After surveying the bright new lobby and smiling faces behind the front desk, my initial positive impression of the new Helena Middle School was echoed as I visited the sixth–grade Social Studies classroom of Richard Wright.
School secretary, Beverly Hall, and Gina Horton, registrar, were efficiently fielding calls and check-ins. They have two student helpers each period who serve as runners with attendance information and forgotten lunchboxes.
Eighth-graders Paeton Crawford and Jake Mizerany were on duty during my visit and are “a huge help with errands,” according to Hall.
I asked the students, “What is the best thing about this new school?”
Both Jake and Paeton agreed that the new bus schedule and 20-minute bus ride is their number one choice.
Jake now arrives at school at 7 a.m. with time to talk to friends in the gym or go to the library rather than riding one and a half hours on a bus. Both students also appreciate the absence of trailer classrooms.
Sixth–graders in Mr. Wright’s classroom were almost unanimous in their praise of the new lockers and spacious new gym. They also like the variety offered by changing classes throughout the day.
The fact HMS has a second floor also scores big points, as one student commented, “If a tornado tries to hit our new, tall school, it’s the tornado that will be scared!”
Mr. Wright’s students worked together to come up with classroom rules, which were then written into contract form and signed by parents and students. Rule No. 2 — I will come to class prepared and stay on task without disturbing or distracting others and Rule No. 3 — I will show consideration for the differences and opinions of my classmates, both caught my eye.
Rule No. 3 would certainly seem to have lifelong application.
The class has also implemented a complete set of hand signals to signify their immediate needs.
Without verbal interruption, they can sharpen their pencil, get a tissue or head to the bathroom with permission.
Praising the class for their exemplary behavior this first school week, Wright says they have earned a special reward two days in a row –– Starburst candies all around.
As I turned to leave, a very thoughtful young man in the second row spoke up, “I think our visitor deserves a Starburst, too!”