I will openly admit that my opinion on what the role of a teacher should be has changed dramatically in my 15 years of teaching. I used to work out before school with a friend and we once almost came to blows over this topic. I mean that. He  felt that our role includes being a father figure while I did not. And we’re both pretty head strong.

But as I’ve taught longer, and as events in our world have occurred, my opinion on this matter has evolved. I’d say the breaking point for me was after the events that took place at Sandy Hook last year. Lost in all of the “let’s arm the teachers,” “let’s get more metal detectors,” “let’s feed the machine” (okay, that one may not have been said aloud) rhetoric, was the fact that a young, troubled man got to the point that he actually believed this was what he needed to do. And that’s truly a sad thought when you let that sink in.

Adam Lanza obviously didn’t have a connection — I’d be willing to say, with anybody. I’ve written before about Mr. Paul Murphy, a former teacher, coach and administrator who addressed our staff on my first day with this district by telling us that there will always be at least one student who looks at us as the best thing in his life on a daily basis. And that we will never know this to be the case.

I’d be willing to say that Adam Lanza didn’t feel that way, and even that’s a shame.

I have a supervisory duty early in the morning and I see kids walking laps around the school and I often wonder who they have connected with. Unlike Mr. Murphy, I haven’t learned all of their names — he was absolutely incredible at this when he was our principal — but I recognize the faces. It’s not hard to tell when they’re happy, when they’re in love, when they’re hurting. And I always thought, especially about those who were hurting, that they have somebody to go to for an ear when they need it.

Except when they don’t.

About a year ago I was asked to join a group of administrators, teachers and students who were working to create an Advisory block that would fit in to our schedule, providing us the opportunity to work with more students. We planned and planned and finally decided to just go with it. We knew that there would be ups and downs, but finally decided there was enough worth and enough positives that it was needed.

We’ve started with a 35 minute block of time one day a week and are working around the moniker of CLASS (Character, Leadership, All students, Scholarship, Service). We figured that if these pillars were strong enough to form the necessary qualities of a student in National Honor Society, then we should strive to develop them in all students.

We worked to create groups that were as diverse as possible — and by that, I mean with leaders and followers. We have members from each grade level and hope that they can all learn from each other. The possibilities are endless, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

Our first session was last week and I saw it all. I saw the looks of excitement and the looks of what in the world am I doing in here? I’m going to focus on Character during the first nine weeks, Leadership the second, Scholarship the third and Service the fourth. I’m going to push my group to come up with their own Service project, whatever that may be. I’ve also heard it all from my colleagues. Some are really excited and are already coming up with great things (that I’ll be stealing, by the way!), while others are simply looking at it like it’s another prep — and to an extent, that’s fair — because it is. But it also might be the most important prep one day a week.

We don’t have a curriculum and there’s no grading (thankfully!) and we’re going to be all over the place at times, I’m sure (I tend to be manic at times with things like this, and I hope that’s in a good way!) More than anything, I want it to be more about them and less about me, because that’s what it’s ultimately all about.

And I hope that maybe, just maybe, somebody who needs some help someday finds someone in our group to talk to.

2 thoughts on “CLASS…

  1. In the past week, I’ve heard enough about Obama-care and whether we should bomb Syria to make me, a proclaimed optimist, wonder where this country is headed. Reading your blog about CLASS was just what I needed tonight. Not only have you formed a committee to discuss this, you have actually begun! Whether every kid appreciates or makes the most of this class or whether every teacher understands how important this is and what an impact they could have, the point is, there will be at least one kid whose life is changed! And if one kid’s life is change like yours was by Mr. Murphy and mine was by Mr. Murrman, then he or she will go on to change a life. How cool is that!

  2. Great piece, Jeremy. Sometimes having excessive structure and an exact idea of what we want students to learn makes it about the content and what we (teachers and administrators) deem as important and not what the students what to know and do. I am confident if we support the students by being the “guide on the side” and not the “sage on the stage,” the students will run with it and amazing things will happen. It is important that the students become the molders and owners of their learning.
    The successes can be limitless. It doesn’t get any better than that!
    I agree that it is not going to be perfect every session, but then again that will be a part of the “process.” I appreciate your vision, commitment to making this a productive time for our students, and willingness to take risks, knowing that with great yet calculated risks comes great rewards.
    We rolled into the Senior Project with questions, but knew the learning would outweigh the risks by far. Through talking with them both formally and informally, our seniors continue to tell us how valuable the project remains. Student voice is alive and providing valuable feedback!

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