Eleven-year-old Faith Carpenter became a sixth-grader at Goshen Middle School this fall.
“I was a little bit nervous the first week,” Faith said. “Once I started going, it got easier. It’s been busy and it’s really fun.”
Faith is one of the 497 students who are part of a new transition program at the school that focuses on making the jump from fifth to sixth grade easier
One of the changes created smaller classes by having teachers teach two classes for a longer class period. They have gone from having 128 students on a daily basis to 56 students with a bigger block of time for teaching, Sheets said.
The English teachers also teach social studies and the social studies teachers teach English. Math teachers teach science and science teachers teach math.
“There are less transitions for the students,” said Assistant Principal Jeromy Sheets. “They go from six different transitions down to three different transitions. The teachers are teamed together and they all have common preparation periods so there are more discussions about kids and lessons.”
The changes have created some challenges for the teachers, who are used to teaching just one subject, like math and science teacher Barb Hrynewycz.
“I’m a math teacher and I had to do a lot of studying and learning a lot of things I hadn’t done for a long time in order to teach science,” Hrynewycz said.
She spoke about the positive effects of the changes along with some of the other sixth-grade staff.
“There are not as many tardy issues. We walk them to (their next) class and it’s not a scary zone time for them,” Hrynewycz said. “There is less running in the halls and less opportunities for kids to be bullied. It’s not foolproof, but it’s easier for the kids.”
She said there’s only one really disadvantage with the longer block time and doing away with the five-minute passing period.
“I don’t get my ‘break,’” Hrynewycz said, smiling.
Computer teacher Tony Kridler has seen positive changes with the students.
“This helps kids feel more comfortable and relate to middle school,” Kridler said.
There are classes known as “specials” such as physical education, art and computer that students take as part of their curriculum requirements.
Kridler says he’s never had students in his computer classes with “pre-set relationships” because they haven’t had more than one or two classes together in a school day.
The students are getting to know each other better, he added.
“With the smaller classes and the same 25 students all day, they can build relationships with each other,” said English and social studies teacher Kelly Shoup-Hill. “They can have inside jokes and camaraderie (with each other.)”
Shoup-Hill and Hrynewycz had a 96 percent turnout rate with parents during the recent parent-teacher conferences.
“All were positive about the transition during the parent-teacher conferences,” Shoup-Hill said. “And the kids haven’t complained at all.”
Even head custodian Brian Hamundson, who deals with the whole building, has noticed a difference for the good in the sixth-graders.
“They are more respectful to follow the students and the adults. The students respect me more,” Hamundson said. “They are cleaner. The cafeteria is cleaner, They are more familiar with each other and know each other’s names. It’s an easier group and they have jelled together better. I see less physical fighting.”
But Sheets says he still sees some peer conflict with students.
“It’s not in here (in school) but rather on the outside of school,” he said.
GMS Principal Lori Shreiner praised the assistant principal and the teachers about the changes.
“To the credit of the teachers and Jeromy, things have gone pretty well and smoothly,” Shreiner said.