By Darral Sessions, AVID Elective Teacher and Co-Coordinator, Coleman Middle School
All my life, I have heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a teacher, I have seen how important it is for each student to have a village to call their own. Just this year, our school officially became a Title I school, and we strive every day to overcome the challenges that our students and their families face. We also have many ELL students, sometimes complicating our communication between school and home. Our AVID site team decided to focus heavily on family nights this year, hoping to make these events special, amazing, and meaningful. We knew that we needed to increase parent involvement in the college-readiness process. We needed to strengthen our village.
Recently, we had a family night that we titled, “AVID University.” We decided that we needed a night all about the parents. Parents struggle to be supportive, not because they don’t see value in it or because they don’t care, but often because they are busy or don’t know how to help their children. Our goal for the evening was to expose the parents to the basic inner workings of the AVID Elective classroom.
Preparation for the event started weeks before. We sent home flyers containing RSVPs with each of our AVID students. We followed that up with notification emails to the parents and listed it on our school calendar and AVID Website. Each parent arrived and was handed a blank transcript on which to put their name. We welcomed them, and then sent them on their way to complete the AVID University experience. Students walked their parents to their first class—the only “required class” was a grade-level tutorial session, where they had a chance to watch their kids in action. Our students, along with our Spanish teacher, helped translate for some of the guests. Our sixth grade students took the time to explain the Tutorial Request Form and AVID Tutorial Process to their parents. At the end of class, their transcript was signed by their AVID University Faculty Member. Next were their “elective” classes. They had to complete two of the three options for graduation, with the options being Philosophical Chairs, the Cornell Way, and WICOR. Philosophical Chairs seemed to be the most popular class among parents, with either the Cornell Way or WICOR as their second option. Faculty members facilitated the classes, as the parents listened to their children express their opinions on topics and talk about how Cornell notes help them prepare for tests. Students conversed with their parents about WICOR strategies and how those strategies increase their engagement in the class, and ultimately, their understanding of content.
Our school population is small, at about 470 students, which we have found creates many conflicts in scheduling evening events. There are band, choir, and orchestra concerts; basketball and volleyball games; Academic League matches; Leadership Drill meets; Parent Organization meetings; and much more. So, as we discussed our plans for the year, there are a number of things that we have considered in the process:
- Why are we having this family night?
- How will we deliver the information in a way that is engaging?
- What potential conflicts exist and how can we alleviate them?
- How can we make the most of the evening for the families in our school community?
As our AVID University classes ended, families headed back to our Commons, as the Pomp and Circumstance Graduation March played. They handed in their transcripts and grabbed their refreshments, eagerly awaiting the graduation ceremony. When their name was called, they moved swiftly to the front to receive their diplomas and shake the hands of our 15 faculty members, who were awesome enough to dress in graduation caps and gowns. Some parents screamed as their child hid with embarrassment, some stayed quiet, but they all smiled. As we plan our next event, we hope to continue to build momentum, and more importantly, continue to build and strengthen relationships with our AVID families.
Darral Sessions teaches Math at Coleman Middle School in Wichita, KS. A Wichita native, Darral attended Wichita State University, where he received his degree in Math and History Education. During his educational career at Coleman, Darral has been a tutor and taught Math, Social Studies, and the AVID Elective. As a Co-Coordinator, Darral works with the AVID site team to spread AVID strategies schoolwide. When he’s not teaching sixth graders, Darral enjoys coaching track, spending time with his wife and two sons, and golfing.