A visitor to the Marshall cannot miss two giant bulletin boards in the front hallway about the school”€™s focus on reading. Directed toward families, they feature large graphs showing how attendance and home reading impacts MCAS scores. This data is surrounded by inspirational quotes and exhortations such as the following, by Dr. Seuss:

“€œThe more you read,
The more you”€™ll know,
The more you know,
The more places you”€™ll go!”€

It was not surprising, then, that most classes were working on reading activities of various kinds throughout the morning of my visit: reading aloud, reading in groups, and/or reading independently.

I felt grateful to Cyndi Weekes, Dean of Discipline, for showing me around and easing my entry into each classroom. Later, when interviewing students, I was given a map of the school to help me find my way to particular classrooms – a first, in my experience, and a reminder of one of the ways that a school can be welcoming to families. Although the Marshall is located in a dangerous neighborhood, it seems to offer a safe haven for those who enter. They have a beautiful new library and a “Peace Garden” just outside the cafeteria where students may go to read or remember classmates who have been killed.

The Marshall has approximately 750 students, grouped into “pods” and cross-grade “families” to facilitate communication and shared activity. One such activity is “MI Night,” during which each grade-level team prepares thematic presentations celebrating multiple intelligences.

Another school-wide activity that interested me was the Marshall’s “Principal of the Day” program. Fourth and fifth graders are invited to write a persuasive letter about why they should be principal for a day; every week those selected (this year by their peers) spend a day observing in classrooms, taking notes, and talking with principal Teresa Harvey-Jackson over lunch about ways to improve the school’s climate.

Fifth grader Felix Polanco asked me to tell you that the Marshall is “a great school,” and the teachers with whom I spoke seemed to agree. Ms. Lazko shared the following comments:

“We are a community with high expectations for children and teachers. As a fourth grade SEI teacher, I’m faced with challenges every day, such as having newcomers who speak little or no English and trying to address the diverse learning styles of my kids. But none of this is an obstacle in my classroom because my students (or scholars, as I call them) come in positive, prepared, and polite every day. I know my students are learning when they can solve their own problems. To me that’s more than just rewarding, it’s an exhilarating feeling!”

Here’s hoping that each of YOU feels that way, as well!

amika-96x27 Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.

Amika Kemmler Ernst is a recently retired BPS New Teacher Developer with extensive experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and graphic artist. Her “€œWe”€™re Learning Here“€ Project features images of everyday learning in our public schools, along with the words of the students pictured.