Going out to recess is a memory most of us can relate to. Now there is another meaning to the word that has many educators in the district just as excited as we may have been in the past.
Clintonville’s Director of Instruction, Chris Van Hoof, explained the RECESS program to the Clintonville School Board at their meeting Aug. 8. RECESS is an acronym for Rural Educators Collaborating to Enhance Student Success. This collaborative initiative took place last year between the school districts of Clintonville, Marion, Tigerton, Wittenberg-Birnamwood and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
There were a total of 24 participants last year in the RECESS sessions, and 11 were from Clintonville Public Schools.
Van Hoof explained that any teacher interested in exploring their own practices could join the group. RECESS was set up to develop personal and professional growth in a challenging and supportive environment. The program uses the principals of research: a process in which practitioners systematically and carefully examine their own educational practices. Based out of the UW-Madison, the program believes that teachers and principals work best on problems they have identified for themselves; become more effective when encouraged to examine and assess their own work and then consider ways of working differently; help each other by working collaboratively; and working with colleagues helps teachers and principals in their professional development.
Through monthly meetings the teachers and principals engaged in posing questions, gathering data, reflecting, and deciding on a course of action for their particular targeted problem. Each time they met, they would learn more about the process of action research, share their experiences and progress, and offer guidance and support to colleagues, also engaged in the action research process.
“This has been a great year for RECESS in our schools,” said Van Hoof. “On Aug. 17 we meet again at the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School Forest. At the end of the year, we’ll have a two day collaborative event in Madison where others who share in the same field of teaching can be together. Getting a number of schools together really helps with this process.”
“Last year, in Madison, when we talked about what we had accomplished, there were members of the Board of Regents from UW-Madison listening in,” said Van Hoof. “Freshly graduated teachers that were going out into the teaching field for the first time were there as well. It was an exciting event to be associated with.”
Van Hoof set up a projector and displayed the UW-Madison Partnership Outreach Office website to the school board so they could go down the list of accomplishments from each of the teachers in Clintonville schools. The website is http://eop.education.wisc.edu/professionallearning/partnerships/recess.aspx.
One example of success was Kathyrn Moser, who, thinking outside the box, moved her desk out of the classroom, allowing students to have one-third more space to be creative and learn in.
Another teacher, Justin Zoellick, started out studying the impact of including more literacy instruction into social studies, but he ended up discovering a new classroom management strategy along the way.
“Every teacher involved has a great story to tell, but for me, the most inspiring part of the entire process was watching teachers take ownership of their learning and really get excited about the results and impact on student learning,” said Van Hoof.
Van Hoof says they received a Department of Public Instruction Peer Mentoring grant for $17,000 last year to cover the costs to go through this year-long process. She said this year they had to look for monies elsewhere, and have submitted another grant in hopes of having a second successful year with this insightful program.