Two extra weeks give teachers time to build bonds

Two extra weeks give teachers time to build bonds

Special Assignment [From Left] Teachers Deborah Juarez, Khanh Nguyen and Alicia Lobaco build a tower with spaghetti noodles, tape, string and a marshmallow during a retreat on Aug. 9. The two-day retreat kicked off an extended school year that is a part of the Teacher on Special Assignment plain aimed to raise students achievement at Fremont High.

For the first time ever, teachers at Fremont High School went back for 10 extra paid days before school started.

This was because they are part of the Teachers on Special Assignment (TSA) plan, which started this year at Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds high schools. Under the plan, TSAs work 11 months in an effort to boost student test scores and graduation rates.

Teachers began their work year on Aug. 8 and also will be required to work extra days after classes end in June.

The extra weeks came in handy because so many new teachers joined Fremont this year and the school changed this year from a federation of three small schools to one large high school. The school has 16 new teachers and a new vice principal.
History teacher Richard Charlesworth said that the extra days “brought teachers together to address what type of community we wanted and what could work best for the students.”

Some staff members said that the extra days helped them better understand Fremont’s new goals, including the ASAP concept. ASAP stands for Academic Excellence, Social Responsibility, Accountability and Proactiveness.

“It helped to have time to collaborate and yet to know each other before school started,” said Joanna Brownson.

Teachers spent two of their first three days at a retreat at Sequoia Lodge in the Oakland Hills. Teachers at the retreat participated in role plays, competitions and other activities, including the “Marshmallow Project.”

In that project, teachers had to work together in small teams to make the tallest tower out of marshmallows, raw spaghetti noodles, tape and string. After they finished, they learned about how teams can work together more effectively.

The Marshmallow Project was the funnest part of the retreat, said Academic Literacy coach Deborah Juarez. Overall,
she found the retreat positive.

“I was ready to return to school,” said Juarez. “We have a really good staff, and I was glad to be working with them.”

During the extra days, said Juarez, “we had time to do a lot of planning and so far students are following teachers’ expectations.”

Resource teacher Ed Holohan also felt the summer work days were beneficial.

“My summer was shorter, but the two weeks were very interesting and I learned a lot from my fellow teachers,” said Holohan. “I learned lot of things I didn’t know before.”