2017 Junior class picture—Teachers and students journey
through all four years together graduating as a team
A four-year loop not only allows teachers to learn and identify their students’ comprehension styles, it also creates a bond of care and trust.
FROM THE STUDENT PERSPECTIVE (GRADUATING SENIOR)…
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When I started 9th grade and heard we would have these same teachers until we graduated, I was like ‘Are you serious? This is going to kill me. I can’t take some of these people another year.’ But now I think ‘I really understand where the teacher is coming from and I try to relate to them the way they are relating to me.’ I thought I would get sick of seeing the same people every day. Now I think it is helping me learn better because my teachers know who I am.
The main thing is, it is easier to get help and guidance when you really know them. It makes it easier to learn. Asking for help is the big thing. You just don’t think twice—you are not scared what they might say or if they might think you are dumb. Presenting in front of the class used to scare me more than anything in the world. Now I was a little jittery but I am just so used to these students and teachers, it is much more comfortable. In the 9th grade my heart would beat so fast and I wouldn’t know what to say but now I trust no one is going to make fun of me. They know me. They are actually interested in what I am going to say. Now with teachers, I can be joked with. I never really had that with adults before. It used to bother me when a teacher would joke with me—it would make me scared to talk to them. Now it makes me want to work harder, like they are teasing me because they want to push me a little, because they care that I am going to do well.
I mean they know when you have a real problem and are not just making excuses. It is more economical because they are not wasting so much spare time and energy trying to figure you out, which lets the whole class learn more. I think it must take the stress load off the teacher really understanding the students and why they are acting that way. In 9th grade they had to be a lot stricter and by the book but each year the whole relationship gets more relaxed and comfortable. It is more like a family environment because they know our quirks and our good qualities. It is a more warm and welcoming feeling. They have more experience with us so they understand our day to day problems that affect how we learn. It just takes a while to get to that point and after 9th grade we started the year already there.
FROM THE TEACHER PERSPECTIVE…
Teaching so much different content is the biggest challenge. As a science teacher we have to have all the certifications. My background is physics so teaching biology was difficult. The first loop was very hard, staying ahead of the content, always teaching out of my comfort zone. I was looking for another job after my first trimester. But having gone through once, it is much easier. I am focusing less on managing the classroom and more on the curriculum. The first time through I was reading a unit ahead of the students; I had to restudy it myself. But in doing that I really enjoyed it because I was learning new things I was excited about and passing that along to the students. In teaching the same thing year after year you get bored.
Now that I have seen the whole curriculum I see the big picture, the end result of what I am looking for. Physics is less important than problem solving and experimenting and what science really is. Not knowing equations but: can you use these tools to solve a problem? In my mind teaching the whole loop redefined what science is to these kids. Moving through the whole science curriculum with a group of kids changed my focus more to helping them to see that this thing we do can be useful to them in their life…trying to find real everyday applications. Not teaching to the test, teaching to their life. I feel like a changed teacher. Going through the loop changed my whole idea of what the science is and how to teach it to them—more the skills and concepts. By seeing the growth of the students and how they progress, it helps me envision how other students may progress and plan accordingly.
The powerful thing is, if they aren’t getting it, you can’t just move them on and not worry about it anymore—that is your problem. You can’t ignore the gaps—it gives you some type of long term responsibility to get them where they need to be. That is so important—so missing—in urban schooling generally. Plus you have the deep knowledge of the learner to do it. Not just the relationship part—although that is huge. It is by far the most different and important and powerful thing about this school—not just the relationship but the responsibility you feel. I will take these kids through. When they take the state exams we will see how I have done. That increased accountability benefits the kids and it really lets me see the impact I am making.
For more of City High’s Best Practices please visit our research page: cityhigh.org/research/
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