Creating an Ad Hoc Junior High Advisory Group:



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Creating an Ad Hoc Junior High Meeting Group


By Daniel Richard Fruit

 

A real problem that is arising at Samurai High School is the coming loss of our assistant principal, Mr. Lesser. Mr. Lesser has helped us in several ways. He has kept students for detention instead of having the teachers do so and has acted as school disciplinarian. Further, he has acted as a kind of shield, being the intermediary between parents and students, especially for students who are failing. Mr. Lesser would gather "reports" from all teachers before a student conference and then assemble all the teachers of the student, usually a multiply failing student, in order to meet with the parents. In other words, he acted as a one-man "at risk" committee. By all indications, the new assistant principal, a former librarian new to administration, will be a very different type of person. As yet, no one else has not shown much interest or enthusiasm in assuming either of Mr. Lesser's former roles. The loss of Mr. Lesser, therefore, is not directly the problem, but the loss of a person to act as disciplinarian and interventionary for the problem (troubled) kids is the problem.

The obvious solution to this problem is for the teachers, as a group, to work together on discipline, and, I would suggest working in grade level teams. All of the teachers of a given grade level could be assigned to have at least one conference period in common or, if this is not possible, they could all meet during the same lunch period, there are designated junior high and senior high lunch periods, to work on all of these issues. At these weekly or half weekly meetings, they could discuss students who are failing, discipline problems, etc. and deal with these issues as a group. As a group, they could work on the following problems:

First, the group could select one person to call the parents of students who are not doing well to schedule a full, seven-teacher conference. In the case of a seriously misbehaving or troubled student, this meeting could include the counselor and/or administrator. Then, the parents would have the benefit of meeting all the teachers, including ones for whom their child has been performing successfully. This provides several teachers to act as mediators in case of a dispute between one teacher and the parent. At an appropriate time, of course, the student could be brought into the conference also. This, then, would continue Mr. Lesser's policy of identifying and attempting to help at-risk students and would also directly involve the teachers of the student in the solution-making process. If, as most past research seems to indicate, the teachers "buy in" to a process more because they are the initiators, this method should have a higher success rate with these students. Further, this would dovetail with one of the points made against us, and cited as a major area in need of correction, on the NCA visit report: the lack of an "at-risk" program for students.

Second, this team could handle detention for students within that given grade level. Members could decide who will take that grade level's detention for the week. Probably this would be at a predetermined location and time that would rotate among the teachers at this grade level. Parents contacted, if needed to be, by one member of the team. This would have an additional benefit in that this would divide the sometimes enormous groups of students staying for multi-grade detention, as many as sixty, into smaller groups, more easily handled. Since the teacher holding detention would more likely know the students, behavior at detention would also be improved.

Third, this team could implement the much-discussed in-house suspensions for its particular grade level. This program, when implemented, would send misbehaving students to a "time-out" room if their behavior is beyond correction by the classroom teacher. Again, by dividing the proposed group of suspended students for this program into fifths, ten students at a time becomes one or two, enough so a teacher could manage them and call their parents at the same time.

My roll in bringing about this change would be two-fold. First, I would propose this idea to the school administration, and there are good reasons to adopt this plan. First, the whole plan here is not particularly original but tried and tested; all the middle school literature proposes something like this, and most successful middle schools have a similar plan. The only real innovation is the extending of the plan to all grade levels. This is a viable extension of middle school philosophy because in our school of 700, 250 are seventh graders, 200 are eighth graders, and rapidly decreasing percentages are senior high students, so not that many senior high students would be effected. Second, again due to our relatively small size, communication between our staff members is comparatively easy. Third, again, this plan helps implement the directives and recommendations specified in the NCA report.

There are, however, two major stumbling blocks to this plan that would require administrative and staff support in implementing this plan. First, since our school is small, faculty members often teach several grade levels, so assigning members to grade-teams would not be easy. An obvious answer is that each faulty member could teach one grade level, if possible, and at most two, but be assigned to only one grade-level team. Again, this would particularly effect the senior high students more than the junior high. This would require administrative support in terms of scheduling and "encouraging" teachers to be satisfied with working with one grade level and then, if they want to teach several grade levels, teaching them in alternate years.

A second major stumbling blocks is that our staff has not worked together in this way before. This could, of course, be overcome by strong administrative support, in-servicing, etc., but again, the plan would have to be "sold" to the administration and teachers. Since this is my idea, or variation on an idea, I would have to be the salesman.

Secondly, each grade level would need a "chairman"; ideally this job could also go to the grade-level sponsor. Since I would be implementing this program. it would be expected that I would be the seventh grade level "chairman" or "chairperson." The success of the program would likely hinge on how well my particular grade level succeeded or failed as we would be the "lead unit."

In summary, my idea is to disperse the centralized discipline and at-risk counseling functions held previously by Mr. Lesser to teams at each grade level. These teams would, as a group, handle discipline and certain counseling functions, true to classic middle school methodology. My role in this would be to initiate the program and to be in-charge of the lead unit, probably seventh graders. I realize that, since the school's personal is not used to this idea and to teaching multiple grade-levels, there would be some resistance to this ideas and some problems, but I think that, ultimately, this is a partial solution to the problem of improving school discipline and student performance at Samurai High School.




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