Special attention is given to the transitional years of education in the Cleveland City school system from kindergarten phase-in days to Cleveland High’s freshman academy.
Kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade mark shifts in a student’s education. There is a definite difference at each level where students are either beginning their education or entering a new institution.
Brittney Gobble is entering her ninth year of teaching kindergarten at Blythe-Bower Elementary. She said it is “amazing” how quickly students adjust to attending school full time.
“I think it is harder on the parents,” Gobble said. “Right now parents are allowed to walk the students to class. After the first week, we ask them not to anymore.”
She explained kindergarteners tend to be loving, accepting and trusting.
The biggest shift for students first entering school is understanding there is a time for everything. Students sitting next to toys learn they cannot play whenever they want. They eventually understand there is a pattern. Gobble said it helps for her to keep up a steady flow of communication.
Blythe-Bower assistant principal Prisavia Croft said phase-in days prior to the first day of kindergarten help students make initial adjustments. Phase-in acts as most students’ first opportunity to meet their teacher and see their new school.
“Having phase-in gives students more of their teacher’s attention,” Croft said. “They are not having to immediately compete with 15 or 18 other students.”
Rules and procedures are covered during phase-in.
Croft said kindergarten is more of an adjustment than some may realize. New challenges include: going to the restroom and waiting their turn, walking in a single file line, and choosing what to eat in the cafeteria.
Gobble expressed her enjoyment of the young students.
“They come to us with little or no knowledge at all,” Gobble said. “It is very rewarding to know I am helping them start their educational career.”
She explained parents can help their children to prepare for kindergarten by going over their numbers, the alphabet and colors.
Students tend to settle into a pattern over the next five years of school until they arrive at Cleveland Middle School where assistant principal Barbara Brown and sixth grade teachers like Kelly Owens await their arrival.
Owens said sixth grade teachers at CMS remember their first day of middle school. It helps them relate to how their young students are feeling.
“When they first come into middle school, most of them are scared, apprehensive of the unknown,” Owens said. “Some of them are really excited, because they know in the middle school they will have more freedom.”
All elementary schools send their fifth grade students to CMS in the spring for a mini-orientation and tour. Students are given an opportunity to meet the school’s counselors and administration. A highlight for most is seeing the school’s decked-out library.
Counselors at CMS are assigned to a particular grade level. They stick with their students for all three years before recycling to the beginning.
Students are separated into teams prior to arriving for the first day of school. Teams are made up of two to three teachers. These teachers wear their team color throughout the first week of school.
Owens and her teammates wore green to separate them from the other teams.
“Three or four children told me it helped them,” Owens said. “They feel like even though it is a large school, they know where their group is over this sea of students.”
Much of the students’ anxiety leaves with the first day of school, according to Owens.
The entire process can still be overwhelming.
Owens explained, “They are coming from their elementary school where they had their little group of friends and they are coming into this building with 1,300 students.”
Students are encouraged to get plugged-in to the school through clubs and sports.
Brown explained a lot of distress follows students as they are separated from their elementary school friends. They are reminded by teachers and administration they can keep their old friends while making new ones.
“Sixth graders are still babies and their parents hover,” Brown said. “We still want the parents to be there for them, but we are trying to get the sixth-graders to make choices and be responsible for those choices.”
The next shift comes when eighth-graders graduate to high school.
Assistant principal Zach Riggins said the freshman academy is in place at the high school to make the transition easier for incoming ninth-grade students.
“We feel like we need to get those kids on the right foot, in the right position to be successful,” Riggins said. “If we can have a group of teachers in position to get these kids ready for the rest of their [high school] career, we believe they will be more successful.”
Mellisa Barnett, ninth-grade math teacher, is one of the teachers and proponents of the freshman academy. She explained a lot goes in to preparing for the incoming students’ arrival.
For example, middle school and ninth-grade teachers met during the summer to discuss materials, projects, rosters and studies. She said the experience was invaluable. The increase in communication will ensure teachers know where their students are at without going over the same material.
Incoming freshmen who make up the class of 2017 were treated to a special tour on their first official day. Ten stations were set up around the school to introduce students to Cleveland High’s norms and rules. Go-to Crew members, upperclassmen from the leadership classes, guided their groups around the stations.
The same Go-to members wore special shirts during the first week of school. They stood at strategic locations between classes to help freshmen find their way around the school. Each Go-To Crew member will also have a Connections class and CHS homeroom with whom they will keep in contact throughout the first semester. Freshmen will stay with their Connections teachers and classmates all four years of school.
Barnett said ninth-grade teachers work hard to start their freshmen on the right foot.
“I tell them, success in math, success in the classroom, success in life really can all be the same thing,” Barnett said. “I always tell my kids you are going to use this math in high school. You may not use it a ton afterwards, but the way I can teach you to think is what you are going to use.”