Teacher-Filter: Looping?
February 17, 2012 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Teacher-Filter: Looping?

I teach in a 6-8 urban charter middle school. I currently teach 6th grade ELA and history. This is my first year at this school, my third year teaching.

This last week, my principal mentioned that she wanted teachers to start looping, meaning following their students through the grade levels. This means that I'd be teaching my current 6th graders in English until they are promoted from 8th grade.

I'm excited about this opportunity because I love my students and this would be a great chance to see them grow. I'm nervous about this opportunity because it means planning new lessons every single year, because it means I'm making a huge commitment to these kids and their families and because it's a big responsibility, to be with the same students for 3 whole years.

Does anyone have experience with this, either as a teacher or as a student? Are there other pros and cons that I've overlooked?

If it matters, my students are minority students whose families are overwhelmingly poor. Also, my school has an extended year and extended day - the school day runs from 7:30 - 5pm.
posted by brynna to Education (4 answers total)
My children's school had this as an option in primary grades and as a parent I would recommend it. The teacher really got to know the child's strengths and weaknesses and the classroom was more cohesive. This could easily go the other way with a teacher that was not as strong or kids that did not mesh well.

I always thought it made more work for the teachers as they had deal with each year's curriculum. By the time they got a new first grade class, the district would have changed textbooks or something so things had to be recreated from scratch. The teachers I talked to loved it though and chose it over other options (they did have a choice, at least in theory).
posted by readery at 8:28 AM on February 17, 2012

I have some experience of this as a student, in that I had one Latin teacher for three years of junior high and one Latin teacher for three of the four years of high school. Neither was really an intentional set up. There was only one junior high Latin teacher (and he happened to stick around--there was a run where there was a new teacher every year) and, while the high school had two, it was coincidental that I had the same one three times. (I believe it was two and two for my brother.) Fourth and fifth year Latin were taught as combined classes--they'd alternate two syllabi--so I've even been in the 'same' level classroom with the same teacher two years running. The kids in my class remained basically the same as well, until the fourth/fifth year classes, where when I did Latin four, there were a few seniors doing Latin five. When I did Latin five, most of the class was Latin four kids who we'd not had class with before, since the rest of our Latin four class had graduated.

All that said, I don't think it was noticeably different than classes that reshuffled entirely (students and teachers) year to year. Of course, Latin has a clear progression of what you're covering in a way that English perhaps doesn't. Certainly I had much closer relationships with Latin teachers than with other teachers and together they're responsible for more 'non-school' facts than my other teachers combined, I think.

From fourth through eighth grade, I was in gifted classes that retained essentially the same students the whole way through (some of them I was with from third grade). In junior high, the teachers admitted this was a challenge for them because they were getting a class whose dynamic had been established long ago and had to come in as an outsider. You don't have this issue, though, as you'll be moving up with the class.

Thinking of this from the perspective of a grad student who TAs, I don't know if it'd be a ton more work for me. Certainly, I can cut corners planning lessons for courses I've done before by recycling examples (and I've done them all at least twice at this point), but recycling old plans into effective new lessons is hard for me because I've lost how I was thinking about it when I wrote the original lesson. Perhaps, though, this comes from experience.
posted by hoyland at 8:30 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: I totally recommend it, as a (California) high school English/History teacher. When I've had students for more than one year, I'm able to really help them more than I could otherwise. The relationship is strong already, so you don't waste two months testing each other's boundaries.

There's strong data to indicate that looping with an excellent teacher can produce multi-year gains that you wouldn't see with a new teacher.

The downside is that if you struggle with a student, you're stuck with them for the rest of the year/multiple years. But I've found that time wears both parties down - eventually, you figure out a way to deal with each other and it benefits both of you.

In California, the English standards are pretty similar all three middle school years, so you're not making up totally new lesson plans; rather, you're using the same standards and changing the topics and level of complexity. It's the history standards that are different and are the bigger challenge. But again, you don't have to spend time getting to know students or building relationships with parents, so you're saving time there that can be spent on lesson plans.

I'd say embrace it and get the kids excited about it too. And if your principal wants it to happen, politically, you would do well to get on that train early. :-)
posted by guster4lovers at 9:32 AM on February 17, 2012

I'm a teacher as well (in Canada), and I think this really depends on how much material you are going to be able to share and borrow with your coworkers. If you can borrow a lot, this would be quite manageable. I would not envy the task of spending three years coming up with new material, however. I think parents in general underestimate how much time that takes, and you should keep in mind that as you start assigning essays and longer writing projects in grade 7/8, your marking load is also going to go way up. If your school has a good culture for sharing resources, then I would be excited about the opportunity to stick with the same kids through multiple grades.
posted by Nightman at 1:08 PM on February 17, 2012

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