If energy can be electric and calming at the same time, that’s the feeling in Mr. Demetrius Fuller’s art classroom at the Sokolowski School in Chelsea MA.
I walk in and observe twenty-two fourth graders intensely concentrating as they work on their drawings. “Hello,” a few glance up to give me a warm greeting, and then immediately return to their projects. They are making Letter Plates and the challenge is to use “detalles, detalles, detalles, details.” Mr. D., as he is affectionately known by his students, moves easily between Spanish and English. “¿Cuál es tu parte favorita?” He asks them. “Hold up your drawing! You are the Inspector Reflector. ¿Qué quieres cambiar?” Demetrius holds out a piece of work and all the students do the same, examining their art as if through a magnifying glass.
Inspector Reflector is one of the eight HOMies (Habits of Mind) that now are embedded in the entire school. Students know that an Inspector Reflector takes time to look back at their own work or the work of peers in order to make it even stronger. Students do this in art class as well as in math class or ELA. Principal Nate Meyers tells me, “I love leading work with Mr. D. The HOMies are making a huge difference here.” In fact the HOMies greet everyone on the bulletin board at the main entrance. The entire faculty has committed to introducing and using the HOMies in every classroom. Ten faculty members have received intensive training for a full year and have signed up to be HOMie ambassadors to help teachers find ways to deepen the use of the characters for all assignments and routines. Throughout the school, teachers are finding innovative ways to bring the HOMies alive in their classrooms.
We chat with students en route to lunch, and a few stop to show us the HOMie badges they are wearing. Mahdi is excited. “I think I am going to win a HOMie card, Mr. D. I have three badges for Steller Story Teller and that will get me a card, right? I used the Stellar Story Teller to explain my social studies work in order. And everyone understood when I shared about the Wampanoags. ” Mr. D tells Mahdi to come find him later for his first card. Mahadi’s grin can’t get any wider. Mr. D. shows me how students win the cards, much like baseball cards. It’s infectious. I want to begin collecting too!
Here at the Sokolowski school in Chelsea, a brilliant art teacher has figured out a way to extend the HOMies through illustrations, rhymes, routines and “Microchallenges”into the very bones of teacher professional development and an entire school culture. Even the front office reminds students to be brave, like the HOMies’ Brave one. Students talk about taking risks and trying new things, even if you first mess up.
Demetrius Fuller, art teacher extraordinaire, and alumni of PSi6, has made it his mission to share his work. I am thrilled that our book “Building Democratic Schools: A Global Perspective” will feature a chapter by him, as well.
Here is the new website for the HOMies for all to use