An Enrichment Specialist
Schools or districts that are serious about enrichment might want to include a position for an enrichment specialist. You may want to tap into the experience of school- or district-level enrichment specialists. In a larger setting, such as a district of five to five hundred schools, it's absolutely essential to have support for enrichment at the broadest level. This means you'll have someone who can help in gathering information, finding funding, sharing information, coaching, and supporting programs. This person can inform parents, work with teachers, and develop appropriate curriculum. Typically, the enrichment specialist assists the building principal and the building enrichment team in the development, coordination, and implementation of the enrichment plan. For example, in the Webster Central School District of nine thousand students, just eight miles outside Rochester, New York, the enrichment specialist works to ensure quality learning for all students. Exhibit 8.1 shows what the job description looks like for that position.
It's clear that no one is powerless in supporting the enrichment of all learners. You can make a difference even if your whole school is not on board, though having administrative backing is, of course, the ideal. Many teachers have told me they are concerned about the high-stakes testing and they don't want to change anything they're doing in their classroom too drastically. I understand that. Yet another way to think of this is to say to yourself, "If I'm not providing contrast, my students aren't getting enriched." Or, stated in the positive, "If I want my student learning to last, it's up to me to do the contrast." I know that's a bit silly, but it helps me remember it, too.
Enrichment is the lifeblood of every student; they all crave novel, meaningful, challenging learning whether they realize it or not. It's up to us to either provide that or settle for the consequences. I hope the examples in this chapter have continued to deepen your understanding of what enrichment is and is not. It's the aggregate of many key factors, and more of them are better.
Exhibit 8.1. Sample Enrichment Specialist's Job Description
Description: The Enrichment Specialist is a full-time position in each elementary and middle school building. The Enrichment Specialist, in accordance with the Schoolwide Enrichment Plan, adds expertise and coaching to the faculty, assisting the school to meet the stated goals to differentiate curriculum, instruction, and/or assessments to meet student needs; to deepen thinking processes about curriculum; and to offer and/or facilitate the offering of interest-based activities.
Accountability: The Enrichment Specialist in each of the elementary and middle school buildings is directly accountable to the building principal.
Specific Roles: Educational Program
Coplans lessons and units incorporating specific differentiation strategies and complex reasoning skills with teachers in order to meet the needs of learners.
Coteaches differentiated lessons and units modeling best practices with individual teachers within the classroom setting.
Provides teachers with resources that will support the curricular areas and the complex reasoning processes to promote differentiated educational experiences.
Assists the principal in integrating the Schoolwide Enrichment Model within the overall school program.
Remains current in educational research through professional literature and workshops. Disseminates pertinent information to faculty.
Assists in the collection of student data for instructional planning as needed to provide for students' individual needs.
Provides ongoing staff development on current educational issues. Helps teachers integrate NYS Curricula with best practices.
Attends scheduled enrichment specialists' meetings, working cooperatively with other enrichment specialists to share ideas.
Conducts site-based needs assessment to help in developing a Schoolwide Enrichment Plan. Evaluates the effectiveness of the Schoolwide Enrichment Plan with the help of the building principal and the Schoolwide Enrichment Team.
Maintains parent communication related to the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.
Accepts other responsibilities related to the Schoolwide Enrichment Model depending on the needs of their particular building.
Many teachers like to share their "enriched classroom" with others. They proudly show off all the music, the affirmations, mobiles, posters, colors, and pictures on the walls as symbols of enrichment. It would sure be simple if having music, posters, and mobiles were all it took to create an enrichment environment. We now know better.
Does this mean that you should encourage bare-walled classrooms? Absolutely not! Although busy, decorative classrooms probably have debatable enrichment value, they do serve other very valuable purposes.
They can be a source of inspiration, affirmation, and content. They can help learners feel safe and comfortable, and even help them keep up with the learning. In fact, a rich classroom environment full of posters, mobiles, maps, pictures, and graphic organizers will be taken in and absorbed at some level by most students as they appreciate the complexity and messages that include "Your teacher cares." But you've seen that enrichment itself involves much more than a pretty classroom.
Creating enrichment responses requires a classroom or a school that provides a consistently high percentage of the list of contrast factors for enrichment over time. More factors, over a longer period of time, for more of the waking hours of the day, are better. That takes a great deal of intent and purpose on the part of any institution. But for those that make the commitment, the rewards are great.
Some policymakers believe that higher standards for math and reading test scores will ensure that all learners do better in school. That may or may not be true. But there is no evidence that higher standards actually produce better human beings—unless accompanied by better-quality teaching, more targeted resources, greater opportunities for underserved populations, stronger role models, high expectations, and a dozen other key variables.
However, there is good evidence, as we've seen in this book, that the enrichment response is good across the board, in all areas of a student's life. Good enrichment policies can be so successful that they become an attraction or selling point for an institution. There's no doubt about it; getting the enrichment response is one of the smartest things any educator can do at his or her school. Anything less, in fact, fails to maximize the students' brains and risks fostering the neural wasteland so common among today's youth.
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