Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

Where Everybody Belongs at BJHS

September 6, 2007

Baldwin Junior High School students are learning about where they belong in a new program this year.

"It's really easy to pull someone down," BHS teacher Marilee Valentine explained as she gently pulled a sixth grade volunteer down off of a chair. Then, as she struggled to lift the student onto the chair with her, she added, "But it's really hard to pull them up." This demonstration, which was part of the closing assembly on Aug. 17th, is what the "WEB program is all about."

WEB stands for "Where Everybody Belongs." Ronda Schulte (7th grade Reading) and Valentine (8th grade Social Studies), both teachers at BJHS, direct the program, which is new for the 2007-2008 school year. Their responsibilities have so far included the training of the WEB leaders and the organization and execution of an orientation day on Aug. 17. The primary goal of the program is, according to the director's manual, "Making Middle School Transition Successful."

Thirty-two eighth graders gave up three days of their summer to participate in this program and help the sixth graders transition into junior high school. Two days of training prior to orientation day prepared these WEB leaders to guide small group activities and take initiative when in a group of their peers.

According to the director's manual, these students are "a cross-section of the student body representing all types of students at the school, thus giving as many sixth graders as possible a WEB leader to identify with."

According to WEB leader Alexis Finucane, the new program is great.

"WEB is very fun and exciting," said Finucane. "It really helps the sixth graders a lot. I wish I had this when I was coming into sixth grade."

WEB leader Hayley Schwartz agreed

"It's fun and you get to interact with the new kids that come in," said Schwartz.

These eighth grade leaders are given special privileges throughout the school year for volunteering their time and effort to the program. According to Schulte, the WEB leaders took a trip to Sonic for an afternoon last year, and will also be taking the sixth grade students to play miniature golf at some point this year.

"Everybody really wants to be a WEB leader," said Schulte. "It's a great program for our sixth graders."

Being a WEB leader is far from being all fun and games, though, as Cody Keener explained.

"It was difficult (at times)," said Keener. "You really have to have a lot of patience. You have to keep control (of the group) and make a lot of decisions."

Being a WEB leader taught Keener a lot about "giving instructions and keeping organized."

Jake Richardson also grew a lot from being a WEB leader.

"You really do have to have a lot of patience" as a leader in charge of a group, said Richardson.

In the end, though, the lesson that Valentine emphasized through the program hit home for Richardson.

"It really is a lot better to pull (people) up than to pull them down," he said.

Both Keener and Richardson would recommend being a WEB leader to next year's eighth graders.

Throughout the day, the WEB leaders guided just over 100 sixth grade students through a list of fun, positive activities in 15 small groups, called "WEB teams." According to the director's manual, these activities "spark discussion and thoughts regarding the upcoming responsibilities, choices, and challenges in middle school."

Some of the activities included: Name Ball Scramble, My World, Balloon Ball Bounce, and One Left. After these activities, which took place in different classrooms throughout BJHS, the sixth graders were taken on a tour of the building, getting the opportunity to meet their future teachers and learn the layout of the building where they will be spending the next three years. To add a fun twist to the tours, the WEB leaders provided costumes for the members of each group to walk around in, unifying each group with a common theme like masks, boas, wings, Elvis, and so much more.

Ben "Calvin" Huntington, after his WEB team completed their tour, thought it was good.

"I think the school is great," said Huntington. "I would recommend (this) to anyone."

"The tour was my favorite part," sixth grader Morgan Linder said, adding what she looked most forward to. "Being able to experience learning from more than one teacher."

The orientation that took place on Friday is not the end of the WEB program's impact on the students. WEB leaders will participate in "Academic Follow Ups," visiting sixth grade classes several times throughout the year to make sure that the school year is going smoothly for the students and to ensure that responsibilities and challenges are handled appropriately.

According to the director's manual, other events may be scheduled throughout the year, such as games, eating lunches together, or attending a fun after school activity. This allows the WEB leaders and their sixth grade team members to "reconnect and build relationships outside the classroom."

When asked for his thoughts on the new WEB program this year, Tyler Courtney said it was great

"It's crazy -- in a good way," Courtney said. "I know now that I can have fun in school. The WEB leaders really helped us a lot. They helped us get used to junior high."

After the tour, an assembly closed out the formal activities and lunch was served to the students. At the assembly, one demonstration stood out for the students above all the others. Valentine pulled a student up with her on a chair and together they stood up for a long time, helping each other stay balanced as a team. As the school year begins it is the hope of everyone involved in WEB that Valentine's final words will remain with every student at BJHS.

"We can help each other out," said Valentine. "We're here to help you balance (everything going on in) your life. That is what the WEB program is all about."

Duensing will be student teaching during the next eight weeks under the supervision of Schulte, 7th grade reading teacher at BJHS. The photos for this article were also taken by Duensing.

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