In a few short days from now, the hustle and bustle will begin that transforms our main gymnasium into a stately venue with seating for our 2,200 guests. The space will be cleaned from floor to ceiling, mats will be laid, chairs will be set, audio visual equipment will be mounted, a stage will be assembled, flowers will be selected, and speeches will be written.
It’s a tremendous amount of work for a celebration that lasts slightly less than two hours, but it is all worth it. Our graduates and their families have been working toward that end for the past decade and a half.
Like most things in school and in life, preparing for future events consumes our todays and our tomorrows. How much time we spend in the planning stages is generally proportional to the value in which we place on having that quality end-product.
One new product, or educational program, that will be rolled out at Norwalk High School next year is something we will aptly call Trucker Time. It will consist of two, 24-minute periods per week that are specifically dedicated to topics, lessons, and skills that impact our freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior students.
How will we effectively utilize those 48 precious minutes per week? How will we know what subjects will be most beneficial to the Class of 2021 as they transition into our building? What is needed by our students who will depart next year as the Class of 2018? What should be our focus for the two grades in the middle?
Besides the professional perspectives from our NHS staff, many of those questions were answered by garnering input from our most valuable stakeholders – local business leaders and government officials, community representatives, and parents.
Norwalk High School has been a High Schools That Work (HSTW) school for many years; meaning that we commit ourselves to research-based, key practices that promote increased student achievement and higher graduation rates. A mainstay to our school improvement culture is allowing others, besides NHS personnel, to assess our strengths and deficits.
Several months ago, we did exactly that and voluntarily opened our doors to an external audit and site review. Part of that process involved our HSTW coach interviewing students, parents, and citizens on a range of school-based items. The feedback that we received was powerful.
Without question, the qualitative data pushed our building’s leadership team in one direction. It was deemed essential for us to carve out time during the school day to give our students ‘extra help,’ one of the key practices of HSTW.
Extra help is not just narrowly defined as intervention, remediation, make-up and review. It can also be test preparation for end-of-course exams and the ACT. It may cover study skills, life skills, soft skills, appropriate technology usage, literacy lessons, critical thinking, application writing, brain challenges…and the list goes on.
Our Trucker Time, or extra help period, may also provide a window for our students to have club and class meetings, listen to guest speakers, and acquire additional exposure to college, military, and workforce options. The possibilities are endless at this point. It is just a matter of putting our thoughts into actionable plans that will benefit our students at a time and a grade when it matters the most.
So, come Tuesday, May 30th, the graduation hall will return to a gym, a new group of students will be calling themselves seniors, and the Trucker Team will be rolling up their sleeves to work on Trucker Time. And in my world, Trucker Time will be a fast paced, relevant adventure!
Brad Cooley serves as principal at Norwalk High School.