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MTR Grad Implements College Readiness Program at Hamilton High School

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. AVID is not just a class, not just a program, but a lifestyle. As the AVID elective teacher, my days consist of ensuring that ninth graders are using their agendas, staying organized, and properly tracking their grades. As a group, we have a culture of chants, handshakes, and standard activities that require students to think critically and work cooperatively every day. Students all use the Cornell Notes format to take notes and lead tutorial sessions. The tutorial sessions are student-led and require pre-work before students even ask a question. Every student in the small groups is responsible for asking probing questions that will lead the student having trouble with a problem or concept to the answer, rather than just telling them how to fix it. Consistently, students who have average scores, but have shown rare internal grit, are stretched beyond their wildest imaginations. I love it.

It’s not all about academics. In fact, AVID is more about building a community, a family, of students, teachers, administrators and community leaders. My 22 AVID students will stay with me for the four years and they will take rigorous courses together. They will be one another’s study buddies (highly encouraged) and supporters through AP classes and extracurricular activities. One of the best aspects of AVID is the expectation that students hear from community leaders. To date, they have had discussions with a lawyer, a director of health, and two college recruiters. In class, they hone their presentation skills through Philosophical Chairs and Socratic Seminars- two activities that are at the cornerstone of each AVID class. In just thirteen weeks, the shy students welcome a healthy debate and push one another to cite textual evidence.

In recent years, AVID has moved to support schools in the creation of a school-wide environment. The thought of having the support that AVID provides to 22 students extended to all students has galvanized teachers all over the nation- including me- to spread the proven strategies of AVID to teachers throughout the school. The program has already made students better thinkers and teachers better collaborators. Each month the site team meets about individual students and strategize together. We set goals and monitor our own progress. If we can do it for 22 students, then why not for a whole school? Why not for a district? As I continue my third year, I look forward to continuing to learn new strategies that I can also use in my Senior classes to make students more organized and engaged.

AVID Rocks!

– Ayanna McFarland