As the Communications Specialist for Challenge Charter Schools, I have the wonderful opportunity to talk to the talented teachers, staff and administrators. Recently, I had the chance to talk with Challenge Middle’s Assistant Principal, Abena Johnson to get her take on the progress of the new middle school.
Messer: How things are going so far this year?
Johnson: We are continuing to help each scholar to transition from lower school to middle school. They are still learning what it is like to changes classes and to have the materials that they need when they move from class to class. The scholars like having a detailed schedule so that they know what to expect each day. They love the fact that their uniforms are different and have a distinguished look from what they wore in lower grades.
Messer: I know that parents and guardians are a big part of school success. What is your hope regarding these key partners in education?
Johnson: We want parents to feel confident, and we continue to work with and build trust with the parents as our schools expand. I make a point to respond to concerns that come directly to me by the end of business each day. We know that with everything being new this year it is not easy for every family to adjust and adapt, so we want to be proactive and help them transition as well.
Messer: Tell me about how using STEAM impacts scholars and teachers at the middle school.
Johnson: Using the STEAM approach means that everyone is working collaboratively and incorporating technology into learning on a daily basis. Each classroom has a Smart Board, and each scholar has a Google Chromebook. We already see how using the technology makes all of us more efficient, and it also enables us to communicate with parents more effectively.
Our scholars are excited about all of the new teachers they are working with as administration help our teachers mesh together and work collaboratively. We want to have a united front.
Messer: What challenges do you see from your perspective as Assistant Principal?
Johnson: The biggest challenge we face as a staff is helping scholars to transition well to a middle school mindset. Some of that means helping them realize that “the things I used to do, I do no more.” We are attempting to cover much more than their learning needs. Scholars have leadership and advisory classes along with core subjects. We want them to be competitive academically and social in our global society.
Messer: What is your main goal for the middle school this year?
Johnson: From my perspective, I want to see the students grow academically and socially. In middle school, we encourage scholars to take ownership and pride in their academic career. I want to help them find their place as they tune into their inner self and gain confidence. These are the years they begin discovering some of the subjects they excel in, which can help them find their calling.
-- Article by Kim Messer, Communications Specialist