OVERVIEW : Teacher Reflection, one year later
I have enormous
respect for these particular students, and a sense of marvel at the people
they have become. They began preparing for their graduation requirements as
an average group of Boston Public School seventh grade students. By the end
of eighth grade, I saw a group of hardworking, self-motivated students, each
of whom showed enormous self-possession in
presenting her or his work to a committee, and each of whom felt great pride in her or his work. I have no doubt that the students standards for their own work and work habits have greatly
changed through this process.
There are several possible reasons for this, all of which are intertwined. Clearly these students got a great deal of oneon -one attention and help and not only from teachers. Many of the adults and children in the school were invested in their success; most members of the staff were advisors and each sixth grader was a helper.
Though we had
not, perhaps, prepared the students as well as we hoped for the academic requirements
or in the habits of mind, they had had practice at working independently in
their two or three years at the school. There were long stretches of time
when students were expected to work independently on their portfolios. They
knew how to do this (though as time passed most of them gained an ability
to get down to work quickly and to manage their time in a way we had not seen
Perhaps most important was the seriousness with which everybody at the school took these standards. The students felt they were involved in something very grown-up, and very rigorous. They felt a lot was being asked of them, and though they sometimes complained, they also wanted to prove they
could do it. Lots of things contributed to the sense of the importance of the process. Every adult in the school showed caring concern. Outsiders were involved; the presentation was public. The judging was to be done using rubrics. There was a protocol. And, the stakes were high the students knew that if they failed, they would not get a Mission Hill diploma.
But for whatever reasons, these students were outstanding not necessarily in the skill level they finally reached but in their rate of improvement, and in their development as thinkers, workers and human beings.