Tag Archive | "Butler partnership"

Writers engaging writers

Writers engaging writers

Butler University’s Writing in the Schools mentors were awarded a Jefferson Award for Public Service on Feb. 9 in front of an energized crowd of Shortridge Magnet High School students.

But the program’s organizers said the reaction of the students gave more validation to the semester-old endeavor than an award could.

“It didn’t matter to me that we got a piece of paper, and it didn’t matter to me what the award was,” said Doug Manuel, a master’s of fine arts student. “What mattered to me is when we walked up there, I looked out to the crowd and threw up deuces, and everyone in the crowd went crazy.”

Manuel and MFA student Chris Speckman, along with English professor Susan Sutherlin and MFA program director Andy Levy, developed the Writing in the Schools program as a way to connect the MFA program with Shortridge and pilot a class about writing education.

There wasn’t always a crowd on board with the idea.

After struggling to secure background checks and fearing they wouldn’t be able to get in the building, the first Butler mentors began working in the fall with about five to eight students.

Speckman said they needed more students, so he and Manuel also went class to class, introducing themselves and trying to recruit writers.

They created a video with dancing and rap, as well as signs to draw in people.

Through these measures and word of mouth, the program grew to a steady stream of about 34 students who attend their group after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Between the Writing in the Schools class and other volunteers, there are about 20 to 25 mentors. These volunteers have racked up 1,400 service hours and reached one-third of Shortridge’s students.

Speckman said students who come once will come back and that consistency on the part of Butler students and faculty has been integral.

“It’s a school in flux, and it was about carving out a place,” Speckman said.  “They wanted to know that we were there and we were there to stay and we weren’t going to be a flash in the pan.”

Manuel agreed, saying that the group has become one of the most stable programs at Shortridge.

“One thing they can count on is every Tuesday and Thursday Butler people will be there,” he said. “We will have food for our kids, and we will have a lesson plan. That’s what we’re going to do, no matter what.”

Sutherlin said that the Butler mentors have learned  not only how to teach but also how to navigate a school and start up a program.

“I love the fact that we’re operating on so many levels at once and that we’re asking so much of our sudents,” she said.

Shortridge English teacher Christine Muller said the Butler students have helped her students’ confidence as well as their writing.

“They make the student feel like they are in control of their writing, in their voice and their mechanics,” Muller said.

She said she likes how the program includes more informal dialogue about writing and is not as focused on teaching students how to write to pass assessments.

“It’s helping students, but it’s not mandating from above,” she said. “It can get to be somebody else’s program, somebody else’s agenda and a way to get somebody else’s job done otherwise.”

Up next for the group is growing its online publication, Exclusive Ink, and assembling student work in a print publication.

Speckman said they want to reach students who are failing assessments, not just those with talent and passion for writing.

While receiving the Jefferson Award is good for program building, Speckman said it also serves as a reason to keep moving forward.

“When we had trouble, we just put our heads down and kept working without worrying about the outside,” Speckman said. “It says we now have a place at Shortridge. It makes us feel like we’re more a part of the community.”

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Butler Lab School enters second semester

Butler Lab School enters second semester

The Butler University Laboratory School is now entering its second semester of educating both students and student teachers.

The school, a collaboration between Butler and Indianapolis Public Schools, is located at 3330 N. Pennsylvania Ave. and serves nearly 100 children in preschool through first grade classes.

Ron Smith, a Butler graduate and the school’s principal, said he is very pleased with where the school is at, but would like it to see it continue to grow and improve.

“I don’t think this is a school that will ever stand still,” he said. “I think it’s a school that will always be looking forward to the future to think about how we can do our work better, how we can make our learning community stronger than it already is.”

Based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, the school is a unique and tailored learning experience.

Reggio Emilia is an educational style that believes “children have 100 ways of knowing, learning and expressing their understanding and interpretations of the world,” said COE Dean Ena Shelley, an expert on Reggio Emilia. “All children are seen as capable, competent, powerful learners with ideas that should be honored and examined.”

The lab school isn’t a typical elementary school. The low lighting, the open space, the tables of varying heights—everything comes together to create a comfortable, relaxing, natural atmosphere. Its costs are equal to those of a typical elementary school.

The physical environment of Reggio-inspired schools and traditional schools differ significantly, Shelley said.

“When one visits the lab school, one sees classrooms that are aesthetically beautiful, and every learning material is intentionally planned to engage children in deep investigations,” she said.

The Reggio-inspired environment is designed to help students relax and focus, steering away from the harsh fluorescent lighting of some typical elementary schools.

Cathy Hargrove, a professor of education, said getting students to think beyond a white sheet of paper allows teachers to use a variety of materials to demonstrate skills and concepts.

“It gives children a variety of ways to be able to sit and interact with one another,” she said. “The environments are created for the children, not the adult. We want them to feel that sense of success.”

Young children aren’t the only students learning at the lab school.

The school also is designed to allow Butler undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience in education, and it has a classroom dedicated to a Butler course that meets all day twice a week.

The lab school is fortunate that undergraduates get to see Butler graduates working with students immersed in the Reggio philosophy, Hargrove said.

In fact, every teacher is a Butler graduate.

“There’s real application backing all of the things they’re studying and learning about in class. It makes the learning visible for them,” she said.

“We are the Butler University Laboratory School, so there’s a very tight fit with the College of Education and this school, and a memo of understanding between the Indianapolis School Board and between the Board of Trustees at Butler that outlines how this school will be staffed and what this school will be,” Smith said.

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