Advocacy Groups for Students

I teach in a building of great teachers and administration. Our administration allows teachers the flexibility to help change our school climate. I teach in an urban school district that is beginning to reclaim its school spirit, positive community identity, and I feel this is because of the administrators, teachers, and students want more than what we have had in the recent past.

My school is divided into 4 teams; two teams are 7th grade, and two teams are 8th grade. I learned today that one team of 8th graders has created advocacy groups for their students. They have 110 students they teach. They broke down their students into groups of ten. Each of the five teachers on their team is assigned a group of ten students. The five teachers  also brought in the nurse, assistant principal, school councilor, a special education specialist, and our CTAG (Closing The Achievement Gap) advisor.

The advocates have decided that once a week, usually on Wednesday mornings they would meet with their advocate. They extend their homerooms for an extra 15 minutes so that the students have time to discuss anything they feel is important to them.  The advocates also so do some team building activities during that time. The overall goal of this teacher driven initiative is to give each of their students a safe person they can trust to share something that is going on in their life at school or home. Students need to have someone they trust at school when things don’t go their way.

The second aspect of this that may get over shadowed is the fact that our principal  has a philosophy that if you invest some time into researching ways to improve our school, then try it; if doesn’t work pull the plug or try to fix it so that it does work. Our principal encourages teams to try to do things for the benefit of our students, especially when it is generated from teacher teams. This is just one more example of the great leadership of our principal.

On a side note, our principal allows two (one 7th grade and one 8th grade) teams to loop their students. These two teams did research to back up their idea and implemented it last year. So those teams have their students for two years for both 7th and 8th grade.

How much freedom do you have to help change the climate in your school? Does your principal encourage teacher teams in you school building to do whatever it takes to make our school better, but most importantly help make our students successful?


One thought on “Advocacy Groups for Students

  1. notherbarb

    The advocacy groups sound like a great idea, and I’m proud of a district whose faculty, students, and administration work together!

    Our middle school has been “looping” grades 7-8 for several years, and for the most part everyone likes it. Even in 5-6 where they don’t loop, the teams are very strong and communicate well; often the team of kids doesn’t change much, just their teachers. It worked very well for our older son. For our younger son, however, the “loop” tangled between years. One teacher was reassigned (not prepared for first year teaching gifted students), son’s math trajectory took him to the high school for 8th grade, replacing middle school math period with a study hall with a teacher he didn’t know. My son had one class where he hoped the teacher would change, but that did not happen; that teacher has since been released. His world language, PE, and fine arts teachers stay the same, anyway. So he only got the “looping” benefit in those classes and social studies. I see I’ve spent more words describing a bad situation than a good, but this was a one-off situation. Looping with good placements in 7th grade would have been much better!

    Teachers and parents in our elementary school have approached looping in certain grades, but I don’t know how that is proceeding (I’m out of that “loop” now). We were thinking grade 3-4 would work well.

    For gifted kids especially, the first weeks of review and figuring out everyone’s learning style and re-navigating those wacky adolescent social structures is frustrating. With looping, they spend a couple of days getting back in the swing, and then take off. I hear that for kids in LD and typical classrooms, the benefits are similar.

    So glad to hear your district is proactive and communicating within. Perhaps they’ll let you further expand the education of their gifted students!


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