria and calmly make their way upstairs. (After all, our first school rule decided by children is "Be calm and have fun.") Teachers greet each child at the classroom door, and then the class settles in with an established routine. Morning settle work gets the brain going and gives eveyrone a chance to transition into an exciting day of learning.
Harlem LInk follows Responsive Classroom, which organizes daily Morning Meeting into four discrete parts to make sure children all feel a sense of importance, belonging and fun. Students and teachers sit in a circle, greet each other by name, enjoy a fun activity that may reinforce prior academic learning, have a chance to share in a structured way, and end with a morning message that sets everyone up for the day.
The importance of Morning Meeting for children who have experienced trauma cannot be understated. Teachers at Harlem Link know from their Emotionally Responsive Practice training that, for all students, they are proxy attachment figures in each child's life. For students who have had their primary attachment affected in some way, this relationship and sense of belonging is critically important to their success in school.
Our balanced literacy reading block starts out with a mini-lesson targeting the current learning objective within our bigger genre-based unit. Teachers model reader thought processes and strategies for students; in co-taught classroms, parallel or alternative teaching structures allow teachers to target smaller groups of students in this "whole group" mini-lesson.
Next comes small group and conference time! All students get regular small group reading instruction based on their current reading level. A teacher usually meets with at least one small group a day, then confers with two or three of our young readers about their individual reading goals. The class then shares how they applied the strategy in their independent reading that day.
Students head to their specialty class of the day. Teachers most often use their daily prep period as a time to collaborate with their co-teacher, grade team, instructional coach, principals, social workers, families, or academic intervention teachers. Co-operation allows both teachers and students to be supported and therefore successful!
Once a week, each grade team has an extended, "Double Prep," in which grade team business and prep for the next week occurs. Grade team business can include such items as collaborating on upcoming field trips and deciding on needed resources.
Students often start math with a warm-up problem or fact practice. Then teachers facilitate a constructivist lesson designed to meet the learning objective based on Common Core standards. Hands-on manipulatives, multiple strategies, and accountable talk are regular components of the math block. Teachers often take notes or collect exit slips to know how best to address student needs the next day.
Every classroom also implements Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) as part of the math block daily. CGI supports our constructivist approach by giving children the chance to wrestle with problem solving in their own way, and the learn from peers in the "Discourse" time faciliated by teachers. CGI has transformed our math program since we began implementing it in 2015.
Recess and lunch gives everyone a chance to unwind and refuel in the middle of the day. Teachers like to use this time to build relationships with students: either following up with students about choices they made in the morning, or hosting a lunch bunch to celebrate active citizenship.
During writing workshop, teachers often take alternate groups, focusing the current strategy for the specific learners they are working with. Practicing the writing craft on smaller drafts allows students to create a final performance assessment they have taken through the entire writing process. Regular grammar practice equips students with the building blocks to become articulate scholars.
Social Studies is a passion for many students and teachers at Harlem Link. Whether visiting firehouses, operating restaurants, creating murals of city life, or building Iroquois longhouses, the approach to learning about the world around us is project-based.
Students make sure they have all that they need for homework, resolve any lingering conflicts on our peace rugs, and pack up. Teachers take students to buses, after-school programs, or parent pick-up.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the end of the official work day is 3:30. Most teachers stay later to touch base with their co-teacher about grouping kids and finalizing lessons for the next day. They also follow up with families and write the next day’s morning message and objectives. Occasionally, a teacher-led Sunshine event brightens the afternoon.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the work day goes until 5:00.
Thursdays are always common planning time when grade teams meet together to discuss the plans for the next week. On most teams, one teacher plans the units and lessons for each subject based on the Harlem Link curriculum framework, and gets feedback from the rest of the team before submitting plans to the Instructional Leadership Team.
The bulk of lesson planning gets done outside of the work day and teachers make time for this during evenings or on the weekend. Closing the achievement gap and creating articulate scholars and active citizens is demanding work which requires the highly skilled, highly dedicated professionals who teach our Linksters every day!
Two or three times a month, Thursdays also include a short faculty meeting to build community and share important information.
Tuesday afternoons are a cycle of professional learning and collaboration opportunities. Here are the rotations for 2016-17:
Emotionally Responsive Practice Support Group: Once every four weeks, half of the faculty at a time meets with our partners from Bank Street College's Emotionally Responsive Practice (ERP) Program to discuss how things are going, troubleshoot the Reflective Practice and other strategies we learned during our Summer Institute. ERP is focused on creating a strong classroom environment for all learners, particularly focused on the needs of students who have experienced trauma.
Curriculum and Data Grade Team Time: Once every four weeks, students have additional Specials classes after lunch, freeing up classroom teachers to meet for three consecutive hours working collaboratively. During this time, teachers reflect on their work and student progress and plan upcoming units. They do so using a data protocol to look at student work, and then a pre-unit protocol for upcoming units.
Child Study Process: One of the hallmarks of Harlem Link's program is our Student Support Program. A key part of our Response to Intervention is the Child Study Process (CSP), in which classroom teachers meet with Student Support Team members to review the case of an individual student and check in on or determine interventions. These meetings occur during the school day or during these Tuesday times.
Professional Learning Workshops: As needed, assistant principals and other staff members plan workshops during a Tuesday time when CSP, ERP or Curriculum and Data times are not occurring, based on the needs of the faculty and what's coming up in the calendar.