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Irving Middle School

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Irving Middle School


Irving Middle School is a public school in the Norman Public Schools district led by principal Jonathan Atchley. We partnered with Irving in fall 2017. Since then, Atchley and his core team have begun several activities aimed at fostering awareness and development of virtue.

Cultural Competency Training

In August 2017, Lee Roland and Clarence Hill provided cultural competency training to 47 Irving faculty. We had worked with Roland and Hill on prior projects, and connected them with Atchley. Information from the training was spread to additional staff through back-to-school professional development meetings. The workshop provided teachers with meaningful ideas on how to better understand and work with students who come from diverse backgrounds.

Understanding diversity was important initially due to suspension rates. It was found that students who were non-Caucasian were far more likely to be suspended. As a result of the training, the school began working with these families to better understand their backgrounds and needs. For example, students were brought in monthly for an advisory meeting, where students with diverse backgrounds were given the opportunity to meet with the principal.

Another reason for the training was to improve faculty retention. Faculty retention is an important element in the flourishing of students, as it enables students to build deeper relationships with the adults they spend time with each day. Strong efforts were made on this front and Irving Middle School saw the lowest turnover of all secondary schools in Norman Public Schools in the spring of 2018.

Kind Cougars

Atchley formed a core team of teachers and staff tasked with integrating virtue into the classroom and the school in general. Labeled “Kind Cougars” (the school’s mascot is a cougar), the team has undertaken several key activities. Using the Institute’s nine virtues, the group adopted a “virtue of the month,” and created school posters to celebrate the selected virtue each month. Irving teachers and students also published several videos on YouTube in which they explain their “virtue of the month.” Links to the videos are included below.

Training in teaching intellectual virtues

In Feb. 2018 we sent a small team of Irving faculty to the Intellectual Virtues Academy, a charter middle school serving students in the Long Beach, California Unified School District. They focus on nine intellectual virtues and integrate them across their curriculum. The Irving team visited at length with academy personnel, observed classes, and discussed with each other how to put their new insights into practice at Irving.

“Crossing the Bridge” Conference

In April 2018 we sponsored five Irving students to attend a conference in Oklahoma City called “Crossing the Bridge,” which focused on social justice and the social challenges linked with racial inequality in Oklahoma City. While at the conference, the Irving students were responsible for explaining to attendees what they had learned through the virtues initiatives at their school.

Professional Development

In June and July 2018, we sent nine Irving faculty to a 5-day summer institute titled, “The Power of Mindsets,” hosted in Boston by Learning and the Brain. Led by Dr. Robert Brooks, the workshop centered on the notion of student mindsets, i.e., students’ beliefs about whether their personal qualities, including their intelligence and virtue, can grow with effort and practice. The event helped individuals and school teams develop the knowledge, skills, and strategies necessary to change mindsets in schools to improve academic performance, focusing especially on how to reach students and nurture motivation, self-discipline, hope, and resilience. Teams then completed a post-event conference call with Dr. Brooks to reinforce what was learned and catalyze future plans.

Assessment

To assist Atchley and his team in assessing the school culture, we have designed and administered surveys to Irving teachers, staff and administrators. As each survey is completed, we analyze the data, report it to Atchley, and discuss recommendations for further improvement.