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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!
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.
Our balanced literacy reading block starts out with a mini-lesson targeting the current learning objective within our bigger genre-based unit. Often teachers team-teach this section, modeling reader thought processes and strategies for students. 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!
Students often start math with a warm-up problem, Mountain Math, 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.
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. Daily grammar lessons equip 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. At least once a month, a Sunshine event brightens the afternoon.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the work day goes until 5:00. Thursdays is 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 Leadership Team.
Tuesdays afternoons are a cycle of professional learning opportunities. Seminar sessions are led by teachers who share specific strengths in their craft. About once every two months there is a full staff meeting to check in on our progress against our top goal for 2014-15: Throughout every day, every student's experience will be one that is both rigorous and caring through our team's consistency and developmentally appropriate practice. To support this hard work, our staff's culture will be positive, supportive and trusting.
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!