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Essential Components of a Freshman Transition Program - Part 4 - Classroom Leadership

This series of posts on the essential components of a Freshman Transition Program is based on ideas found in The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up by Scott Habeeb, Ray Moore, and Alan Seibert.

There are many different approaches that one can take to properly transition freshmen into the high school setting. Some school are trying the academy approach. Because freshman academies have some inherent weaknesses many schools are going with the departmentalized approach. Schools transition freshmen on 4x4 block schedules, A/B days, 7 period days, 6 period days, and hybrid schedules. Transitioning freshmen occurs in small schools and large schools, urban schools and rural schools, schools that are struggling and schools that find benchmarks like AYP easy to reach.

The key to successfully transitioning freshmen lies in several essential components. While these components might look different in different schools/communities/classrooms, they all should be present in order to meet the needs of 9th graders.

Each blog post in this series of will focus on a specific example of those essential components.

Post 1 and Post 2 in this series both dealt with the topic of teaming teachers. Post 3 in this series dealt with the importance of Standardizing Expectations.  This post will focus on how a team of teachers can use "The Power of Four" discussed in the Standardizing Expectations post to effectively lead a classroom.

We (the authors of The Ninth Grade Opportunity) used to say that a team of teachers can work together to enhance their Classroom Management skills.  Then Alan Seibert shared with us the following quote from Stephen Covey:
Effective management without effective leadership is like straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic
As we applied this concept to the classroom we began to think about some "well-managed" classrooms we had seen that were devoid of leadership.  While the students may have behaved, their educational experience was not what it should have been.  A classroom doesn't just need a manager.  It needs an educational leader whose leadership creates an atmosphere in which students can flourish.  Therefore, we now say that a team of teachers can and should use their cohesiveness to enhance their Classroom Leadership capacity.

Can you imagine a classroom in which a group of typical 9th graders set the tone?  This would hardly be an ideal place for educational excellence.  As educators we must set the tone.  We must lead the classroom.  We must create an environment that lifts students to levels they would not reach on their own.

That's no easy task.  It's what we struggle to do each day.  Unfortunately, we too often struggle as an individual.  What if a team of teachers combined and shared their best classroom leadership strategies?  What if students encountered standardized expectations and practices in each classroom?  This Power of Four could be used to create the ideal academic atmosphere.  This is an essential component of Freshman Transition - making a rigorous, exciting, and engaging academic environment be the norm for all 9th graders so that they have a solid foundation for the rest of high school.

It would be impossible in one blog post to list all of the potential classroom leadership strategies that a team of teachers could share.  From seating charts to Do Now/Bell Ringer assignments and from classroom procedures to hand signals used by a teacher, there are countless tools and strategies teachers use to create a strong academic environment.  If teachers share these, their impact is magnified exponentially.

A team of teachers looking for some Classroom Leadership strategies to share might want to check out The First Days of School by Harry Wong or Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov.  These books are full of great ideas.  A team of teachers could go through these together and find ideas that they all like and can all put into practice.

For more information on teaming teachers to transition freshmen check out The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up.


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