July 11, 2022 --
Teachers spend hours and days and even weeks at the beginning of every school year getting to know their students: not just memorizing names or seating charts, but meeting their families, identifying their academic and social strengths and weaknesses, figuring out what makes each kid tick.
At Boulevard Elementary next fall, that time will be spent teaching as longtime 4th grade teachers Julie Walker and Laura Preston “loop” up to 5th grade with their current classes.
“There will be a consistency and predictability that is lacking in so many parts of their world,” said Ms. Preston. From a shared understanding of classroom norms and procedures to a common culture, to a year’s worth of work on social-emotional learning, these students will feel part of an established community from day one.
Research shows a “slight but significant increase in student achievement” in classes that spend two years with one teacher. The study, reported by Education Weekly
, reports that the greatest increase in achievement was seen for students of color, who may need more time to develop trusting relationships with their often-white teachers.
“This is a relationship profession,” said Ms. Walker, who believes that learning the new 5th grade curriculum will be the easy part compared to the relationships and trust they’ve already built with their students and their families.
Research also shows that new students, those who have recently moved into a building or neighborhood, actually assimilate more quickly into looped classrooms because the sense of community is so strong.
Ms. Walker and Ms. Preston, both graduates of Heights schools, already departmentalize their subject areas, meaning that one teaches math and science to each classroom while another teaches social studies and English language arts to each classroom. “We are very much a team who works in tandem,” said Ms. Walker.
The two classrooms are currently starting to co-construct what they want their community to feel like next year and how they envision their roles as building leaders. Sometimes the input is small, like “One day a week during Silent Reading, could we have a Drawing Club or Chess Club instead?” and sometimes the suggestions center more on how to be ambassadors for their school to the younger students and community at large.
The intense work the two teachers have done on social-emotional learning this year will help carry them through this transition. “We’ve made so much progress and we really want to continue that,” said Ms. Walker. And as one student excitedly reacted when the news was announced, “That means we’ll get to do Community Circle every day!”
The daily staple is yet another example of the consistency and predictability that children crave. And that they’ll be guaranteed to have as they begin their 5th grade years.