01 October 2011

Enrichment is a beautiful thing

We had set aside Fridays for remediation during school hours. We tried a few different ways, and students looked forward to Fridays--as do-nothing days. We handed out "invitation" tickets, let them sign up, signed them up ourselves, but still some wriggled away to the wrong sessions...or further. So last year, we switched to the daily built-in model. And we stuck with it this year.

It did not take long to discover that first year that there were students in our school who simply did not need remediation, and even a few who generally stayed ahead of the game and were left twiddling their thumbs. And so "remediation" became "Enrichment," and we called on our non-academic skills to offer alternatives to entertain and delight the twiddlers while those who needed extra help could get it in a suitably small environment. The math teacher and I almost always have a full set of kids we hand pick for more help, but others tend to bide their time until AP testing time and have runaway hit Enrichments like Rock & Roll History. And even I am excited by our newest (chemistry!) teacher's Clowning 101 Enrichment!

Instead of signing up every week, like in the olden days, Enrichment now lasts about a month and meets 3 days a week, keeping the shepherding manageable and "lost lambs" to a minimum. Granted, it can be a little harder to come up with an Enrichment that is worth doing for a month, but it works well for things like getting the school newsletter out and making sure that students really get it when they leave.

In the meantime, I have picked a full house of young ones for a variety of reasons for this next session:

  • Some need me no more than a foot away to have the confidence/will power to get through an entire assignment
  • Some need to be able to ask a question as soon as it arises so they have no more excuses to quit
  • Some need materials that they can't forget on the kitchen table
  • Some just need a little time to catch their breaths, double check, and catch up to be solidly above water
  • Some are right on the border of total mastery, so they know what it is to struggle to get it, which means they make EXCELLENT teachers for the others--plus they care about grades and understanding enough to put up with a month of me to be able to get to that A
My list was whittled down to 15 kids, it looks like, due to conflicting Enrichments *shakes fist at math and yearbook*. This makes dealing with all of these needs more attainable, but I'm still going to have to juggle, especially with the 3 or so that need my undivided attention

Did I mention that Enrichment is like adding a fifth prep to my class load?

So here's what I'm going to do: each of the undivided set will get my attention for at least 20 minutes, one of them per day. I will set a goal for each of them for the week at the beginning to be achieved by the week's end. If it is not accomplished, then they will spend time after school with me, perhaps involving a contract for each. Perhaps I will have something lower order yet flashy (computer-type game) for them to practice with to reward themselves.

For the excuse-removing set, I will also give them a list of things to catch up/things they'll have to do that week. This might mean giving them some of the upcoming concepts/tasks before the rest of their classes (they tend to thrive when they think they're ahead of the game...as long as they can be pushed to stay that way). They will need at least 15 minutes of my time set aside to set them up. I will have to find ways to present the materials without my having to be present the rest of the time, ie well-written project assignments or detailed notes.

The materials set will also need a make-up list, of course. They will probably need computers for the online assignments that they have trouble getting around to. Then maybe they could join the excuse group to get ahead (then those who are a little ahead could teach those who struggle a little!)

For breath-catching, again, a make-up list, and maybe a little lower order review to build confidence, and maybe some scheduled interpersonal practice with the almost-mastery set. And then, of course, the ahead-of-the-game work.

Enrichment is a beautiful thing. There is something for everyone in the school, and it gives us a chance to SOMEHOW meet a wide range of needs that are hard to meet during regular class hours. And maybe this one will even keep me ahead.

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