As I started my trip down the main hallway at B.E.S.T. Academy, the district’s all male middle and high school, I immediately noticed a group of students looking intensely at a screen in the computer lab. Turns out the young men were members of the school’s football team. I spent some time with the football players – they were reviewing their tape from this weekend’s game. We talked about who they thought was the best team (high school and college) and I asked them what they thought about Michigan, which really got the conversation going.
Then of course I asked them about their grades and their experiences in the classroom. I wanted specifics! One of the students walked me through one of his online assessments, giving me a glimpse into his daily academic life. We all debated over the answers to the questions and there was laughter and a few moments of reflection. I reminded the boys that academics and athletics are both important in their lives, but that everyone isn’t going to be number one on the field. You’ve gotta work it both ways. What I loved most about this group is that they didn’t know who I was, they had never met me, I was a random lady in a suit who walked into their lab and started asking questions, yet they showed me respect and engaged me the entire time I was with them. This respect for authority and desire to learn seems to be the mark of a B.E.S.T. Academy young man, and I experienced throughout my entire visit.
We moved on and spent time in Ms. Cushmir’s science class where students were discussing the agents and causes of erosion. My two tour guides for the day were Muhammad Bah and Rashaun Clark, both 8th graders at the middle school. I had already heard great things about them from David Jernigan, who visited the school during the first week of classes back in August.
Mr. Blackmon’s ELA class was digging deep into the award winning novel, The Watson’s Go To Birmingham. (Side bar: I know how to read this book aloud to students quite dramatically in case a school needs a reader…) He took a moment to place the recent results of the student’s assessments on the board and the students were able to track their progress against other classes in the building. The results showed a big improvement, they were ranked number 2 out of all of Mr. Blackmon’s classes, which meant…dancing! Students in his class earn 10 seconds of uninterrupted celebratory dancing when they reach milestones. I was super lucky because I was in class when one of dancing milestone moments happened so I danced too. Have you ever seen my robot? I was getting jiggy with it!!! It’s pretty good!
It was a great visit and I look forward to returning. Thank you Muhammad, Rashaun, Principal Jones and Principal Womack for a great tour and enduring experience.