Thursday, October 18, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: October 15th - 18th


Hi all!

We had a short but busy week here at WLA as we worked on some of the early lessons in the Healthy Relationships unit and wrapped up the week with parent - teacher conferences.

On Monday and Tuesday we started off by continuing our conversations about sphere of influences and trust. We then linked it to communication and how it is integral to trusting and healthy relationships. To emphasize this, we had students play several games: telephone, Pictionary, and charades. Students got very competitive (as expected) and we had quite a bit of fun seeing the end result of both the telephone messages and drawings.

Wednesday and Thursday we dove into our lessons on the Brain and covered a lot of vocabulary, videos, and research. There is always a lot to cover with these lessons so we made sure to be thorough with introducing the many (13ish) terms and by showing a couple interesting videos that the students could gather some facts from. After this, students started their Google slideshow presentation with either their mentor/mentee or group members. Students were asked to pick a part of the brain and create a slideshow that details what it does, where it's located, several facts, pictures, and their sources. We tried to give students as much time to work on the projects together as possible and time seemed to fly by. Students got quite a bit of work done but we will certainly have to pick this back up next week!

Also on Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week we had parent-teacher conferences. Wednesday was a bit lighter on attendance but Thursday was pretty busy! It is always enjoyable to get a chance to meet the parents of our mentors and mentees. I tell the students to visit our class last in case the rest of their conferences aren't going too well. That way we can talk them up in front of their parents and help avoid an awkward car ride! Patricia and I did the best we could with our students who visited and we had quite a few positive and enjoyable conversations. We really had a good experience this year and I'm pleased with the improved turnout!

With conferences, students did not have school on Friday or the following Monday and Tuesday. Some well deserved time off. I hope they enjoyed it as we will be diving back into the Brain unit and discussing Emotions this week. Stay tuned! -Ben

Monday, October 15, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: October 8th - 12th

Hi all!

Last week went by rather fast as we started our Healthy Relationships unit!

Monday and Tuesday we spent our class time checking our grades, discussing goals for the week, and then having our Today I Choose lesson. Students watched a video and had a discussion about the power of positive thinking and how we really do have the choice to decide how we see the world and consequently, how we behave. The most important part of these days were students sharing with each other how they've been able to overcome negative thinking and self-talk and what strategies they have used to either create or maintain a positive outlook on life. Some of the ideas suggested included talking to people you can trust, reaching out when your upset or need something, surrounding yourself with positive people, build regular healthy habits, avoid situations that cause you stress / make you uncomfortable, and make time to focus on just you. All were helpful and great suggestions for students to choose to be happy. 

Wednesday and Thursday we began our discussion on healthy and unhealthy relationships - what they look like, how they affect us, and what you we can do to make them better. From there we did a little self reflection by completing our Sphere of Influence activity. Students thought about how people influence them and impact their day to day lives and listed them in various categories to represent their life. This always leads to a conversation about trust and how the behaviors of healthy/unhealthy relationships determine how much trust we give others. Students often share how they know many people (as seen by their lists), but trust very few. Of the people we know, it is typically the balanced and healthy relationships in which we display the most trust.

Friday we wrapped up the week by completing our Social and Emotional Learning surveys and having our fishbowl questions. Students complete the surveys twice per year, once at the start and once at the end. The fishbowl questions continue to get better - more creative and oftentimes more relatable to content we are discussing in class so that was also good to see. Overall a fast and furious week here. Next week we have another busy one next week with parent teacher conferences on Wednesday and Thursday! Stay tuned! -Ben

Friday, October 5, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: October 1st - 5th


Another busy week here at WLA as we matched our students with their mentors and groups and lined up our Mentor Leader interviews and applications!

Students sharing presentations about each other after mentor matching!
Monday and Tuesday were spent doing our speed matching activity where students are given the opportunity to interview everyone in the class and then decide their top 3 selections for a mentor / mentee. This is one of my favorite activities in the YESS curriculum as it offers students a chance to get to know their classmates further and really make their own decisions on who they would like to support throughout the year. Last Friday I had students complete this speed matching questionnaire in advance in order to accelerate the process and have them spend more time in their interviews. The interviews went rather smoothly with high school students encouraging middle schoolers to ask questions and participate. In addition to facilitating the process, I also got a chance to play DJ (something I could apparently work on according to the students). 

Wednesday and Thursday students were matched with their mentors and mentees. We also set up our seating charts. Several students who were not here on Monday or Tuesday were also matched and the vast majority of students got their top choice so they seemed pretty pleased with the selections. Now that students are matched, the real work begins as I expect students to be supporting both their mentees and mentors as well as their table mates throughout the year. We will be doing ongoing mentor training as well now that the matches have been confirmed. After we got this set up, I had students complete a Google presentation with each student creating their own slide for their group. On Friday students presented their slides to the class and we discussed how they can continue to support each other this school year. One of the requests for the slide was to have a picture of yourself. Many students were a bit apprehensive of this so I allowed them to include baby pictures instead, which of course many of them agreed to. We finished the week by doing our Fishbowl questions and working on our t-shirt designs. We will be finishing these designs this week as well as starting our Healthy Relationships unit. Stay tuned! -Ben


Monday, October 1, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: September 24th - 28th

Hi all!

Last week was a busy one as we did a deep dive into our Race unit and set ourselves up for our mentor matching this upcoming week.

Watching our WLA middle school boys soccer team play Morey at Congress Park.
On Monday and Tuesday we started our Race unit by introducing students to the terms and language surrounding race, privilege, and ethnicity. Students really enjoy this unit and getting a chance to talk about it with one another, however some of the terms and vocabulary can be a bit confusing so it was important to take our time and really discuss each term and provide examples that students can reference later. Additionally, we completed our grade trackers (as is tradition at the start of the week). I am pleased to see some very strong grades with many students from the get go. I am hoping we can continue this momentum all the way through the fall semester.


Wednesday and Thursday were spent doing our privilege walk and working on our public service announcements. Students formed groups and picked a particular topic on race to research and create a PSA for.  The statistics and facts students find regarding this unit always surprise them, what is also interesting is them discussing and coming up with ways to combat some of these behaviors within their own school or community.


Decorations put up by the Freshman class is making me excited for the fall season!

We wrapped up the week on Friday by working on our public service announcements, taking a short quiz over the race unit, and completing our speed matching questionnaires in preparation for Monday. Next week we will be doing our speed matching activity and will be getting students paired with their mentors/mentees. We will also be holding interviews for our Mentor Leader positions which is always a very exciting part of the year! Stay tuned! -Ben

Monday, September 24, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: September 17th - 21st

Hi all!

Students vs Teachers Football Game. The students easily won! 
We had a fun Homecoming week here at West! The students were busy the various theme days and activities including the staff versus students football game, homecoming court, the West vs North game, parade, and of course the dance. In addition to all of the fun homecoming activities, we also had a busy week discussing Community and introducing students to the Race unit.

On Monday, Sara came back in to help with our Mentor Training and led the discussion for periods 5, 7, and 9. This gave myself and our Family Advocate, Ms. Patricia, an opportunity to spend some time with the students and have conversations with them individually and in small groups. Tuesday we picked up where we left off by having a discussion about famous mentor relationships in history. From there we introduced students to the SEL 5 Domains through a poster activity. We then used our remaining time to finish up our time capsules from last week.

Spirit Week Plans 
Lockers decorated for fall! 


Wednesday and Thursday were busy days as we discussed scholarship, what an ideal student looks like, and how we can become ideal students. I also took this time to talk to students about various academic topics such as time management, organization, GPA, SAT, and answer some of the general questions they had. We plan on continuing our conversations on these topics and take a deep dive on an individual one each week. From there we introduced students to the culture unit by discussing the vocabulary and examples from their own lives. Many of the terms can overlap and be confusing we made sure to take the time and explain and discuss each of these terms before we move on throughout the unit. Overall a fun week here at WLA and I am looking forward to diving into the Race unit next week. See you then! -Ben

Monday, September 17, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: September 10th - 14th


Hi all!

Another busy week here at West Leadership Academy!

Monday and Tuesday we spent the class completing Shared Agreements and coming up with rules for the classroom. Students shared with each other and with me what they need in order to be successful in and outside of the classroom. This conversation led to an introduction into mentoring - why it is important, what it looks like, etc. Once we established the rules for the year, we filled out our grade trackers and introduced the students to their first EmoSmart goals.

Wednesday was also busy couple of day as we introduced students to the Social and Emotional Domains and had them start their Time Capsule project. Students did a fun poster activity where they wrote examples for each of the SEL domains and shared experiences from their own lives. The time capsules were also a fun activity. We started by just filling in the first portion and going over what it means and why it is helpful to reflect on this later in the year. Some of my students from last year still had theirs so they opened them up and were surprised with some of the things they had written. On Thursday we continued the busy streak with Sara visiting for some mentor training. Due to having middle school and high school students in the same classes, it is rare that we are able to split them up. By Sara coming in to meet with our high schoolers, we were able to start some much needed and helpful mentor training. I am looking forward to picking up where Sara left off this week.

Friday we wrapped the week up with some fun games and community building activities including a fun Around the World game and our Fishbowl questions. The day and week seemed to go by very quickly and students are already looking forward to the mentor matching section which is fast approaching. Stay tuned! -Ben


Monday, September 10, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: September 4th - 7th


Hi all!

Last week was a shortened week due to the Labor Day holiday on Monday. We started the week on Tuesday and Wednesday by setting up some seating arrangements so students could interact with more than just their group of friends and expand their network a bit. From there students played a couple of fun games including the Intro Bingo game before working on their Coat of Arms/Tattoo. Students were quite engaged with both activities and many took their tattoos home with them to finish up (see examples below).

Some of the unique tattoo ideas created by students

Thursday evening was Back to School Night at West. A handful of students and parents came to my classroom at which time we discussed the course, how that particular student can succeed, and what I/YESS can do to help facilitate that process. As always, it's great to meet our parents and the siblings of our students. I'm looking forward to having our new Family Advocate help support our families here in the coming weeks as well.

Friday we were lucky enough to have Emily visit and meet our seniors to help them get started on their post-secondary planning. We have significantly more seniors this year than last year (one class has 8 seniors alone, more so than all of my classes combined last year!). While Emily was working with our seniors, the rest of the students and I completed our Fishbowl Friday activity, finished any remaining tattoos, and then got outside for some fun in the sun! Overall another good week here at West, next week we will be diving into our Mentor training and students will meet our new Family Advocate!
Stay tuned! -Ben

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: October 15th - 18th

Hi all! We had a short but busy week here at WLA as we worked on some of the early lessons in the Healthy Relationships unit and wrapped ...