February 13, 2013 13:41 Age: 5 yrs

Tales from the Classroom: How REACH Values Came to Life in History Class

Category: Home, News
By: Annie Haylon

Annie Haylon is a sixth-grade teacher at Amistad Academy Middle.

In my sixth-grade history class, I was struck not only by the academic growth my students have shown, but also by their growth of character, grit and commitment to Team & Family.

My students have been working to develop discussion skills as we practice for a formal classroom seminar. Students are asked to meet rigorous standards for discussion—reading and understanding the rubric for the criteria is arduous, as is putting those skills into practice. One of the most difficult skills for students is “Considering Multiple Perspectives.” In order to earn the highest score in this area, students are asked to consider a variety of viewpoints, including opposing perspectives and viewpoints that might not be socially acceptable. They need to demonstrate their ability to distinguish between agreeing with a perspective and understanding it, a practice that can be difficult for adults twice their age.

During one practice discussion, I asked the students to evaluate and explain how they would score each classmate’s contribution. One of my students, JaBraille, was able to successfully evaluate where one of his classmates fell on the rubric in terms of his ability to consider multiple perspectives. JaBraille explained his position, defended it with evidence from the discussion and paraphrased perfectly what his classmate had said. JaBraille also took the conversation to a new level, explaining what his classmate could have done to improve by giving a specific example of what he would say to consider an opposing perspective. I was amazed, and it brought tears to my eyes. I was especially touched because JaBraille, only two blocks earlier, had earned two major deductions, and I was worried he might disengage from his learning. He did just the opposite. I reminded JaBraille and the class that his effort was a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we do not let our circumstances get the best of us.

The moment gave me goose bumps, but it wasn’t over. I then noticed a necklace being passed from the back of the classroom to JaBraille. Only a few students in the class had earned these necklaces, which are used as symbols of citizenship, something we have been working to develop as a whole grade. I learned that the student who had passed the necklace was a boy named Kenny. This act was particularly amazing because Kenny himself had struggled with a deduction he earned earlier that day. I was also impressed by the selflessness of his gesture; Kenny didn’t draw any attention to his passing of the necklace. He simply thought JaBraille deserved it and wanted him to have it. Kenny showed his classmates another great example of how to overcome difficulty and contribute something positive. For this, Kenny earned several credits and got to watch his teacher tear up even more! It was a memorable and fabulous moment that left me speechless and incredibly proud.


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