Thursday, May 28, 2015

Looping: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

There's no ugly, actually. Or bad, for that matter. Not in my experience anyway.  Looping with my first graders to second grade this year has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I had the privilege of being with them as they became more independent and learned how to put themselves in the driver's seat of their own learning. You just begin to see this happen in first grade, but having this group for an additional year revealed an amazing transformation. They've matured, experienced academic success, and learned empathy. That's not to say there are no cons to this practice. There are things to consider when keeping the same students and teacher together for more than a single school year.

Looping definitely made the beginning of the school year easier. Relationships and a level of trust had already been built when we started second grade together, so we didn't need to waste time figuring each other out. They were willing to take risks, which made it easier for me as a teacher to try new ideas. We became a family who celebrated one another's strengths. Working so closely for so long, each one knew when they had to be the leader and when to follow. I also knew where my students were academically, what they needed to grow, and how to get them there. They knew my expectations and, more importantly, they knew to bring me Cokes instead of apples! With my name on it, no less.

I saw tremendous growth in each student this year. One student in particular, who hardly said a word and had little to no confidence in first grade, blossomed this year. Now she's a girl who willingly participates in class, collaborates with other students, and doesn't hesitate to try any new challenge I throw her way. Her reading level also improved greatly this year. Looping helps teachers give their struggling students the extra time they need to grow. This is definitely true for my student. I'm so proud of her! 

I understand a con of looping is that students may have a hard time adjusting to new teaching styles later on. Thankfully, we compact for Reading and Math on my grade level. By grouping our students based on their ability and achievement, many of my students were exposed to different teachers who have different styles, ideas, and strategies they use in their classrooms. I know for some it's still going to be a little difficult adjusting to a new teacher and a new learning environment. I also know that children are resilient. I'm confident they'll adapt, and they'll impress their new teachers as much as they've impressed me for the past two years. 

I'm really lucky to work in a school with not only wonderful administrators and teachers, but an exceptional student body. I've had several, very special groups of students over the years. The class I had to say goodbye to last week is extra special to me. We grew together in many ways and I'm happy to have shared this experience with them and their families. We truly became one big family, and you never forget your family.