Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Interview Questions for Parents in the 2nd Grade ECP Classroom

I have asked three parents in our class if they would be willing to participate in a survey to share with our blog community.  All agreed and their responses are below.  Enjoy!

Interview 1: 

1.)           What is your name and how are you involved in the Neil Cummins Community?
My name is Sarah Yoslov. I have 3 children at Neil Cummins. I have been involved with the Neil Cummins Community for many years. I was a member of the Site Council for 4 years. I have been, and currently am, a Head Room Parent. I have volunteered for SPARK and am currently a Friend of the Foundation for my son’s fourth grade classroom. Over the years I have volunteered working with the reading specialist, Alice Franco. I had the honor of working with hard working students, strengthening their reading skills. I also worked one-on-one with first grade students practicing reading skills within their classroom. I also volunteer in my children’s classroom on a weekly basis.

2.)          When you learned that your child was placed in an ECP classroom, what was your original reaction (and why?)
I was thrilled when I learned my daughter was in an ECP classroom. Along with excitement I was also nervous. I have never seen an ECP classroom in action and knew this was new to our school. Having two teachers working with 40 students would take a lot of organization!

3.)          Have your expectations of the ECP classroom been met so far this year?
I have been blown away at the success of the ECP classroom. It is clear that Mrs. Skaggs and Mrs. Shawn have put a lot of time, energy and dedication to their ECP classroom. Starting with the first day of school the environment was organized and systems ready to go. The classroom was clearly planned for table group work, independent work, with a clearly labeled library, and files of work to do when they are done. This is just to name a few examples of their wonderful organization. They have helped the students learn to be responsible for themselves and peers around them. They are held accountable from their showing their own attendance each morning to knowing what centers they go to each day (aided by clearly charted folders). This expectation of self-reliance has increased my daughter’s level of responsibility and feelings of success in her personal efforts and growth.

4.)          What is your favorite part about having your child be a member of an ECP classroom?
I have many favorite things about the ECP classroom. It gives my daughter a chance to work with and get to know a larger group of peers. This reflects the world she will negotiate when she is older. She is learning to work with various personalities and learning types while focusing on a common goal. It is teaching her accountability and responsibility as she needs to know where to go and what she needs. She has two teachers she can turn to when assistance is needed. Both teachers may even offer different approaches that she can learn from. Lastly, she has the opportunity to work and negotiate with various groups. Some groups might be at her ability level and push her academically, while other groups are mixed ability.   

5.)          If you could offer a word of advice to the ECP teachers, what might you say?
As a parent I hope that the teachers get a chance to know all 40 of their students as individuals. I am sure this is harder with twice the number of students. Mrs. Skaggs and Mrs. Shawn are off to a great start. The walls are covered with projects from the students that give insight to each of their personalities.

6.)          What are some things that you have heard your child say about their new classroom this year (positive and/or negative)?
At the beginning of the year Hayley commented on how it feels like she is learning how to be in school all over again. When entering an ECP classroom new “systems” are learned and this surprised Hayley. She later realized all these systems are what keep an ECP classroom running smoothly.

She has enjoyed the group challenges. She likes working with those around her. However, there is one aspect of this group work that is difficult for her. Hayley says, “I just don’t understand why people at my table sometimes don’t just realize when I am right!” It’s all about learning communication and compromise!

7.)          Any additional comments you would like to add?
I appreciate all of the extra effort that both teachers have put into this special classroom. The extra effort is evident and the students will benefit greatly from being in an ECP classroom with these two fantastic teachers! 

Interview 2: 
1.)           What is your name and how are you involved in the Neil Cummins Community?  (Again, you can remain anonymous if you wish!)
Steve Janowsky – Parent of a NC 2nd grader and a Hall 5th grader. SPARK co-president.

2.)          When you learned that your child was placed in an ECP classroom, what was your original reaction (and why?)
I was excited, primarily since I heard that the teachers in the classroom were really good. I thought that the collaborative and flexible format would also be good for my son.

3.)          Have your expectations of the ECP classroom been met so far this year?
Yes, definitely. The teachers, as expected, have been great. I like the fact that the class can be broken up into different groups, depending on the activity, and on how quickly a child might be progressing in a given subject. I don’t think the shared classroom environment has been in any way detrimental or distracting to my son’s learning experience.

4.)          What is your favorite part about having your child be a member of an ECP classroom?
It's been a positive experience for many reasons (some mentioned above).  It's exciting to be part of the pilot program, and to be honest, I would have to say that comparing 'apples to apples', the experience that my son is currently having this year seems to be superior in his eyes then that of the traditional classroom setting.

5.)          If you could offer a word of advice to the ECP teachers, what might you say?
Keep doing what you’re doing…! One thought would be to really take advantage of the opportunity to do more segmentation when possible and appropriate – I think some of the power of the ‘shared classroom’ environment is the ability to let some students work ahead, while others might proceed at a more measured pace.

6.)          What are some things that you have heard your child say about their new classroom this year (positive and/or negative)?
Interestingly, he hasn’t really said anything about the different structure / format of the classroom (either positive or negative).

7.)          Any additional comments you would like to add?
     So far, I think the ECP pilot is a big success, and I’m glad that we’re a part of it.

Interview 3: 
1.)           What is your name and how are you involved in the Neil Cummins Community?  My name is Wendy Barta and I’m involved in the NC community by volunteering once a week in my girls’ classrooms, slinging pizza on the hot lunch line once a month and also as an active board member for SPARK, the Larkspur Corte Madera Schools Foundation.

2.)          When you learned that your child was placed in an ECP classroom, what was your original reaction (and why?)
          I was really excited because I thought it would be an incredible opportunity for our daughter.  She has been given not only an opportunity to learn from two very passionate, engaged teachers but also from 39 other kids who may in some ways be similar to her, but also very different.  I felt that she potentially could be challenged in ways that a traditional classroom may not challenge her.

3.)          Have your expectations of the ECP classroom been met so far this year?
          My expectations have been far exceeded so far this year.  My daughter is thriving in the ECP class and I’m very impressed by the creative thought put into the class from the teachers that fosters really creative output from the kids.  The level of engagement both from the students and the teachers is outstanding! 

4.)          What is your favorite part about having your child be a member of an ECP classroom?
          One of my favorite things is that in a group of 40 kids there is such a wide range of ability and skill and the teachers can challenge and meet each kid at his or her particular level of learning.  I am seeing evidence of this in language arts centers where there are enough kids to group them into sizeable enough peer groups that they don’t feel like the only kid at that particular level, whether it’s a child who is sailing through the curriculum or a child that needs a little extra help – they don’t find themselves alone in the journey.  The kids are being met where they are, getting what they need to move along the continuum and they are doing this with others at their same level. Each group is challenged and successful at the same time which is a magical combination for keeping them engaged and furthering their mastery of the subject.

5.)          If you could offer a word of advice to the ECP teachers, what might you say?
Stay the course!  You are doing an incredible job.

6.)          What are some things that you have heard your child say about their new classroom this year (positive and/or negative)?
          Getting any information out of my second grader is a challenge, but it speaks volumes to me that she can’t wait to go to school every day.  She is excited about what she is learning and I hear tidbits about how “cool” the team challenges are and about how she likes working in her groups.

7.)          Any additional comments you would like to add?
          I applaud you for taking on the challenge of doing something new!  Innovation comes by taking risks and it is how we progress.  Taking a very public risk can be hard.  But you are rising to the challenge and I see your results (engaging environment, teaching the kids how to collaborate to solve problems, fostering a love a learning … the list goes on!!!) as a huge success.  You are also role modeling trying new things, taking risks and facing challenges for and with our kids. Thanks Ann-Marie and Annika – we are thrilled that Paige can be a part of what you are doing.


We would like to sincerely thank Mrs. Yoslov, Mr. Janowsky, and Mrs. Barta for taking the time to participate in the interview.  Their feedback is incredibly helpful as we continue on this journey!

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