Meet the Rama Road Single Gender Teachers
Julia O'Connor (5th Grade Boys): Hi there! My name is Julia O'Connor, I am the youngest of eight children to the late Pavian O'Connor and Cavell O'Connor (living). I am the mother of two teenage boys: Jordan and Jalen Holmes. I graduated from the State University of New York (S.U.N.Y) at New Platz in the spring of 1995. I love educating children! I've taught various levels but fifth is my favorite. It's rewarding to watch students evolve in: maturity, social skills and grow academically as they embark on the next adventure in their education, middle school. I am looking forward to teaching a single gender class next school year. I believe that single gender classrooms offer comfort to be risk takers and promotes a sense of pride in who they are.
Brigette McLemore (4th Grade Boys): I have a memory book my mother started when I was in kindergarten. There's a part in the memory book that asks what do you want to be when you grow up? My answer in kindergarten and every grade was always "I want to be a teacher." There's nothing else I've ever wanted to be. Never. I used to play school during the summer with my 2 brothers and 5 sisters. I was the nerdy kid who always wanted to extra worksheets to take home. My desire to be a teacher is because of some of the wonderful people that were in my life. My grandmother was the one who watched me while my mother went to work. Grandma was the one to teach me and the neighborhood kids our ABCs and 123. She taught us how to share and be respectful. My Grandma Basjel showed me that school was not just a place for academics, but for molding good character in us. Grandma got me ready for school. I was blessed to have many good teachers growing up. I adored MOST of them. One or two showed me the type of teacher I did not want to be. Thankfully most showed me how much fun teaching is! I loved my third-grade teacher so much that I got in touch with her when I was in college. We wrote back and forth a few times. I loved Mrs. Marsh. She was one of those special teachers, she surprised me at my college graduation. Her teaching style was one of patience, gentle guiding, and love. I wanted to be just like her. Therefore, I studied and graduated with a degree in Elementary Education from S.U.N.Y Cortland. I graduated in December 1998. I was hired by CMS to work at Eastover Elementary, beginning January 1999. I was just 22 when I began my dream job. I taught there until my son, Daniel Cooper was born. After my daughter, Madi Grace I returned back to work for CMS. This time I was hired at Rama Road. Eastover was a very affluent school, Rama is a Title 1 school. I have been teaching at Rama for 5 years now. I was put on a great team with teachers who I now call friends. I enjoy going to work each day and seeing how best to serve our children. A few years ago, a fellow teacher began talking about single gender classrooms. Having a daughter and a son, I was convinced of how different they already were at a young age. I made the commitment to teach an all boy classroom, August 2010. I just finished my 5th year teaching an all boy class and am looking forward to continuing my adventure with single gender learning and my group of boys!
My teaching philosophy is that all children can learn; however I believe they learn differently. Children need a classroom that fosters their uniqueness and uses it to help them soar academically. After being in the classroom more than 15 years, I now believe boys and girls do learn differently, I believe boys in particular, need a class where they can be boys. I believe boys need a class where movement and teamwork are a priority. Yes I believe all children can succeed in the academic world, just differently.
When entering my single gender classroom, you will find boys laying on the carpet, perching in a chair, standing by a desk, or sitting at a desk. Yet all of them are paying attention and on task (and most even to have their shoes off). I try to make my classroom feel like home, a comfortable place. In my classroom our name tags say coach and then the boys' first name. I try and get the boys to work as a team, encourage and help each other out. We talk about how to be a good coach, what a good coach sounds like. I feel, if the class has a part in our classroom, they will be invested in what happens in our clasXsroom during the year. In my classroom, I try to find ways for men to volunteer and provide positive role models to my class. I provide opportunities for men to come in and read to my class. I have men that come into my class to tutor in math or come and eat lunch with them. I try and foster positive relationships and celebrate what makes a boy unique. We discuss ways to incorporate movement. I have purchased wiggle cushions for each students' chair to bounce on. I do not believe that you need to be seated in a desk quietly to learn. I try to build a classroom where boys have a voice, are able to move, and lift each other up. I have a classroom where boys DO LEARN.
Patti Frederick (4th Grade Girls): I have been teaching a 4th grade single gender class for the last five years. It started out as a yearlong trial as I was researching the effects of single gender classrooms for my Master’s Thesis. The data showed significant gains in both math and literacy (particularly in math where girls have typically struggled), gains that we have continued to see each year since.
While I agree that single gender classrooms are not for every child, I believe that separating the boys and girls during academic instruction has many benefits. When you walk into my classroom, you notice right off the bat the pink and the twinkly lights and you may assume that this is a lot of “girly” fluff; however, there is power in pink! Pink doesn’t just mean that my classroom is for “girly girls,” but rather it indicates that everything we do within those four walls is geared towards empowering the learning and confidence of my young female students. My focus is to teach the common core standards that meet the unique needs of girls’ learning styles. My library is full of novels that center on powerful females. We discuss what it means to be leaders in our community, our classroom, and our world. Girls are given a safe, comfortable environment, free from the (often-unintentional) intimidation/distraction of the boys where they can gain confidence and self-esteem. They become greater risk takers especially in math where the boys tend to dominate and the girls sit back, afraid to make mistakes. Parents need to look at their individual child and decide if this may be an option for them. While it may not benefit their child, it may make the world of difference to another.