Devin Atkins ’19 —To show our adherence to the Gentlemen’s rule we attempt to embody our mission statement “Wabash College educates men to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.” I bring this up because I was pleasantly shocked as I looked around Ms. Lang’s Kingsbury Middle School class room and saw her pursuit in inspiring those same attributes in her students at.
A few of the ways I saw each of the traits demonstrated include:
On one of her signs it reads “Thinkers respectfully listen, strategically create, and authentically inspire.” This helps promote thinking critically by asking them to take in as much information into their mind before blurting something out. It asks them to craft an argument rather than say a collection of words. Ms. Lang is holding all of her students to a high expectation and trying to foster growth in all of her students by not just wanting an answer but asking them to actually think through the questions posed to them.
Not only do we see signs all around Ms. Lang’s room reminding her students that they are responsible for their actions but she also enforces a strict regimen of accountability for words and for actions. She frequently will pull students aside to have a conversation with them about their actions and has them take responsibility for them. Then as a constant reminder on every desk she has the note Accountable Talk:
This sheet lists to all of her students the ways to craft meaningful conversations giving them a constant reminder that even their words have consequences.
During their group work they are asked to determine who gets supplies, their current completed work, and what they will work on next amongst themselves. To help promote better teammates she has signs “Be a team player!” and “Be you, Not them” telling them regardless of the behaviors of others they should be better. To further develop leadership and teamwork whenever there is a class decision she allows for the class to deliberate and give their final answers.
If it wasn’t hard enough already to forge bonds between students with different personalities, compound that with the fact they are coming from completely different cultural values and expectations. This is one of the reasons why it is especially hard to promote living humanely in an urban environment. The plethora of contrasting cultures feeding into the school easily leads to disagreements among the students. To help combat these negative actions caused by their differences, Ms. Lang introduced “The Bully Free Zone!” This sign is one of the main demonstrations of living humanely. It not only discourages students from being disrespectful to their peers but promotes the positive differences between the students.
What really brought all of this home to me was a program called Teaching Dojo where in Ms. Lang could make her students aware in real time of their positive/negative behaviors that she saw in class through a visual message on the screen or an auditory noise over the speakers. Then she awards the class with different incentives such as a bag of chips or a pizza if they managed to have a certain percentage of positive to negative behaviors.
My first impressions of Memphis and my classroom experience were positive. I felt slightly at home because of all the connections I saw to Wabash. Although, I was really thrown a back by the amount of other languages that the students could speak and communicate in. This had been a bit worrisome at first because I thought that it might be harder to connect to the students that came from such a different background. Sure enough that was quickly overshadowed by the eagerness of the students to share their culture with me. After lunch it was also very clear that they had no problems getting to know each other either. They ended up having a Student versus Teacher basketball game. During which I saw the same enthusiasm as a Wabash sports game with students cheering on both sides.
Overall, I’m excited to see the students in Ms. Lang’s class again, learn more about them, and see if I can find even more connections to Wabash.