By Jonathan Petrick, AVID Elective Teacher & Coordinator, and Zoe Harrigan, AVID Student, Ramstein Middle School, Germany
Have no fear, the AVID Experts are here! As we provide support to students who may not have always had a voice with their path to success, it is important that we listen to those students for advice and encouragement along our path as educators. AVID Elective teachers and coordinators can tell you that having an interdisciplinary site team is a huge advantage when the path to success is looking impossible. They will also tell you that having a few experts that have ‘walked the walk’ with AVID is greatly valued. Now I’m talking about our real experts…students! What do our students think? What advice can they offer for other students and educators looking at the plethora of updated forms, curriculum, trainings, and professional conferences and sometimes feeling overwhelmed? Enter Zoe.
Zoe, a middle scholar (pun intended) in her third year of AVID, is offering her advice to first year AVID students and teachers so they can avoid the pitfalls that first-year AVID newbies experience in the AVID Elective class. Zoe was quick to point out (and reminded me numerous times as well) that “it is important that teachers listen to our advice… we’re the experts with all of the binder checks, Cornell Note die rolls, and biweekly AVID tutorials.”
I present to you, Zoe’s Top Five Rules for New AVID Students and AVID Elective Teachers:
Students – Keep up with your agenda daily by writing a summary of what you learned in class and noting your homework with due dates… be specific! A friend or parent should be able to pick up your agenda/planner and know exactly what happened or what work was assigned for each class. This will be important for your study buddy and when you miss a class as well!
Teachers – Post an oversized calendar on your classroom wall so we can write upcoming projects and quizzes as we enter the room each day. Update that calendar on your website weekly! If you don’t have a website, have your students help you create one. We created a really cool one last year: http://avid.rms.kdso.eportalnow.net/
2. One Binder
Students – Organize your one binder and backpack regularly; nightly for 2–3 minutes. Purchase some cool duct tape to jazz up your binder and make it more personal by adding pictures and inspiring quotes.
Teachers – Check in with other teachers in the building if they are not on the site team to see how they can accommodate the ‘one AVID Binder’ with (content-specific) interactive notebooks and other specific items that will help to mesh AVID with other classes (think “schoolwide”).
3. Tutorial Request Form
Students – Find real points of confusion to create legit tutorial request forms (TRFs). Real questions will actually help you learn how to think differently and use inquiry. Examine your grades weekly to find your lowest grade and help find your Point of Confusion (POC). You may have to go back and look at your old notes and tests for information that you still don’t understand. It is hard work but you’ll be happy when you solve your POC during AVID Tutorials; a loud cheer or AVID Clap from your group members always feels good!
Teachers – Gather a stack of example Point of Confusion questions available (PSAT or SAT) for when we forget to do a TRF because it will happen! Just don’t give us credit for the pre-work or we will use this excuse every week.
Students – Try working with people who have different interests; you’ll learn a lot. Remember that you will not always work (in the future) with people that have the same ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ as you, and this is good practice to learn to adapt and share differences. Just be yourself!
Teachers – Have us determine our group member styles early in the year by asking which category best describes us: Do we like to take charge immediately or do we prefer to look at the big picture and help monitor time? What about the creative students; do we enjoy ‘thinking outside of the box’ or are we the student that is shy and quiet when working within a group?
5. Character Development
Students – Doing the uncomfortable things now makes it easier in the future. It’s like the quiz before the big test. Being uncomfortable with a new place or activity is a chance to learn about yourself and how you can prepare for the future. So practice for the big day by doing SLANT (Sit up, Lean forward in your chair, Ask questions when you are confused, Nod your head when you are speaking with a teacher to show that you are listening, and Talk to teachers on a regular basis) to help ‘bridge’ a partnership early in the year.
Teachers – Don’t forget to help us with all the small things; test taking, public speaking, how to talk to our teachers about doing Cornell notes the ‘AVID Way’, how to settle a dispute with a friend, or how to politely remind a teacher to update our overall grade with that quiz we just took or assignment we recently submitted.
Originally, Zoe had a full page of ideas, but we had to narrow the focus to the most important tips. She agreed to offer her advice for additional fees that could be compensated by sending your school’s AVID t-shirt as collateral for her services. If you are truly interested, she’d love it!
As the year continues to melt away and we sometimes deviate from the reasons that have us returning each year to our college-ready environments, think of Zoe and remind yourself of what your AVID experts can offer your classroom. Listen, learn, and move forward, and be that leader for AVID in your classroom and throughout the building.
Zoe Harrigan is a third year AVID Student Rockstar at Ramstein Middle School in Germany and regularly participates in gymnastics and soccer. She regularly advises her AVID Elective Teacher, Jonathan Petrick, to ‘Shrek’ (our classroom safe word for politely saying ‘let’s get back on topic’) when he becomes carried away with a teacher’s perspective of processes and protocols. Together they learn a lot from one another and can be contacted by checking out the RMS AVID Website.
For more on AVID, visit http://avid.org/what-is-avid.ashx.