Vol. #9: Reflecting Pool

Today was the first day of school for the traditional calendar schools throughout the state.  There are 36 middle schools in the county in which I teach, but ten of them, including mine, are multi-track year-round schools. So while the majority of the county welcomed students today for day one, our students arrived for day 36.

The sight that greeted them on this day was a sight most students never see: the halls being20120827-174943.jpg painted. This would normally be done when the students are out of the building (likely during the summer) but with the exception of Christmas break, there are students and staff in the building of a multi-track year-round school – literally – year round.

This means several things are fundamentally different logistically, besides students changing classes with wet paint on the walls. Teachers change classrooms four times a school year, so it means we don’t hoard like our pack-rat teaching brethren. For electives, PE, and many Special Programs teachers, it means having classes of combined tracks: three weeks with one group, three weeks with the other, and six weeks both groups together. It means having two Open Houses, two picture days, etc; since one track would always miss it otherwise.

Having taught traditional, one of my favorite aspects of year round is what it means for the energy and “feeling” in the building. One track (of students and staff) is always “tracked out”, another has just returned, another is in full-swing, and a fourth track is eagerly awaiting their turn, just about to leave. The energy is different from a traditional school because everyone is not rested (or exhausted) at the same time.

20120827-175026.jpgAnd it means there is not always a neat, clean place to start many school-wide initiatives. You just have to pick a place and…dive in.

This is a great reminder to my perfectionist nature that tends to think there’s some magic time that will be better. Start now. I’ve taken my own advice this year and made changes I am very excited about and look forward to blogging and sharing.

And, as I personally count down the eight school days left before it’s my turn to pack up my classroom into a closet so that the group currently tracked out can move in, I reflect on the changes within the school. There have been a great many so far, and still many to come I have no doubt, that will be teaching me volumes and therefore will also make an appearance on my blog. At any rate, it seems fitting that as we continue to dive into these new waters at my school, the appearance reflects the change in substance.

One of the gentlemen painting this morning told me the name of this paint color is “reflecting pool”.

How appropriate.

What great changes and improvements do you have planned for this year?

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9 thoughts on “Vol. #9: Reflecting Pool”

  1. What a wonderful description of year-round schools, Erica. I find myself on the flip side of the same coin: teaching on a traditional calendar for the first time in my career. I’m constantly noticing things about my new schedule that I like, and things that I miss about year-round.

    Do you see evidence of the purported academic benefits of year-round schools?

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    1. Absolutely.

      I vividly remember Clayton (I remember his last name’s) answer to a question where I was just looking for “poetry” and he answered “haiku” and followed up with its definition. It was 2002 and it was my first day teaching year-round after having taught traditional school for a couple years in South Carolina. My experience there had shown me the first month or so was mostly re-teaching the previous year’s material in order to brush off the summer months’ cobwebs. I had to scrap what I’d planned through track out (3 weeks – I was track 3 then) and step it up quite a few notches.

      Both schools were suburban, but one could still point out that we’re not talking about the same students or state, so it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison. Still, it resonated with me, and I’ve certainly noted the benefits in students each year.

      I’d also add I feel there are great benefits for myself, as well. In SC, I always volunteered to teach the language arts summer school program. If I have any more than about four weeks off, I find it counter-productive for me. Rather than more rested, I get more rusty, lazy, and it’s actually harder to get “back in the swing” than if I’d had less time off. But that’s just me.

      My principal mentioned that in his previous county, he preferred it as an administrator because the data like testing scores, office referral rates, and teacher retention were favorable in year-round schools compared to their traditional counterparts, though I believe those would be single-track year round schools that don’t have some of the pragmatic challenges I was describing in the post. I haven’t analyzed that data in our county, but it would make for an interesting follow-up.

      Oh my goodness, I just realized Clayton’s about 24.

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