by Guy Blasi
WALSENBURG- As the new principal for John Mall High School, Dr. Pam (Doc) Siders sees her role as a change agent. Dr. Siders spoke with Journal staff recently about the bell-to-bell philosophy which has been introduced in Re-1 this fall. Apparently, according to CHSAA’s Associate Commissioner, Bert Borgman, “this type of teaching goes on all over Colorado.” Also, La Veta Re-2 will be experimenting with bell-to-bell this year.
Siders said bell-to-bell is not a model; it’s a philosophy. “I have used bell-to-bell at every school I’ve been associated with since 1975. “Bell-to-bell is a proven set of best practices based on data with respect to how students learn effectively in school and how teachers can most effectively interact with students.” The phrase stands for an educational environment in which teachers and students are engaged from the first moment of class until the last in activities that promote and consolidate learning. For example, a concept may be taught, examples may be given, hands-on practice may follow, review may be next, question and answer next, and so on. A variety of methods will be used to be sure that the material covered has been learned and practiced within the school day.
Siders gave parents a handout at the start of the year from Kim Bevill (www.kimbevill.com) citing ten reasons why homework is no longer productive with respect to a student’s capacity to learn effectively. “What is crucial is to get both teachers and students to come to class ready to teach and learn,” Siders said. “This means that both students and teachers need to adjust to the changes. This levels the playing field and we’re finding some students as well as teachers resistant to change.”
Siders commented about whether future college students who graduated from John Mall might have difficulty adjusting to the rigors of college homework and research. “We certainly can accommodate any parent who wants to see their child do homework,” she said. She also commented on the problem of low graduation rates in Re-1. Last year’s seniors started as 60 freshmen and ended with 24 graduating. Given that some students move or drop out, Siders feels the best way to retain and graduate students is to teach kids effectively. Regarding extracurricular activities, Siders noted that the number of student athletes who were ineligible to compete in homecoming week this year had dropped from 44 to 30. Ineligible students are also not allowed to attend the homecoming dance.
Finally, Siders stated that her door is always open to any student, parent or teacher who has concerns. “I know change is difficult, but we’re doing what’s best for the kids,” she said. Siders has high hopes of improving lagging CSAP and ACT scores and overall school morale by making the best use of time for teaching and learning during the school day.