Cheney Free Press -

 
 

By BECKY THOMAS
Staff Reporter 

Teaching and learning in the modern classroom: Cheney’s new middle schools

Teaching team moves walls for education

 

Photo by Becky Thomas Classrooms in the new middle schools have walls that break away to combine two classrooms, allowing teachers and classes to collaborate on projects.

Teaching team moves walls for education

By BECKY THOMAS

Staff Reporter

After two months of classes in the Cheney School District’s two new middle schools, teachers are finding more technology and spaces than they know what to do with, yet.

As with the new interactive whiteboard Starboard systems, time is one limiting factor for utilizing the new tools, but logistics is another.

Each classroom at both schools has a moveable back wall that can be opened to create on big room. The idea was to make the spaces optimal for team teaching, which had been a common and well-liked strategy at the old Cheney Middle School. But since the new schools opened, the number of teaching teams has declined because the school populations are smaller and scheduling is more difficult to fit around the team teaching model, which has students stay in one big room with two teachers for two class periods.

One of the exceptions is the team of Kristi Pring and Misha Collyer, who are team teaching language arts and social studies to seventh graders in Westwood Middle School. Pring and Collyer began teaching together four years ago. Their excitement about the new building might be exaggerated, since they taught in a portable classroom before this year.

“To even be in a building is great,” Pring said. They had previously used a room with a bathroom built inside it, creating corners and limiting the teachers’ and students’ ability to see and hear each other.

Despite the conditions, Collyer and Pring said they’ve had a great experience team teaching.

“You’ve got two brains working together on planning and teaching in the classroom,” Collyer said. “We’re real good at playing off one another.”

They were able to continue team teaching in the new school, Pring said, “because (school leaders) saw the quality of work that was coming out of our classrooms.”

During a recent class at Westwood, the teachers had laptops out for each of the 50 or so kids in their language arts class. Half the desks faced one board and the other half faced the other board, but the students were facing the center of the room where the moveable wall would have been as Pring shared the plan for the class and Collyer strolled through the room.

As class began, Pring and Collyer switched off duties as they helped students start drafting letters to the Japanese students at the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane. Collyer typed in a document projected on the whiteboard while students followed along on their laptops.

The teachers said they often utilized the new COWs, or Computers On Wheels, a metal cabinet on wheels that holds dozens of laptops for teachers to check out for student use.

Later on in the class, after a break during which most middle school students go to a new classroom, Pring and Collyer’s students would return to their room, where they would switch over to Washington state history.

“It helps keep them focused,” Collyer said of the block schedule.

Ultimately, Pring and Collyer said their new room fits the demands of team teaching and their teamwork made them better teachers.

“There’s less burnout. I don’t have to do everything,” Collyer said. That, in turn, keeps them fresh and ready to teach their students.

Westwood Middle School principal Erika Burden said she expected more teacher teams to spring up as enrollment grows at the school.

“Right now we just don’t have enough classes to make it work in most cases, but we will,” she said. “We know it works.”

Becky Thomas can be reached at becky@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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