Ah, the fond memories of being a kid. A time before you knew what a GPA was; a time before you were involved in a few too many activities; a time when you had recess instead of study hall, and snack time instead of late lunches; a time where you were excited to go to school.
In Mrs. Amy Hohenecker’s fourth grade classroom, a picture of her students is placed on her desk, almost like they are part of her family. All of them are smiling brightly with the sun shining on their faces in front of Providence Academy. If you look around her room, you’ll notice that in the very front of her classroom there is a picture of each of her students with their names written underneath. Every student has their own desk that opens up, with all of their belongings stored inside. Her classroom feels safe, comfortable and reassuring, like a home in which everyone is supportive of one another.
“It’s very maintained to one room for the most part, other than their specialist classes, but I think at this age it’s okay because they need that consistency,” says Mrs. Hohenecker. “They need to know that if they have an issue they go to their teacher, so it’s a little bit easier to have just maybe one go-to for right now to rely on.”
This classroom style is much different than in the Upper School at Providence. Unlike Lower School, in Upper School a student has eight different teachers per semester which can be hard to balance. Besides the obvious such as age and the difficulty of various subjects, there are a few noteworthy differences between “big kids” and “little kids” when it comes to school. In Mrs. Hohenecker’s fourth grade class, the students are very obedient and eager to participate. They sit up straight and are fully engaged (even at 2:00 pm on a Wednesday!). Now turn to the Upper School. Although some students may be like the exemplary fourth graders, many will be slouching, some dozing off, and some fast asleep. But why is there such a stark contrast?
For Upper Schoolers, there are so many more things on their mind than just school. There are college visits, extra-curricular activities, jobs, leadership roles, sports, standardized tests, college applications, and the list goes on. With all of the things going on in their lives, students are much more stressed and frankly lack the energy to always be enthusiastic and enraptured in their classes. Older students are more distracted, where for younger students, the classroom is their world. They’re not thinking of all the tests they have to study for, but their biggest concern at the moment is how high they can raise their hand to make sure the teacher will call on them.
However, the younger students would not be this engaged without some help from their teacher. Mrs. Hohenecker will keep her students motivated through activity and hands-on learning. She also will have her students come up with some of the ideas of what to do, and likes to get input from them on what works and what doesn’t work. That way, the students get the most out of their education. Mrs. Hohenecker will also reward her students with candy every once in a while, keeping the students excited to participate and do their daily tasks.
“I just really feel that a good teacher gets to know their students,” concludes Mrs. Hohenecker. “Not just their abilities in school, but also what their interests are. It just kind of helps create that one-on-one relationship where the student feels more comfortable with the teacher, and I think if the student is more comfortable with the teacher, they’re going to do better in school, because then they don’t have all those outside worries blocking them from their schoolwork during the day. If a student sits in your class and is just nervous all day long, they’re not going to be able to focus on anything. So if they’re comfortable with you, they’re going to be able to ask questions, they’ll be listening, talking with their friends, and all of that, so I think that’s very important for a teacher no matter what age they teach to get to know their students. And I love what I do.
For the students in Mrs. Hohenecker’s class, Providence Academy is their second home full of encouragement and warmth.