Thursday, February 26, 2009

Advice for Design Teams

The Design Teams for Lowell and Thurgood Marshall are hard at work. We have been asked to provide input on crucial design issues. While direct emails to Team members seem to be the preferred method of communication, there is nothing wrong with having another place to work out ideas and perhaps compile them. This is that space.

20 comments :

Anonymous said...

I have been named to the interim Building Leadership Team for Thurgood Marshall. My understanding is that the Design Team will make recommendations to the interim BLT on such issues as dress code. Our first meeting is on Friday, March 6. I will try to keep up with this blog to hear what the community has to say. I can also be reached privately at elizsanders@yahoo.com.

JMT said...

Earlier today I sent an email to the Marshall design team, but I wanted to post this here to see what other APP parents think.

I had a couple suggestions about community building at Marshall (could work at Lowell as well):

1) Last night at Lowell we went to the 2nd grade game night and it seemed like an event like this would be a great icebreaker between APP and the exisiting Marshall (or Minor) students. As you walked around and looked at the tables, kids didn't need to know each other to interact, it was fun, it gave parents a chance to talk, etc. I don't know if Bingo Night is like this as well, but something of this nature would be a great way to start the ball rolling.

2) Introducing a buddy system. Our son went to TOPS last year and they have a wonderful buddy system there. Every Kindergartner has a 4th grade buddy who they then kept through third grade. In the 4th grade, you then become a buddy for a Kindergartner - of course TOPS is K-8. Our son loved having an older student as his buddy and teachers found several ways throughout the year for students and their buddies to interact (especially in reading and writing blocks). Now, I'm not exactly sure how you would structure something like that at Marshall (there are twice as many APP kids as general ed, APP doesn't start until 1st grade, school only goes through 5th grade, and there are new APP kids coming in every year). Perhaps it would be something like:


Kind Gen Ed - APP 3rd Buddy
1st Gen Ed - APP 4th Buddy
2nd Gen Ed - APP 5th Buddy

and


1st APP - Gen Ed 4th Buddy
2nd APP - Gen Ed 5th Buddy


That would leave a hole for the Gen Ed 3rd graders (perhaps they get paired with a student in the Head Start Preschool?), and many students might end up with more than one buddy (APP students might have a Gen Ed buddy and an APP buddy?), but it could work. I would also assume that many of the students from Autism program could have a buddy as well.


3) Another idea from TOPS would be to copy their idea of TOPICS. They did these once a month, but even 2-3 times a year could also be beneficial for us. The idea is that parents volunteer to come in for a couple hours to "teach" a TOPIC, pretty much anything they like. How to make cookies, how to knit, all about spiders, your country of origin, etc. Every student in the school signs up for a TOPIC that day and the parents talk with small groups of multi-age children. This would seem like a great way for all parents to share something with all the students (not just your child's classroom). Again, our son loved these and it was one of the few things he was sad to leave behind when he came to Lowell.

Just a few ideas. . .

Charlie Mas said...

I would like to see the ALO now at Meany (or a similar program) adopted at Washington and continue.

I think the consolidation and design team also presents an opportunity for Washington to explore adding electives for students outside the instrumental music programs.

BL said...

I like JMT's suggestions. I am a Capitol Hill parent of a preschooler starting kindergarten in the fall. Lowell is the closest school building to our home, and I like the idea of my son going to a school so close, but I definitely want to avoid a school comprised of separate and unequal communities.
TOPS seems to do an admirable job of building a cohesive school community, and I would be very enthused to see Lowell travel down the same road.

TechyMom said...

You might want to do some outreach to preschools around the central cluster. What would get people to choose Lowell or TM for K? Particularly, what would get people in the Madrona and Leschi reference areas, who aren't happy with the schools availble to them, to choose TM over private school? What would get Cap Hill families to choose Lowell over the Montlake waiting list or TOPS?

Another idea...
What about doing universal gifted testing for the general ed kids at Lowell and TM? It would probably help with recruiting for the ALOs. It would also actually expand access to gifted ed to these kids, which was supposed to be the reason for the split. Maybe do it in all grades this year, and then for K and a couple other grades from now on?

Anonymous said...

Techymom,

if you think expanded access to gifted ed was the reason for the split i have some great waterfront property for you. 700 feet west of pier 66.

the reason for the split was purely perception around the district that the program is elitist and insular. there was absolutely no justifiable reason (something that helps kids, any kids) for the elementary split. that's why the attempts at justification fell flat every time.

we're all left with a mess and trying to salvage it as best as we can.

Anonymous said...

JMT:

I've never heard of TOPICS before now (does it exist in other SPS schools beyond TOPS?), but there doesn't need to be a formal program to accomplish this! Your son need not be missing out on this at Lowell!

Most teachers are happy to accommodate this kind of thing. Personally, I've come into 2 classrooms during our time at Lowell to give a talk to the kids. About totally different topics - just stuff that appealed to me at the time and I felt might spark some interest in the kids. I did it for my own kid's classrooms because it was what I wanted to do, but I can't imagine a teacher turning down the chance to have a parent come and give a talk (unless it got super-popular and each teacher was getting 50 parent requests!)

My talks were geared toward advanced learners, but I've also considered trying to turn one of the topics into a different kind of talk and see if there were interested teachers in some of the more disadvantaged schools. It's more effort than I'm willing to go to right now, but I think in the future I probably will do this.

You can help make this happen at Lowell. You could take the idea to the PTA and/or BLT for consideration as a formal program, or you could just lead by example and pick a topic, give a talk, and encourage other parents to do the same.

pjmanley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I like JMT's ideas about the older APP buddies with younger Gen Ed buddies.

The opposite scenario may run into problems, though. I have personal experience with one pre-APP'er in Gen Ed 1st grade whose 5th grade buddy started hitting her because she was often correcting his reading...

Seattlehorn said...

Our experience with "reading buddies" at our neighborhood school has been wonderful. It still tickles me to see our shy little girl greeted in the hall by "big kids" who have served as her mentors.

(At Lowell, I appreciate the fact that our son knows Special Ed kids by name and enjoys shared singing time with them twice a week.)

While I don't see a "reading buddy" program working with APP/Gen Ed, it is possible to have buddies without the mentoring aspect.

JMT said...

Anonymous at 4:38 -
The thing that was really great about TOPICS at TOPS was that the whole school was doing it all at the same time. So, yes, of course, I or anyone could this in my son's classroom now. In fact my husband has wanted to talk about his recent trips to Thailand to build a safe water system. But, what I thought would be good about this idea moving forward, was that it would be a way for the gen ed and APP kids to have a positive interaction and a way for parents from both APP and gen ed parents to contribute their time and talents to a group of kids from across the entire school.

Seattlehorn said...

JMT, this is a great idea . . .it can build on what is happening informally at Lowell (our son's class has had some amazing parent "seminars" this year). Did you propose this to the design team?

JMT said...

Seattlehorn,

I did send my ideas off to the Marshall design team, since that is where my kids will be next year. I didn't intend to be myopic about it, but I realize now that I should have sent it to both teams. I will forward my email to the Lowell design team this weekend as well.

none1111 said...

JMT suggested cross-program buddies:

Kind Gen Ed - APP 3rd Buddy
1st Gen Ed - APP 4th Buddy
2nd Gen Ed - APP 5th Buddy
and
1st APP - Gen Ed 4th Buddy
2nd APP - Gen Ed 5th Buddy

As anonymous and Seattlehorn pointed out above, this would need to be done very, very carefully. You would probably need to do it without the normal academic (typically reading/writing) interaction. It's fairly common for a 1st grade APP student to be reading at 4th grade level or above, so if a genEd student was not performing at or above grade level you could have serious problems. While it's possible that some kids might find this amusing or cute, I think the far more common reaction would be frustration and demoralization. I don't want to see how that would play out.

Seattlehorn said...

How about once-weekly, 10-minute "buddy time" focused on the Lowell Way? This could draw from the curriculum for peer mediation and include discussion of the monthly value. The word for March is "accountability" according to our 4th grader, who suggests that buddies brainstorm examples of the value, and perhaps do role play or an art project together.

Somehow the following seems relevant:

"Most of the problems we are faced with in the nation and the world are the result of deficiencies in integrity and ethics, not deficiencies in vocational skill sets."

(from a letter in today's New York Times, arguing against cuts in humanities)

Anonymous said...

I was glad to receive the email from the Thurgood Marshall Design Team this weekend outlining some details of what has been discussed by the team to date. Things seem to be shaping up well. I have a small comment on the email, which is admittedly not too important. I think the proposed quote from Thurgood Marshall to be put in the lobby is silly, and will not be understood by elementary kids. The gist is that we all get where we are with the help of someone else (such as an "Ivy League crony" or a "nun" tugging on our bootstraps. The problem is that kids don't know what bootstraps are, don't know what a crony is, what the Ivy league is, and why are we talking about nuns in a public school? Are we encouraging cronyism by adopting this quote, or just recognizing its existence? When I googled Thurgood Marshall quotes, this is the most-quoted. But really, Marshall is known not for his pithy quotes so much as his advocacy in Brown v. Board of Education and his role, later, on the Supreme Court as the "Great Dissenter." His statements during the Brown oral argument and his dissents are unfortunately less amenable to a nice quotation in the lobby of the school. If we must have a quote, let's put up something short and more readily understood by kids. There is one quote about our intentions being important. There is another that says "In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute." That's my two cents for what its worth.

Seattlehorn said...

I can see your point, but I think the bootstraps quote has the advantage of poetry, and it addresses the elephant in the room: socio-economic class differences. It is not simply cronyism Marshall was recognizing, but ALL beneficial relationships. Such a reminder that changing one's class is not a solo effort (with the possible exception of winning the LOTTO) is a reassuring message to children who know they are disadvantaged. So yeah, the quote is long and anachronistic, but kids will get the gist and remember those rich round nouns long after.

Mercermom said...

I agree with anonymous re the proposed quote. TM is currently trying to open kids' eyes to the wonders of a college education. The school is going to be welcoming in students from families where it's likely some parents have attended Ivy League schools. While it's entirely likely kids will be oblivious to the quote, is elementary school really the time to turn their attention to questions of whether someone who got into an Ivy League college got their because of an "Ivy League crony"? Don't we want the kids at this point to think that college in general is something they will all achieve, and perhaps save the complex discussion about myths of meritocracy and pulling oneself up by your own bootstraps for another day? Or at least put up a quote like the "recognizing the humanity" that is more easily connected with an elementary-age goal of trying to empathize with your fellow students?

Anonymous said...

I still find the whole dress code/uniform policy at odds with the spirit of Thurgood Marshall the person, a great proponent of individual rights and individual expression. To quote Marshall's concurring opinion in Procunier v. Martinez, a case involving censorship in prisons: "The 1st Amendment serves not only the needs of the polity, but as those of the human spirit -- a spirit that demands self-expression. Such expression is an integral part of the development of ideas and a sense of identity. To suppress expression is to reject the basic human desire for recognition and affront the individual's worth and dignity." Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974).

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