By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
WAGONER — Students in Stephanie Rexwinkle’s classroom yell answers as they work through a puzzle on the blackboard.
This class period is a way to help Wagoner High School students work through the puzzles of school and life. The school devotes 25 minutes each Thursday afternoon to a student advocacy program, which links students with a teacher/mentor.
“It builds relationships,” Assistant Principal Jeremy Holmes said. “It’s not the teacher who’s going to test them. The students are able to talk to the teacher about a problem and not have to worry about a grade.”
Each teacher has students from each grade.
“It’s a complete melting pot,” said Rexwinkle, who teaches English. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t have the yearbook teacher with all yearbook kids or the band director with all band kids.”
WHS junior Monique Clayton said the period “helped us get to know each other.”
Cady Cooper, a senior, said: “It helps you step out of your box. Mrs. ‘Rex’ helps us with stuff we need help with — homework or if we have a situation going on.”
She said she looks forward to the period.
Brodee Hudson, a sophomore in Rexwinkle’s group, said, “It’s good for us to express who we are with the teacher and do it on a more personal level.
“I didn’t know hardly anyone here before this. Now I have more friends.”
One Thursday, Rexwinkle’s students tried to put numbers in an eight-square grid — without having numbers in sequence next to each other. After 10 minutes of suggested solutions, the students came up with an answer.
Students spent the second half of the session playing a Pictionary-type game while Rexwinkle talked with each student about grades. Time is allotted for teachers to give individual attention to students if it’s needed.
Rexwinkle said students have played games and done exercises to help them get to know each other.
“On the first day, everyone walked in and they didn’t know each other,” she said. “We started getting out of the classroom, sat on the lawn and played a game.”
In the game, students told two truths and one lie about themselves.
“That helped break the ice,” Rexwinkle said. “It was team building. We tried to make people feel comfortable with it.”
Holmes said students at first called the advocacy period their “support group” or “group counseling session.”
However, as the year progressed, the students felt more comfortable, he said. “It got to where students are looking forward to it.”
Sometimes, teachers order pizza and the groups have lunch together, Holmes said. He described the periods as times for team building and talking about issues such as cyber-bullying.
The advocacy groups also can help students get through rough times.
Rexwinkle said the school had “emergency advocacy meetings” after the suicide of a a Coweta student in February in a bathroom in Coweta Intermediate High School.
“It let the students grieve,” she said. “It let some students talk about their feelings. The event might have triggered some emotions. Some students talked about their emotions. Some wanted to be left alone. There were some students who had questions. It helped them express their concerns.”
Holmes said the district started the advocacy program after teachers and administrators attended a model school last summer.
“We talked about how we can change the culture at the school,” he said. “It’s a districtwide incentive.”
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.