I feel free to express myself.
Learner, McComb School District
Before I came to Summit Elementary in McComb, Mississippi, I attended a traditional elementary school from 2012-2015. During those three years, I felt the same limitations everywhere I went. At my other schools, all of the students were working at the same level. Since I was usually the smartest one in my class, I had to help everyone else. When I needed help, there was no one to get help from, except for my teacher. I usually just had to wait until the other students caught up before I could move on. This kept me from learning more, and by the time my friends caught up, I wasn’t even interested in the work anymore. I felt like I was trapped in a world where I couldn’t decide my future. I felt like other people were controlling my learning.
When I first came to the Summit, I thought it would be just like the other schools I had attended, but I was wrong. I was finally being challenged and was allowed to work at my own level. I’ve learned more than ever before. I get to work on topics that are more advanced than what other scholars are working on, and the work is at a higher level than what my age would suggest. I also have people who can help me when I need it. We are grouped by our instructional levels, but we don’t have to do the same work. This means I have classmates that are working on higher level work like me, so we can collaborate when we have the same work or they can help me when I get stuck. All I have to do is ask for help by using a “Where Am I” board. This board helps us communicate with the teacher practitioner.
My teacher practitioners (what we call our teachers) focus on one scholar at a time. This happens because we all know what we need to do, so they just have to check in with us throughout the day. Outside the help from my peer scholars, I can get help from my teacher practitioner when I need it. And, sometimes the teacher practitioner will teach us as a class when they think we need it or when we all need to focus on the same topics.
These topics are called learning targets. We all have different learning targets which allows us to work at our own pace. We don’t have traditional grade levels. Instead, there are instructional levels. My levels have increased since coming here. I’m a Level 20 in reading and Level 21 in math. That means I’m able to work on high-school level topics while still getting my fifth-grade level work where I need it. All of this is listed on my personalized learning plan. All scholars have a plan to follow.
It took some time to get used to this style of learning, but now I can freely explore many opportunities I’d never had before and be more engaged in my learning. The Summit helped me to focus on my learning, not everyone else’s. I have the freedom to move away from people when they distract me, from a table to a bean bag. When we show we have mastered a learning target, we can move to the next target. I don’t have to wait for everyone to finish the assignment before I move on. I can move as fast or as slow as I need to.
If I were to go back two years, I wouldn’t have seen myself at this level. I would have thought that I was average.
Learner, McComb School District
In the future, I see myself as a caring veterinarian. I want to be able to help all of the animals in the world. What I am able to do at Summit is explore this dream every day as part of my learning. I have programs like “Epic” where I can read stories about animals, fiction and nonfiction, and I can display what I’ve learned. I once worked on a topic where I had to pick an animal that I had never heard of before. It was called an ocelot, a dwarf leopard. I didn’t know this animal even existed. I knew then that I had a lot more to learn. This made me want to be a veterinarian even more.
Now that I’m at the Summit, I feel free to express myself. I’ve had many opportunities to speak in front of my class about what I’ve learned, which has made me better at grammar, word pronunciation, and using new vocabulary. People at this school expect a lot out of me and that pushes me to do better than I probably would have if I had stayed at the other schools. Of course, I miss my friends from my other schools, but being at Summit has been an amazing experience for me.
If I were to go back two years, I wouldn’t have seen myself at this level. I would have thought that I was average. But, now I realize I’m not, and I expect to be great. I have decided that this was the best choice my family could have made. This school is going to allow me to learn more than I could have ever imagined.