Take a few minutes and step into the life of a Platinum Teacher at Achievement Prep. This is meant to provide an idea of what working at Achievement Prep entails from the perspective of our Platinum Teachers.
Jennifer Lewis, Kindergarten Teacher
Wahler Place Elementary Campus
Jhatia Mcknight, Science Teacher
Wahler Place Middle Campus
7:15 – 7:45 – Arrival and Staff Meeting
I usually get to school by 7:15am each morning to make sure my room is ready, go over any last minute details with my co-advisor, take my last sip of coffee, and go downstairs to the cafeteria at 7:30am for our morning staff meeting. During the morning meeting, we go over daily announcements, touch base with our grade level teams, set a school-wide focus for the day and week, and celebrate one another’s successes with the whole team. By the time the doors open for scholars at 7:45am, our team is all on the same page and ready to start the day!
7:45 – 8:10 – Scholar Arrival and Breakfast
The doors open for scholars at 7:45am every morning. After being greeted in the car line by Platinum Teachers, scholars walk up the stairs, shake hands with the Platinum Teachers at the door, and walk into the cafeteria for breakfast. During this time, I greet each scholar and make sure they hand in their DREAMwork* from the night before. I also check their DREAMwork folders for any notes or messages from their families. As scholars eat breakfast, my co-advisor and I check-in their DREAMwork and make sure scholars are focused and ready for the day. At 7:55am , we start to transition upstairs into Marymount’s classroom, where scholars hang up their book bags and jackets and start to do their morning work at their seats.
* Scholars receive DREAMwork, or homework, each night. Scholars’ DREAMwork consists of materials that scholars have mastered previously in class. Our DREAMwork includes work from all subjects; Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science or Social Studies. Scholars also receive a daily DREAM Report. This report is a way for teachers to communicate scholars’ daily behavior. Scholars can earn a full stamp, half stamp, or no stamp depending on the choices they make each day.
8:10 – 8:25 – AM Prep for Prep
During AM Prep for Prep, my co-advisor and I work with our scholars to set goals for the day based around our DREAM values (Determination. Respect, Enthusiasm, Accountability, Mastery). As an advisory, we decide what our goal should be for the day. For instance, if we know we need to show more determination as a class, we will have scholars brainstorm ways to do this throughout the day. We also review the schedule for the day and celebrate the DREAMWork Heroes from the night before. The DREAMWork Heroes are scholars who went above and beyond with their homework from the previous night. We cheer for these scholars and give them their special DREAMWork Hero pencil.
8:25 – 8:45 – Read Aloud with Marymount
We then transition our scholars to the carpet for Read Aloud. Read Aloud at Achievement Prep is the first part of our literacy program that scholars go through each day. Every day scholars are introduced to a new book that is aligned to the objective for the day. All of the reading objectives are derived from the Kindergarten Common Core Standards and are grouped into units that we teach during Read Aloud and Reading Comprehension. Read Aloud is the time for me to model the skills and strategies that I want scholars to be able to apply during reading comprehension later in the day. Scholars love sharing their ideas on the carpet and practicing the new skills together as a class!
8:47 – 10:21 – Literacy Block Rotations with Marymount
Every day, our scholars go through 3 different 30-minute literacy blocks. In each of these literacy blocks, scholars work on both word solving and reading comprehension skills to increase their overall literacy. Scholars are divided into 3 groups within the class based on their STEP data. STEP is the rigorous literacy assessment that we use throughout the school to track scholars’ literacy progress. Our groups change after each STEP Round, which occurs 4 times throughout the year.
I teach the Guided Reading and Reading Comprehension block in my classroom. In Kindergarten, we teach Guided Reading on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Reading Comprehension on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Guided Reading lessons are based on the STEP levels. During this time, I teach scholars specific skills that their data shows they need to work on in order to achieve the next STEP level. For example, if one of my groups has had trouble decoding specific blends, such as “bl” or “dr”, the lesson will highlight this skill. We will do a mini-lesson in the beginning to teach the scholars strategies to decode these blends and then immediately apply this skill in an actual book.
On Reading Comprehension days, I teach the same objective that I taught during Read Aloud to each literacy group. This lesson is formatted in the Gradual Release model (I Do / We Do / You Do) with an emphasis on the independent practice portion of the lesson. This is the time for scholars to practice the skill that I introduced during the Read Aloud, but with a book on their level.
My co-teacher teaches Reading Mastery during the literacy rotation. Reading Mastery is a fast-paced, scripted, and engaging reading program that teaches scholars to decode, word solve, and comprehend appropriately-leveled reading passages. It is filled with fun chants, games, and activities that teach scholars to read fluently.
The third literacy block is an independent computer block. Scholars work on laptops in the classroom on a program called i-ready, which provides exciting, differentiated work for each scholar in the room. The program adjusts itself to individual learning levels, so scholars work on content that they need to excel.
10:23 – 11:16 – Planning Period
During my lunch, while eating, I spend time going over best practices of the day with my colleagues. I also spend time preparing materials for the afternoon, planning upcoming lessons, and checking DREAMwork.
11:18 – 11:38 – Read Aloud with the College of New Jersey
Achievement Prep is departmentalized, so in the afternoon I teach literacy to another advisory of Kindergarteners: the College of New Jersey. Just like with Marymount, the Read Aloud prepares our scholars for the literacy lesson that day and gives me time to introduce them to a new text!
11:40 – 12:35 – Lunch and Recess
Next, our scholars line up silently and we transition them into the cafeteria for lunch. Some scholars bring their own lunch and others receive a healthy lunch from the school. Once everyone has been served, scholars sit down at the table and begin to eat. While I am downstairs on lunch duty, I use this time to build relationships with the scholars. I also use this time to teach them important life skills, such as using appropriate manners, table etiquette, and cleaning up after themselves. After cleanup, we transition our scholars outside for recess.
12:35 – 2:09 – Literacy Block Rotations with the College of New Jersey
After lunch I do the same literacy block rotations with the College of New Jersey as I did in the morning with Marymount. This allows me to make adjustments to improve the lesson and to immediately implement those adjustments with a different advisory.
2:11 – 2:31 – Snack/Restroom Break
During these 20 minutes, scholars line up and I transition them silently to the restroom. Once they use the restroom, we return to the classroom to enjoy their healthy snack, provided by the school. My co-teacher and I use this time to check in with scholars, hear about their activities outside of school, and give them time to build relationships with one another.
2:33 – 4:05 – Planning Time
Parent engagement is very important to me, so while my scholars are in instruction, I spend my planning time reaching out to families and updating them on their scholar’s progress and growth. I also spend time grading student work, and setting out materials for the next day of instruction so that I am constantly prepared.
4:07 – 4:30 – PM Prep for Prep / Dismissal
During our afternoon meeting, I review our goals with the scholars and we celebrate both the group and individual successes of the day. Scholars find out if they have earned a full stamp or half stamp on their behavior chart. We then make sure scholars have their DREAMwork folders for the night and silently read DEAR books until it is time for dismissal. Some scholars attend Fun World Aftercare and others go to the Boys and Girls Club or YMCA; the rest of the scholars wait to hear their names on the walkie-talkies before walking outside to meet their families.
4:30 – 5:30 – Team Meetings / Planning Time
One day each week, I meet with my literacy and grade level team to review our lesson plans for the following week. During this time, we each present the plans that we have worked on, receive feedback from each other and the Co-Directors, and discuss strategies and teaching practices.
5:30 – 6:00 – Leave School
While I do not leave school at the same time everyday, I always make sure everything is ready for the next day before leaving. I pack up the class materials that I want to grade each night and take my lesson plans home to review for the next day. Doing all of this allows me to stay on schedule with deadlines and be an effective Platinum Teacher every day!
7:30 am – 7:45 am – Morning Meeting
At 7:30 am on the dot each day, we begin our morning meeting. Our entire team starts our day together by discussing common goals, reflecting on our craft, and getting on the same page about upcoming events at the school. I enjoy sharing ideas or techniques that I use in my classroom, and hearing about the approaches my colleagues are using with their scholars. Morning meeting ensures that our adult team is focused and on the same accord before opening our doors to our scholars.
7:45 am – 8:20 am – Breakfast and AM Prep for Prep
I head directly from Morning Meeting to my advisory classroom where I get ready to greet my scholars. All of our scholars silently enter the building and prepare themselves for the day by picking up a delicious breakfast in the lobby. Then, they bring their breakfasts upstairs to eat in their advisories—classes of scholars who follow the same schedule and are named for the alma maters of our Platinum Teachers—during AM Prep for Prep. This time is structured and silent to allow scholars to get into the mindset of hard work and learning. This is also a great time for me to take a pulse on my class and check in with any scholars who don’t seem like themselves before we even start our daily lessons!
During AM Prep for Prep, scholars also gather their new homework assignments for that night, record them in their scholar planners, and put away all of their unnecessary belongings. Then we take a few minutes to set individual and community goals based on our DREAM values. It is a great time to establish advisory pride and a sense of community!
8:20 am – 9:15 am – Results
During Results Platinum Teachers can provide additional tutoring or extension in specific content areas where scholars may need additional reinforcement. We really maximize the scholar/teacher ratio during this first hour of the day by working together as a team to break our advisories into smaller groups. I enjoy working with my scholars in a different content area because it really demonstrates to them how closely connected all of the different content areas are. The scholars in my group are determined by weekly quiz data, so I also know that I can really correct common misconceptions during this hour. It’s also great to start my day with a small group!
9:20 am – 10:15 am – Science Class with Lafayette
Achievement Prep’s Wahler Place Middle School is departmentalized starting at our entry point, which is 4th grade. This means that I teach four sections of 4th grade science. I teach my first science class of the day to my advisory, Lafayette. We spend the 55-minute period diving into the standards through text, demonstrations, and hands-on labs. I have really found that 4th graders are so excited about science, and that their inquisitiveness about the content area can make the time fly!
I start each lesson with my Q2, which stands for Quick Question, and then dive right into my instruction. By the end of the 55-minute period, I need my scholars to have mastered the objective for the day so there is a lot of work to do! I end every class with an exit slip that helps me see how I have done as a teacher during that period. This data really helps me gain a clear understanding of what my scholars have mastered. We close every class by discussing our DREAM Blocks, which represents the character values we demonstrated during the class period. It is a great way to reflect on our actions and identify strengths and areas we can improve for the next period.
10:17 am – 11:12 am – Planning Period on Post
After teaching my first science class, I transition into my first of two 55-minute planning periods of the day. During this planning period, I work on curriculum development and grading while also supporting the larger school community. We have “posts” set up in critical areas of our common space where we spend one of our planning periods in order to always have a strong adult presence in the school. Achievement Prep provides every teacher with a Mac laptop so we can focus on our work while moving through the space.
While on post, I spend my time conferencing with scholars in the hall, moving scholars quickly into and out of the restrooms, and planning for my upcoming lessons. I know my presence in the hallway during this time helps to support our overall school culture, and it is a great example of the power of team that is alive at Achievement Prep.
11:14 am – 12:09 am – Science Class with Princeton
My science class with Princeton is my second chance to teach the same lesson for the day. I can use the reflections from my first period to improve the quality of my instruction a mere one hour later in order to promote even stronger scholar achievement. Achievement Prep understands the importance of consistency, so the structure of my lesson looks the same as my first period class. Because I don’t have to spend time making structural decisions about this period, I have more time to make adjustments to specific instructional actions that I take in order to have a more effective lesson.
12:13 pm – 12:58 pm – Lunch
All of the 4th grade teachers are active participants in facilitating our lunch period. Scholars enter the cafeteria silently and stand patiently behind their seat until their entire class has been served. We believe that school lunch is a great opportunity to teach important social skills that are required in every day life. Once everyone in the grade has been served (which happens at lightning speed), scholars can turn their voices on and socialize with their peers and teachers. I actually eat my lunch with the scholars. It is a great opportunity to have relationship building conversations with my scholars and to engage in conversations about something other than science. After lunch, the scholars enjoy recess outside.
1:03 pm – 1:13 pm – DEAR
Fortunately, we have a twenty-minute period of time built into the schedule immediately following recess to allow for scholars to regain their academic focus. DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) gives our scholars an opportunity to engage with independent reading. We also take care of restrooms and water breaks at this time so scholars can completely re-engage with their academics once their next class begins. Scholars are encouraged to complete book reviews once they complete their independent reading books, and earn prizes based on their work. I like to pick a book that one of my scholars chooses so we can read it at the same time and discuss it throughout!
1:13 pm – 2:08 pm – Science Class with McDaniel
My third science period of the day is with McDaniel. This class has the same objective as my earlier two periods. The main difference is that a few of my scholars are pulled out for additional reading support during this time. This allows for a slightly smaller class size. We work frequently with scientific text in order to help build critical literacy skills while also mastering content.
2:10 pm – 3:05 pm – Second Planning Period
After science with McDaniel, I have my second 55-minute planning period of the day. I take advantage of this time to continue with curriculum planning, putting grades in the grade book, reaching out to families, and collaborating with my peers. I also distribute important communication to the rest of my 4th grade team and track our progress on grade-level initiatives. The last thing I do during this period is submit my copies to the copy center so I can have everything I need ahead of time for future classes.
3:07 pm – 4:02 pm – Science Class with Northern Illinois
I am already at my last period of the day! This is my fourth time teaching the same lesson, often making this one of my strongest classes of the day. I use my own reflections and feedback from observations to make small adjustments to my instruction that pay off in a big way!
4:05 pm – 4:30 pm – PM Prep for Prep and Dismissal
I close out everyday with my advisory class. Scholars come into the advisory room with urgency, collect their belongings, and line up based on their dismissal group. After a brief reflection on our progress towards our DREAM goals, we join the rest of our 4th grade peers in the hallway and wait for our dismissal group to be called.
I am responsible for the W2 bus group. Once we are called, I lead all of the W2 group out of the building and down the hill to the appropriate bus stop. I am accompanied by other colleagues from different grade levels and we escort our scholars safely to their destination.
Our entire school community owns our dismissal process. We believe in facilitating a safe and structured end to our day and work together to ensure every scholar gets where they need to go. We come together as a team at 4:30 to close-out and share any important information before the day is officially closed-out.
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm Afterschool
Afterschool hours consist of different obligations and commitments. On Mondays, I lead our grade level team meetings. We focus on establishing team goals and addressing real-time issues. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I coach the Achievement Prep cheerleading team. We were one of the first true team sports at Achievement Prep when we started in 2012 and have won a number of competitions in addition to cheering on our basketball teams when they compete!
I also make sure to get my classroom set with all the next day’s materials and board configuration so I am ready to start my next day in a strong way. I use any remaining time to collaborate with peers about upcoming lessons or school-wide areas of focus. Once all of that is completed, I head home to spend time with my beautiful little girl!