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  What’s Going on in My Child’s School? A Parent’s Guide to Good Schools
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Students Learn From Each Other

In the past, asking the student sitting next to you for help usually earned you a detention slip or a trip to the principal’s office. Now, teachers encourage students to learn from
one another.


Richard Bonnem has taught at Cochiti Elementary and Middle School in New Mexico for the last 10 years. Bonnem encourages his students to work together, and the results have been good.
“One of my top students helps my special needs student with her assignments,” says Bonnem. “I just talked to the student and told her how much I appreciated it. This is a fifth grader. It’s almost like a family. It’s not just the teacher giving the information. You can learn from a lot of different people.”

To encourage teamwork, Bonnem has changed the way his classroom is set up. Desks are grouped together, making it easier for students to work side by side. His class and others like it are noisier than more “traditional” learning environments, but there are good noises and bad noises. “I want the good noises,” says Bonnem. “I want my students focused on their
projects and working as a group. I want them to be on task and problem solving. What you don’t want to hear are kids talking about their boyfriends and girlfriends—those are the bad noises. I don’t want silence either. I don’t want them sitting there just by themselves.”

“I have learned to have fun with the kids. My big thing is to gain their trust so they are able to take risks and not be afraid of making a mistake. Now more than ever hands shoot up to answer a question … it’s like having 24 teachers in the room.” — Teacher Richard Bonnem

There’s another reason that schools like Cochiti Elementary and Middle School are placing heavy emphasis on student collaboration and projects that focus on more than one subject at a time.
“If we can teach kids how to work together, brainstorm problems together—we are preparing them for life,” says Cochiti Principal June Reed. “This is what the workplace needs. People don’t work in isolation anymore. Successful companies have teams now. Everybody has to work together. If we can start teaching children those skills now, we have done our job.”

Cochiti Elementary and Middle School is making progress. In 1998, the school received a distinguished school award from the U.S. Department of Education. Reed acknowledges that the school still has a ways to go to improve math and reading scores. Under her leadership, the school will continue to revise and update its school improvement plan to ensure that everything teachers do in the classroom relates to increasing student achievement.

This new approach to learning requires more of teachers, and that means teachers need to brush up on their skills.

  What’s Going on in My Child’s School? A Parent’s Guide to Good Schools
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