The Phineas Bates School is on Beech Street in Roslindale, where it sits on a hill with 30 steps to climb between the sidewalk and the front door! Serving 250 students, it is growing an inclusion model that assigns two adults to each classroom. Marie Conille and Lori Jerrier, teachers who are relatively new to the Bates, describe the school as a “welcoming community” where they feel valued.

Christine Fitzgerald‘s K0-K1 children sit in a small circle to select their favorite colors from a pile of tiles, which they later sort by color. They’re also learning about shapes and proudly tell me the names of many of them!

Children in the primary grades are looking at and talking about books, making letter shapes with Play-Doh, telling stories with finger puppets, and using magnetic tiles to make words. K2 teacher Cristi Mitchell reads aloud a story written by one of her children, after asking others to help act it out as “actors on stage” or members of the audience.

Older students are also engaged in literacy activities, writing responses to their reading or finding examples of figurative language in their texts. Second graders in Audrey Horgan‘s class are working on differentiating fact from opinion.

Art teacher Andrea Drakes helps K2 students color and decorate fish shapes with different designs, then cut them out. In gym class, Dominique Wilkins supervises a game of freeze tag.

Entering Joel Clark‘s fifth grade classroom, I notice my favorite “How to Build Community” poster – available from Syracuse Cultural Workers in English and Spanish. In Social Studies, his students are learning how to use latitude and longitude coordinates to locate places on a world map. He encourages them to draw and add color when taking notes – saying that doing so is “doodling to the power of 10!”

What makes the Bates special, according to veteran teacher Sarah Burke, is a combination of support and autonomy. Teachers are trusted to do what’s developmentally appropriate for their students. The choice of “Social Thinking” as a school-wide SEL curriculum, for example, was teacher-driven and followed the observation of an ABA specialist’s lesson.

Please invite me to YOUR school this year!

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Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.