Getting Out In the CommunityPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 9/24/2018
When Ms. Roberts, Hampton High School's Work-Based Learning and Entrepreneurship teacher, told me about an upcoming field trip to Hampton's very own Senior Center, I was honored to tag along. The plan was for Mr. Roberts, our US History teacher, to take some of his students over in order to interview their assigned partner in hopes of creating a digital archive of the history of the locals of Hampton. This is what authentic learning can look like. Students - matched with real community members - learning about history through the lens of folks who lived it. It was an honor to document this process. Our students were attentive, kind, helpful, and patient. They were amazing listeners. They were excited and passionate about the stories they heard and coudln't wait to share it with each other and the class afterwards. We interviewed the seniors afterwards as well, and they were delighted with the process! One said, "The students were very interested in our past and their learning from us opens the door for the future."
What you may be wondering is how this all was set up to begin in the first place. This work, and all of the work to come with the Senior Center, is the brainchild of Ms. Roberts. She says:
"As a teacher, there's really nothing worse to me than standing in front of a bunch of bored teenagers trying to get them to pay attention and absorb something they don't care too much about. The thing that makes them (and me) come alive is interacting with real people, making a difference in someone's life and experiencing what it feels like to help someone or even get to know someone who has a completely different life than they do.
The Hampton Senior Center has only been open a little over a year. Jess Morgan, our AP was approached by Brenda Wesley about getting a student intern to help at the Center. From this contact, I met Brenda and ended up doing a 3 day externship for Work Based Learning this summer and fell in love with the people who come to the senior center every day. One thing led to another, and now our school is partnered with them to do several different activities! The first one was the oral histories. September 16, our Fine Arts department performed for Grandparent's Day; we are partnering with them to create a float for the Hampton Christmas parade in December and putting on a Senior Citizen prom in March. I feel like the things our students are learning through service and just being with these dear people will impact their lives for a long time. Hopefully, we are impacting their lives as well."
As the year continues, we are creating more and more opportunities to be involved with the Senior Center. One of our main goals for this academic year was to become more involved in our community, and we are so thrilled to see our students serving the "village" that has raised them.
Hands-on and Virtual Lab in SciencePosted by Kathryn Bailey on 9/5/2018
When our Environmental Science students got the opportunity to learn about food chains, our teachers Ms. Dhody, Ms. Nealis, and Ms. Bright collaboratively planned to go above and beyond to make sure the information stuck; "In this lab, students had to examine the remains of an owl’s diet and construct a food chain based on their observations." In other words - students were digging through owl pellets in search for bones.
A few students were reluctant to physically participate in this lab, and so they were allowed to do a virtual dissection instead; however, the vast majority of students were engaged and enthralled in the physical dissection.
The purpose of this lab? Ms. Dhody explains, "[Students] analyzed data by identifying and examining a number of skeletons they were able to make from the owl pellet. Students organized data by comparing their findings with their classmates. They interpreted information by determining the biological relationships from their examination of the owl pellets. By evaluating data of the animals found in the pellet, they could determine different trophic levels represented. Since most owls hunt at night and sleep during the day (...) students were able to draw conclusions and infer about the prey."
We love watching our students really be scientists. Sometimes books and lectures just don't make the cut - and I can guarantee you this, these students won't forget a lab like this!
Community Involvement at HHSPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 8/16/2018
One of our main goals this year is to offer tons of opportunities for community members to be involved in what we have going on here at Hampton. Sometimes, that can look like sending students out into the community for internships, work-based learning programs, job shadowing mentors, or doing volunteer work. Sometimes, it may be inviting stakeholders into the building for school events, exhibitions, and performances.
Inviting guest speakers into our classrooms to engage with our students is one of our favorite ways to work with our community. It allows experts to come share what they know with students, and more importantly, it allows students to see the authenticity and relevance to the work they are doing and the content they are learning.
Social Studies teacher, Ms. Reba VanFaussien, invited Daunte Gibbs, Director of Planning and Economic Development for Henry County to her AP Human Geography class. He asked the students: "How do we prevent a recession? How do we build sustainable communities?" He was able to share with students about Geographic Information Systems and how people like city planners use maps to preserve life, public health and wellbeing, and natural resources. At the end, he urged students to be involved in their local communities and to stand up for the things they want to see happening in order for the community to thrive. He challenged them by saying, "You are tomorrow's innovators. Most great movements come from the youth."
On the other side of the school, Health teacher and Softball coach Nicole Bailey invited in Joseph Grubbs of MOJO Ministries to speak to her Health class about stress management. Mr. Grubbs is a life coach and personal fitness trainer, and he was able to bring tools for emotional stability to her students. Afterwards, students began creating their own in-depth stress management plans. As they move throughout the school year, they will refer back to these when times get hard and utilize the tools that Mr. Grubbs, Coach Bailey, and all of their research and reflection has given them.
We look forward to seeing all of the creative ways that our teachers bring this building to life through the presence of our committed, local community members. We believe that their presence in this building can make the biggest difference for our students.
If you are interested in being involved at Hampton High School, please contact our Personalized Learning Lead, Kate Bailey.
Cross-Curricular CollaborationPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 8/7/2018
This year, one of our main focuses as a school is to have more meaningful collaboration between teachers and students. We do this not only to ensure transitional ease if a student were to move from class to class, but because we truly believe in the value of sharing what you know. In this case, the teachers weren't just sharing their knowledge with each other or with the kids, but students stepped into that role instead.
Mr. Bradberry, our Healthcare Science teacher, along with our Physical Education coaches decided to come together in order to meet common goals. To assess understanding of taking measurements for height, weight, heart rate, and BMI, Mr. Bradberry's healthcare students assisted all of the physical education students in charting these measurements to help them create their Fitness Grams. Going forward, students will be analyzing their own data, seeing how physical activity impacts things like heart rate, and creating their own goals in order to be their healthiest selves. Physical education students will be placed in small groups according to goals, and the coaches will be there to support students in meeting them.
We are always excited when we see collaboration taking place, but we're especially excited when kids teach each other. We're excited to see all of the ways that the our students will work together and support each other.
We're Back!Posted by Kathryn Bailey on 7/30/2018
Last week, teachers started knocking the dust off of their shelves, unpacking their books and hanging posters. They sat in meeting after meeting; they planned for authentic projects; they came up with flexible pacing guides and multiple assessment options. They researched and collaborated with their colleagues. They talked about their big ideas, eyes wild with excitement, and they placed every table and every chair in just the right place. They've been thinking about this day since the last day of school, and last week, they did everything with each individual student at Hampton High School in mind.
And this morning, it's finally here. The kids started flooding the building. We helped them find their classes and eased the nerves of our new ninth graders. Even though the teachers arrived last week, the building finally came alive again as our students filled the halls. Each individual one has a story. Their very own strengths and weaknesses; dreams and fears; backgrounds and cultures. We are here to help them realize those things and use them to their advantage. We are here to show them their own potential and insist that they rise to it. We are here to show them that the world outside of the walls of Hampton is so vast and is ready for them to come make a difference in it. We are here to help parents raise smart, kind, and good human beings.
We are here for each individual child. We're excited to share their journeys with you.
Exceptional Isn't That ExceptionalPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 10/17/2017
On any given day across this nation of ours, millions of teachers close the doors to their classrooms, and something really magical happens. Students from all walks of life - young and old, wealthy and impoverished, girl and boy, gifted and special needs - sit in a room surrounded by their peers, and they learn. This truly is magic. An English teacher gets through to the fifteen year old who never quite learned how to read. A math teacher sparks the love of problem solving in the heart of a child who thought he'd never "get it." An art teacher puts charcoal in the hands of a troubled child who finally found the outlet she's been missing. A grown man with a visitor's pass walks through the halls of his high school ten years later to shake the hand of a teacher who changed his life. A mother of three takes time out of her busy day to write a thank you letter to a teacher who saved her from a dangerous path. We hear great stories every now and then of a teacher or two who sacrifice their lives for their students. They work seemingly unending hours (summers included), they stay awake at night worried about their students or refining their lesson for the next day in their heads, and their partners and their children spend as much time at the school as they do. They volunteer to work the concession stands at the football games. They buy raffle tickets to support a club (or ten). They attend school plays on Friday nights, and they tutor on Saturday mornings.
The media would have you believe that these are extraordinary teachers, that they are the exception to the rule. Anyone who has worked in education, though, knows that this is far from the exception - this is your average teacher.
At Hampton High School, we know that our teachers are simply great. When we plan for things like professional development, we know that it is special and exciting to bring in outside resources, but we also know that the best of the best are right here in our own building. We know that if we want to see teachers who can juggle it all, all we have to do is open one of those closed doors, and we'll find them. It is our belief, then, that the best learning we can get AS educators is THROUGH our teachers. We believe in honoring the teachers who work tirelessly to implement a new facet of Personalized Learning in their classroom through positive feedback and visitor observations. We send outsiders to them to see good work being done. We ask our master teachers to provide professional development for our staff, knowing that sometimes hearing from your peer who is in the trenches is a lot more powerful than hearing theoretical pedagogy from an outsider. Sometimes this may feel like extra work, but it's the highest form of flattery that a school can truly implement.
We wish that we could give our teachers the world. We wish that all teachers could get the paycheck they truly deserve and the time off that they truly deserve (you know those "breaks" aren't really breaks, right?). We wish that they were treated like royalty everywhere they went. We wish that they were all recognized on the news for being the heroes that they are. Well - we can't do much about that. But what we can do is make sure they know how valued they are. We can listen to their worries. We can encourage them to keep going. We can tell them how wonderful they are.
At the end of the day, we can try to make our teachers feel the same way that they make our students feel - heard, valued, and appreciated. If we can do that, our school can only get better.
Have you thanked a teacher today?
Personalized Learning: RelationshipsPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 9/25/2017
Personalized Learning may sound like something new, perhaps something trendy or something that is bound to "go away" like other educational fads. Here's the deal, though, guys - when we really break PL down to its core, we'll realize that - sure - it deals with methodology and pedagogy, but that's just the fancy part of it. The real crux of what PL is is based on one word: relationships. When our focus is to personalize learning at our school, it can mean a ton of different things, but the heart of it all goes back to the relationships that exist in these hallways and these classrooms.
The obvious relationship here lies between student and teacher. At Hampton, we know that "students" are just another word for "human beings" - human beings who have the same basic emotional needs as everyone else - they need to feel free, loved, accepted, and safe. It is our duty, then, as educators to ensure that our students are obtaining those needs. Just the other day, while observing a freshman Math class the day before our fall break, Ms. Fletcher announced to the class, "One more assignment before you leave for break! GIVE ME A HUG!" They all laughed and shouted how much they loved her and that they would miss her while they were out. And - indeed - every single student gave and received a hug. Look - I could talk all day about Ms. Fletcher's amazing teaching style and the way she breaks her 85 minute class into sports timing to relate to her athletes and the way she offers tutoring nonstop for her students. I could talk about how she groups students based on their formative and summative data. I could talk about how she chooses student leaders to help teach the kids who are struggling. All of that is wonderful, and is - by the way - PL. But it is my belief that that moment, on a crazy Friday morning, says all you need to know about what those children feel every day when they step foot in her classroom.
I could talk about Ms. Mears - a senior Mathematics teacher - all day as well. How she implements project-based learning in her math classroom (something that a lot of teachers would find incredibly intimidating and, to some, "impossible") and gives students real ways to see math in the world around them. But what you really need to know is how she is able to connect with her students. How when students are researching career fields, college options, and scholarship opportunities, she walks around the room saying things like, "(Student name), are you planning on following your father's footsteps in law enforcement?" and "(Student name), are you still interested in going to Georgia Tech?" She knows the ins and outs of her students, their families, their goals, and their dreams, without ever having to have a piece of paper that tells her so. How? Because her focus, like all of our teachers at Hampton High, is to really know her students. We all know that when a person takes stock in us as people, we are more likely to perform for them, to believe that they truly want what's best for us.
There are less obvious relationships that are vital in the success of a true PL school. One of those relationships is between faculty and staff. It is absolutely essential that our teachers and staff not only respect one another, but that they back one another up, that they help one another succeed, and that they have fun with each other. When you walk down the halls at Hampton High School, I hope you will see teachers laughing with one another. I hope you will see a counselor and a teacher working together for the good of a child. I hope that you will see teachers giving each other hugs and high-fives because they made it through a tough day. I hope you will see teachers crying together in the wake of a tragedy, and I hope you will see those same teachers being brave in the face of adversity and always, always being one another's cheerleaders. I hope you see our teachers dancing in the hallway, being silly, and loving their jobs together. I hope you will see them planning lessons across the curriculum so that they can help each other outside of their content areas. I hope you will see them fight for what's best for kids, hand-in-hand, tooth-and-nail, no matter what.
Lastly, a truly personalized school focuses deeply on a relationship that is harder to measure. That is the relationship between the student and himself. This is the most difficult one to see and the most crucial one to nurture. As we go through life, our circumstances and the people around us are ever-shifting, but the one thing that always remains true is our relationship with ourselves. It is essential, then, at a personalized learning school, that the relationship with self is put in front of all else. We have to not only foster really positive relationships with one another, but as teachers and leaders, the most important work we can do is to remind each and every student that he is responsible for his own success, his own happiness, and his own future. At the end of the day, our students must have an innate and real desire not to please others for the sake of a grade or a pat on the back, but instead, to feel pride in oneself. They must know that they are worthy of a life that is beautiful, that is fun, and that is meaningful. When they do this, everything else will fall into place. They will serve their communities well. They will serve their fellow brothers and sisters well. Most of all, they will serve themselves well.
I could share stories all day of colleagues who have impacted me at Hampton High School. I could talk about the students that I've seen grow tremendously from year to year, even from the beginning to the end of a semester. I could talk about the relationships with students that I still nurture to this day, long after the students have graduated. I could talk about the opportunities that this work, "personalized learning," has laid at my feet. But really - the most important thing to remember is this: This isn't about "the work." Personalized learning is about valuing and validating that each and every person who walks into this building brings their own "stuff" to the table. It's about loving people (including ourselves) enough to say, "I am worthy of knowledge. I am worthy of a future. I am worthy of happiness - simply because I am."
And that - my friends - is what true PL is.
Entrepreneur of the Month: BoJaynes in McDonough, GAPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 9/7/2017
"Build your life around serving others well"
- Tanya and Kevin Boatwright, Bojaynes
I've heard about Mrs. Robert's amazing "Entrepreneur of the Month" visits for years, and two days ago, I finally got to sit in on one with Tanya and Kevin Boatwright, owners, creators, and chefs at Bojaynes in McDonough, Georgia. Mrs. Roberts, our Work Based Learning and Entrepreneurship teacher at Hampton High School, aims to bring in one local entrepreneur a month. From artisans to chefs, Mrs. Roberts makes sure to bring in a diverse set of leaders to speak to and motivate her students.
Before the entrepreneurs come to our school, Ms. Roberts has the students create a "wall" outside of her classroom with pictures and facts about the business as a type of advertisement for the students at our school. They also write five questions that they would like the entrepreneurs to answer when they finally meet. Afterwards, the students write thank you notes to those who come and visit them as a way to reflect on the true investment that they have made in the students' lives.
This month, the Boatwrights joined the class to talk about their restaurant Bojaynes, a family-based restaurant that focuses on healthy living and eating as well as serving their community. They discussed how their business runs effectively and efficiently, how to live whole-heartedly and without fear of others' negativity, and how to use things like vision boards to stay true to yourself. They even brought in their delicious chicken salad, pasta salad, and raw kale salad (as well as a couple of vegan desserts!) for the students to try. The students were amazed at how healthy food can be so rewarding and enjoyable to eat!
As I looked around the room, I saw students shaking their heads "yes" to the positive affirmations that the Boatwrights shared, their eyes lighting up with inspiration, and their wheels turning on how they could build their own future.
Here at Hampton High School, we want every student to feel inspired, confident, and fully prepared to not only be successful in college or the workplace after high school, but also to embark on personal journeys in which they can find their own truths, their own passions, and learn to serve their communities just like the founders of Bojaynes do. We want our students to be creative and driven to succeed. We want them to live lives that matter, and we want their stories to continue inspiring the generations to come. Days like these are just the building blocks for that.
Flexible Pacing in MathematicsPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 8/21/2017
Flexible pacing, one of the cornerstones of Personalized Learning, is an intimidating beast - especially in a classroom like math where direct instruction and "drill and kill" has reigned supreme for so long.
At Hampton High School, however, Ms. Myranda Masters has figured out how to offer flexible pacing alongside pathway and assessment choice for her students.
Though I sat in her Honors Pre-Calculus course today, Ms. Masters is consistently using this personalized learning approach in all of her math classes. It's no surprise that mathematics courses can be intimidating for a lot of students (and adults!), but as I observed this course, I felt an incredible calm throughout the room. Every single student in this class was engaged and working hard, and I heard pops of "Oh! That makes sense!" throughout the class. I saw the proverbial light going off above all of the students' heads as they worked through the same mathematical standard at different paces and through different activities. Some students were working diligently alone, some were seeking one-on-one help from Ms. Masters, and some were serving one another. One thing was clear - learning was taking place here, and I seldom saw a phone that wasn't being used as a calculator.
To be clear, direct instruction still occurs in Ms. Masters room. The traditional ways of receiving information have not disappeared entirely; however, Ms. Masters ensures that she gives days during the week that are totally dedicated to doing instead of just receiving. And though she has 85 minutes a day with each class, she reigns herself in by only lecturing for 25 minutes in the course of a class period so that she doesn't "lose" her students. Ms. Masters's clear, calm, and kind voice quietly guides the students who need remediation from the comfort of her own desk, and her energy juxtaposes the level of stress that the misunderstanding of mathematics can induce in some of our children. Instead, they are receptive to her peaceful nature, and they respond back with the same level of peace. Ms. Masters gently reminds the students who need extra help that they need to take the work a couple of steps at a time and not grow weary. She encourages them to choose the assignments that make sense to them now, and then come back for extra help when they're ready to tackle something harder. Though the expecatations remain high in this Pre-Calculus course, the pressure is low. Students are eager to do well, but they are not overwhelmed. They work at their own pace, they have friends to help them when needed, and they always have Ms. Masters to fall back on. It is truly a learning community.
People say that Personalized Learning always looks messy and chaotic - hey, a lot of times it does, and we believe that is okay! - but sometimes, you step into a math classroom, and you see engaged, calm, and really smart kids just doing what they do best - learning.
Personalizing ChemistryPosted by Kathryn Bailey on 8/11/2017
Charlie Buck is known as the science teacher who always has his class experimenting in hallways and outdoors, really putting their knowledge to the test.
When I visited his room on Thursday, I wasn't at all surprised to see that students were not only engaged in the work, but were clearly learning a ton.
The topic: Atomic Theory. Here's what he had to make sure his students could do: Apply scientific and engineering practices to understand and analyze the nature of matter, the characteristics of compounds and chemical reactions, and the characteristics of atoms. Sound intimidating? No need to worry - if you were in Mr. Buck's class, you'd have a variety of ways to learn and show mastery of the content. Just from my seat alone, I could see four different types of "work" happening. Mr. Buck had offered NINE different ways for students to show that they understood atomic theory, including (but not limited to) assignments based on research, mathematics, labs/experiments, and model-building.
This sounds like it would be a chaotic mess, but Mr. Buck truly makes this juggling seem easy. The classroom environment has a positive, chill vibe, and yet students are working with one another, asking questions left and right, and are incredibly engaged in the learning. Mr. Buck exudes great confidence in his subject area (as he should - he has a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry from Georgia Southern University), and the students know that no question is off limtis. Mr. Buck explains concepts to his students in such a way that kids seem to "get it" within seconds.
On top of all of this, one of Mr. Buck's main goals is to get his Chemistry students to sign up for AP Chemistry next year. To do that, he is oomphing up his literacy practice and making sure that speaking, listening, reading, and most of all, writing are commonplace in the science classroom.
Here, we have an incredibly challenging subject area, work that is rigorous, authentic, and meaningful, students with agency in choosing how they will show their own mastery, and a teacher that manages to balance all of this on top of traditional whole-group instruction and personal, one-on-one instruction.
This - my friends - is personalized learning at its finest.