Your 6th grade Reading Classroom Coaching coordinators, Chris and Hannah, put together a great handout for the April volunteer and mentor coffee talk. Check it out below!
Meet them at their level – put yourself in their shoes
- Get to know their interests and hobbies. Some students have a different background than yours; respecting it is key. Crossing cultural barriers takes effort, but if you want to bridge distances it is important to remain patient and keep an open mind.
- Don’t take student behavior personally
- Be aware of your reaction/response to the students
Don’t be afraid to laugh and admit mistakes—have a sense of humor!
- Model that it’s ok to make mistakes
- Utilize your sense of humor
- Remember that to get respect, you have to give it
- Building trust takes time and patience
- Try to listen more than you talk
- Accept that a student’s feelings are valid
- It is much harder to relate to your students if you miss multiple classes
- Be consistent week to week with group guidelines for behavior
- Being inconsistent will cause you to lose students’ respect and attention
We hope you’ll join APIE staff, your teachers, and fellow volunteers and mentors for the end-of-year happy hour TODAY at Contigo Austin!
Andrea Martin started volunteering with APIE in the fall of 2013. As a new addition to APIE, she has already had a huge impact on her students. Andrea enjoys dedicating her time as a classroom coach helping improve the reading skills of middle school students in Austin.
APIE: What sparked your interest in volunteering with APIE?
AM: I used to teach middle school reading and missed working with middle school kids and heard about APIE through the Teach For America Alumni network here in Austin. APIE gives me the opportunity to support the teachers and administrators who are working hard every day to create an environment for excellent education in AISD.
APIE: What is something unique about APIE that stands it apart from other organizations?
AM: I feel like the volunteers are well-trained for what we are doing and we receive a lot of support. It’s also great consistency that for the most part we spend an hour every school week with the same kids. With this, we really get to see our kids through the course of the year.
APIE: You are currently working with 6th graders. What do you like about that age group?
AM: Middle school is a really tough time for everyone and if I, as a volunteer, can make the day a little easier, I want to be able to do that for my students.
APIE: What do you do for a living?
AM: I currently work in consulting for non-profits. Every day I am required to spend at least some time proofreading so I must be a careful and thorough reader for my work. For this reason, I am able to give my students clear examples of the importance of slowing down and paying close attention to what they are reading.
APIE: You have a Bachelors degree in English and Government and a Masters in Secondary Education.
AM: I point to my English degree with my students to tell them how important reading is to me. I hope they’ll learn to enjoy it and find it important in their own lives as well.
APIE: This is your first year as a volunteer. What has been the best part of the experience so far?
AM: As a citizen of Austin, I enjoy being able to learn and be a part of our city schools in at least this small way. It’s exciting to see the students learn something new or figure something out for themselves. We also have fun discussions during and after reading and it’s great to see them engage in our stories!
APIE: You seem to be making a lot of progress in the short amount of time you have volunteered.
AM: For me it’s valuable to be back in a classroom and having even a small opportunity to help my students grow as readers. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with my students. I love learning about them and their interests and also watching them have small successes in the classroom.
APIE: Have you faced any challenges as a volunteer?
AM: My biggest challenge has been with their attendance. It’s hard to see my students miss class, especially when I know they’re both already below grade-level readers.
APIE: What are some ways you feel volunteers can help with student attendance?
AM: Get to know your students and take an interest in their lives. Treat them like they’re adults and find ways to relate what they’re reading and learning about to their own lives.
APIE: APIE focuses on having small-group interactions between the volunteers and the students. Do you believe the students benefit from a personal learning environment?
AM: I’m so glad that I can give my students a little one-on-one time for reading practice. I know it’s valuable for them to be able to read aloud in such a low-pressure environment. As a volunteer, it is also great to be able to support the excellent work that tireless teachers like Mrs. Spear are doing every day with our students.
APIE: If you could tell your students one thing, what would it be?
AM: I’d just encourage them to find books and reading materials that interest them and read to them every day. That’s the only way I know they will become more successful readers and learners.
APIE: What do you hope APIE can achieve in the future?
AM: I hope APIE can continue to give more students the opportunities for classroom coaching sessions. I’m so glad programs like APIE exist to bring community members into our city’s schools and hope that even more members of the community will get involved with the program so they can have a better idea of the great work that is going on in our classrooms.
Nick Bradley is an Aerospace Engineering Doctoral student at UT Austin. During his three years volunteering with APIE, he has been an 8th grade Math Coach for nine students and is currently a Classroom Coach at Webb Middle School.
While looking for ways to positively engage with the Austin community, Nick Bradley found an Austin Partners In Education posting for math coaches in the service announcements at his church. “Math coaching sounded like just the right fit,” Bradley says.
In the final year of his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, Bradley is a dedicated individual who believes that good comprehension and problem-solving skills are the keys to pursuing higher education. For this reason, Bradley has been an APIE volunteer for three years and has worked with nine students all over Austin, encouraging them to work hard every day.
Bradley believes that to be a classroom coach, one must be dedicated to seeing real change and understanding occur in students’ academic and personal lives, no matter how long it may take. “Individual rapport with each student is vital to the methodology of APIE coaching, and coaches must be willing to get to know the students on a personal level,” Bradley says.
But there are a lot of challenges that classroom coaches must learn to overcome.
Sometimes students will seem uninterested in and disengaged from the group. One student in particular has proved to be a challenge this year for Bradley. “The frustrating part is that I see that this student understands the concepts,” Bradley says. “It has been a struggle to keep trying to include the student without detracting attention and help from the others.”
For this reason, Bradley is constantly learning how to better accommodate each student’s individual needs as a learner. While the math is an important part of the learning program, Bradley believes that it is also important to engage personally with the students and find out how they are doing and what they are excited about. “The students really want someone to show that they care about them, not just another teacher who comes in and makes them do math problems.”
One thing that has really drawn Bradley to volunteering with APIE has been the positive interaction with the people in the organization. “The coordinators and other volunteers really care about each individual student, and I value organizations that incorporate one-on-one interactions with the beneficiaries,” says Bradley.
Bradley also credits his commitment with APIE to Sandy Bootz, his volunteer coordinator. “Sandy has been an outstanding coordinator for the three years I’ve worked with her,” Bradley says. “She is a gifted teacher and leader and cares individually very well for each volunteer.”
If he could leave his students with one message, Bradley would tell them that their teachers, parents, and volunteers genuinely care about them. “Your success in school and in life is more than just a hobby for all of us,” Bradley says. “You have a value beyond just being a student with a homework grade, and you are not made any less or more of a person by your performance in school.”
Bradley hopes that APIE can continue to have a positive impact all over Austin in the future by enabling students to be confident community leaders. “I think it is a core component of APIE’s methodology to have individual interactions with students that remind them that they are capable, that they have intrinsic value, and that they are cared for as people.”
Why do we offer reading classroom coaching to 2nd grade? Why not 3rd, 4th, or 5th grades?
APIE’s 2nd grade Reading Classroom Coaching and Compañeros en Lectura programs are working to get students on grade level by 3rd grade. Leading education research supports the conclusion that a majority of students who cannot read by the 3rd grade have difficulty catching up academically (Double Jeopardy: How Third Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation, 2012).
“Results of a longitudinal study of nearly 4,000 students find that those who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.”
A study of 382 students from kindergarten to third grade by Canadian researchers showed that the gap between strong and struggling readers increases as children get older (Early Warning Confirmed, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation). Data points showed that readers who struggled at the beginning of the study fell further behind their peers, who were reading on grade level, as the study progressed.
In 2nd grade, kids should be transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. By helping them achieve grade-level fluency and comprehension, APIE’s Reading Classroom Coaching and Compañeros en Lectura are increasing the likelihood that these students will continue to high school graduation.
According to Early Warning Confirmed, there is “a link between failure to read proficiently by the end of third grade, ongoing academic difficulties in school, failure to graduate from high school on time and chances of succeeding economically later in life.”
The ultimate goal of all of APIE’s programs is to provide Austin ISD students with the preparation they need to be successful through high school and beyond, including college and career. We hope that by starting early, in second grade, we can boost these kids’ chances of succeeding academically and therefore empower them to improve their economic futures.
According to Austin ISD’s Department of Research and Evaluation, the most important predictor of overall dropout risk in Austin is failing the 9th grade TAKS (reading or math) or STAAR standardized tests. By supporting struggling middle school students to succeed in these subjects, APIE’s programs help reduce Austin ISD’s dropout rate.
A student’s level of academic achievement in the eighth grade has a significant impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school. Research by Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University concludes that the extent of middle school success is a huge indicator of whether students will “close achievement gaps, graduate from high school, and be prepared for college.”
During their middle school years, it is vital that students receive encouragement and support, since 50% of middle school students suffer from feelings of disengagement. By supporting students during these transitional years, their academic persistence and ultimate career success can be enhanced.
APIE’s programs are aligned with Austin ISD’s curriculum, and Classroom Coaching is intended to help students in the subjects that they find most challenging. Classroom Coaches function as tutors and mentors and build bonds with students as they shape ideas about their academic and professional futures. By ensuring that students are on track to meet college readiness standards during middle school, APIE empowers students to excel in high school, college, and career, thus boosting their chances at an improved economic future.
Candace McCray, Development Intern
Did you know that there are several categories of learning styles? By understanding your student’s learning style, you can figure out which teaching strategies will be most effective when helping them understand and retain new information.
Neil Fleming’s famous VARK model categorizes learners under four different learning styles: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic.
These students learn best when lessons use visual images. They like to look at and observe objects and pictures. Do you normally have a picture in mind when you are trying to remember something? This is one characteristic of a visual learner.
Are you a good listener? Auditory learners prefer to have lessons presented in lecture form. The best teaching strategy for these students is to present new information to them out loud…even if that means making up a song.
Reading and Writing Learners:
For some students, reading a textbook is the best way to learn new material. Reading and writing learners aren’t always bookworms, but they do prefer to have information available in a written form. Writers enjoy taking notes and making lists during class. Having handouts available for these students can be very helpful.
Do you prefer a more hands-on approach? You may be a kinesthetic learner. These students are active learners who like to touch objects because they learn by doing. It’s helpful when they can move around during the lesson.
It can be difficult for teachers to accommodate the learning style of each student in their classrooms. This is why studying outside of class is important, and tutoring can help! APIE’s curriculum incorporates written material, games, auditory exercises, and pictures. Our coaches support teachers by helping students discover the most effective learning strategies.
Candace McCray, Development Intern
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has pledged $625,000 over the next three years to support Austin Partners in Education’s College Readiness, Classroom Coaching, and Step-Up programs.
We are profoundly grateful for the foundation’s support. In the first year, funding will aid the College Readiness program expansion to Anderson, Eastside Memorial, and Reagan high schools, College Readiness curriculum development, and the Middle School Reading Classroom Coaching expansion to Martin and Covington middle schools.