By Avery Washington, On-Track Coordinator at Brien McMahon High School
Avery Washington is one of two On-Track Coordinators (OTCs) at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT. He started in this new role in summer 2019. Avery holds a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University and a Master’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University. He is a certified K-12 school counselor.
By the time the first bell rings at 7:30am, I’m already busy! I’ve read and answered emails from teachers, connected with two students about some changes to their grades in PowerSchool that, frankly, they aren’t too excited about, and still am trying to find 45 seconds to scarf down a granola bar for breakfast. As an OTC, the mornings are a critical time for me. It’s in the first 60 minutes or so that I get a feel for how my day is going to look. I usually start with some basics: Who do I need to meet with? Which parents need a quick call? Who do I need to remind to stay after school to get some work done? All of the answers, which start off in my head will end up on a few choice sticky notes on my desk. Why sticky notes? Well, because before I can start tackling some of my priorities, I need to get to our daily data team meeting. It’s time to get to work.
At Brien McMahon, each morning starts with a data team meeting. While our data team meetings are always productive and put students first, I’ve recently been excited about a shift in our practice – instead of just using the data to talk about kids, we’re talking to them. I’m excited about this new intervention because our conversations are letting our freshmen know that we are paying attention to them; we aren’t going to let them slip through the cracks. This practice also requires the freshmen we invite to make some critical commitments about being a student. For good measure, we also make sure someone at home is on the same page. While we just started this practice, I think it will move outcomes and help students.
During today’s data team meeting, we are completing a few rounds of KidStat. During KidStat my mind is always racing, and I have many questions. Would this student benefit from a tutor? Do we need to have the parents come for a meeting? Is the student really struggling with the content, or are they just missing a few assignments? We also spent some time discussing our peaks and potholes from the semester and our priorities moving forward. I love that we are spending time reflecting and thinking about ways these meetings can be more beneficial to the students we serve.
Back in the office I know to be ready for anything…such as my door suddenly swinging open!
Student: “Mr. Washington, how did I get an F on this math test?!”
Me: “Whoa, hold on, have a seat, take a breath. You say you don’t know how you failed the test. Did you study?”
Student: “Nah, not really…”
Me: “Well, then how can you expect to pass? What got in the way of studying?”
After sitting with her and brainstorming some new ways to manage time and study (she’s going to keep a blank version of the study guide to quiz herself), it’s time for me to get back to the dashboards! I use the RISE dashboards not only to see which students need me this week but also to monitor how my entire caseload is doing. I’m responsible for 60 freshmen I need to look out for, and oftentimes the data has to be my eyes and ears. After a quick deep dive it’s on to my intervention tracker, where I log how I’m supporting students. I need to check on a student that has been struggling to improve her grades all year. We’ve had a few meetings in the past, and I’ve invited her to our study sessions, met with her teachers and worked to set goals with her. In an attempt to assist her in connecting more to her academics, I have a different strategy for her today! I’ll help her to create a list in the notes app on her cellphone about missing assignments. When she attends each class, she can reference her notes and ask the teachers about possible make up opportunities for assignments, projects, etc. I hope this works because she really needs to get on the ball before the end of the quarter.
My calendar reminder alerts me that my next meeting with the Assistant Principal and my OTC counterpart, Sharina, is scheduled to begin in 10 minutes. I’m really excited to put the finishing touches on our Books & Bevs midterm study session. During on-track conferences, we heard several students express their concerns about preparation for midterm exams, so we took this as an opportunity to cater to students’ needs and deliver an opportunity to connect academically through a different forum. Bevs is a slang term that McMahon students use for beverages. As a way to engage students, we thought it would be a good idea to capture students’ kids’ interest in the study sessions. Books & Bevs is essentially an opportunity for students to receive preparation tips and time to prepare for the exam after school. We will provide study support in English, Math, Social Studies, Science, World Languages. A few teachers will run the sessions with the support of the OTCs and upperclassmen honor students. A variety of snacks will be provided, and of course the Bevs will be available (hot cocoa and bottled water).
I look at my clock in my office and I realize that it’s already 1:30pm. The day has flown by! The students are dismissed to go home at 2:15pm, so I will check in on a few students, reminding them to complete a few missing assignments. Then I’m heading home, too, looking forward to another day tomorrow!