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Tomorrow will mark a first for members of the junior class at Peters Township High School. More than 375 juniors will be appear to present their graduation projects. Until now all students selected one of the many projects they do during their high school years and it served as their official graduation project. This change in process has created apprehension and frustration for the students. It has also created an evolution in the thinking of the team of collaborators who have guided the implementation of this new process. That team of teachers and administrators should be commended for staying strong against great criticism and they are to be praised for their amazing skills at organizing every detail to bring this experience to this first milestone. The entire HS staff has been preparing the juniors for “Tell Your Story” with mentoring sessions, career fairs, career research and a variety of inquiry opportunities. In January, the staff read essays about the students research and graded them using a rubric. We read in committees of the three. I read twenty-eight essays in two after school meetings. Tomorrow, there will be four teachers on each panel and every K-12 teacher and all administrators in the school district will be evaluating the presentations which are to be 10 to 15 minutes in length. A rubric has been created for the event and presentation skills are strongly emphasized. Being big on performance, I am looking forward to hearing about the career inquiries of the students and I am anxious to see how they demonstrate their independence. I know that there will be students who will experience “performance anxiety.” This experience is about individual inquiry and will be all about independence and practice, my CIG’s topics for this year and from last year! Notes to follow after the event…

Next day-following project presentations: We heard 7 presentations today and they were all good. In regard to independence, the students were all well-prepared and some were well rehearsed while others could have used more practice. All adhered to the requirements as outlined in the rubric. Independence based on the depth of understanding of the research that was conducted was definitely evident in one presentation. This student did not use note cards as prompts and unfortunately the powerpoint aid he had planned to use would not open. So he asked for a copy of the rubric and proceeded to reconstruct his presentation. Though visibly a little bit rattled, he moved forward relating his journey and citing supportive data that met the requirements on the rubric. It is interesting to note that this student is a musician who is also active in theater. He definitely demonstrated poise under pressure…poise that reflected a significant level of independence.

Inquiry based experiences in Orchestra lessons at the elementary level take are taking a different form than the ones at the High School.

Students attend lessons on a six day rotation. At this level a great deal of time is spent establishing form, reading skills and most importantly, practice habits. Our school district is deeply involved in leading students to understand and apply Stephen Covey’s Eight Habits of Highly Effective People.

In grades 4, 5 the focus is on habits 1, 2, and 3: Be Proactive, Begin With the End in Mind and Put First Things First.
When students begin to play in a large ensemble in grade 6, the focus is on group dynamics and habits 4, 5, and 6: Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, and Synergize.

In an effort to increase the INDEPENDENCE of the elementary students I teach, it has been necessary for me to begin to track whether students remember to bring their instrument and book and attend on the correct day due to this new shifting schedule. This had changed previously establishes habits of independence and created as new need.

September 2020

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