Here’s more about this week’s featured classroom:
Name: Mr. Charles Freeman
Grade: Seventh- and eighth Capstone program
School: Walden Green Montessori
What makes your classroom special? My students. I’m still learning the ropes here in terms of how this school functions because it’s so different from what I’ve done in the past. One thing that keeps me grounded is just how remarkable those students are. From the discussion that we just had about spoken word poetry, they come up with concepts that make me laugh, and they make me feel. Anything from light-hearted to deep, they are capable of brilliance, thoughts, and inspiring conversations and work. They’re amazing students.
In addition to the curriculum what are some things you teach your students? The big lessons that we learn outside curriculum would be critical thinking. That’s why I focus so much on literacy no matter what we’re learning in the classroom. Whether it’s social studies, English or science, they are learning how to use language in different ways. Reading different sources that allow them to think more critically about what they are reading, and it helps their writing. Every hour of every day, they’re also learning how to interact socially in a way that’s much more guided and deliberate than I think most schools really emphasize. Compassion and grace are part of our curriculum. Peace is part of our curriculum, and making sure that they understand accountability and making decisions that reflect themselves and our school in a positive way.
What special project is your classroom working on right now? Right now in English class they are doing spoken word poetry. We’re planning a poetry slam on Nov. 30. It gives them a chance to work on a specific topic and write it as verse, and then recite it to their peers if they wish. They’re also doing examples for them to present a poster of the verses that they write because they are finding ways through poetry to express themselves in ways that are shocking to me. It’s been incredible to watch the verse come out of these kids.
What do you hope students take away from their time in your classroom? The big thing in addition to all the curriculum work that we do here is find ways to connect them to the community. We have what are called “Leadership Committees,” which is several options students have. We have committees for mentoring other students here at our school. There’s also a leadership committee to work with our PTO. They have a big fundraiser in April of every year. Right now, I have a group of students that’s making a video that’s going to be used to show what Walden Green is all about, our history, what we’re trying to get done now, and where we see ourselves in the future. That’s completely student created. They’re writing the script for it. They’re designing how the video actually looks. It’s all coming right out of their minds, and it’s actually an honor to watch it happen.
Another “Leadership Committee” is our American House, which is a home for the elderly. Our students visit in their different wards – people that have dementia, people that don’t have a lot of interaction with the community. Our students go and read books to them, and talk with them. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen seventh- and eighth-graders do.
They have reading buddies, too. All of our seventh- and eighth-graders are paired up with usually more than one kindergartner or first-grader. They go every Friday to read books with them.