By Indiana State University
Apr 22, 2020
When Indiana State University’s future middle school teachers in Matt Moulton’s class followed sidewalk chalk messages to the building that read, “You were meant to be here”, “We love you” and “There’s nothing you can do about it”, he knew he had done right by his students in establishing a partnership with Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute.
“My ISU students walk into this and witness these awesome practices,” said Moulton, assistant professor of education in the Bayh College of Education’s department of teaching and learning. “If I would have just told them about it in the classroom, they might have written it down but it wouldn’t have had the same impact.”
Moulton wanted to model the Sarah Scott Middle School project after the Professional Development School Partnership program at the University of Georgia, where he completed his PhD.
“The program allowed me to teach my classes on-site at a middle school and I wanted to do that again. I wanted to teach my college courses about middle school at a middle school, where they can hear about something from teachers and students, then go into the halls and witness it,” he said. “We’ve heard from some superintendents and principals across the state that graduates are lacking when it comes to understanding young adolescents and middle school kids. It’s my specialty so I wanted to focus really intensely on the four main components of an education for young adolescents: It needs to do developmentally responsive. It needs to be challenging. It needs to be empowering. It needs to be equitable.”
When Moulton’s students first got to Sarah Scott for their first class in Fall 2019, they received a tour of the school by eighth graders. They divided into four groups and looked for examples of how Sarah Scott is developmentally responsive and geared specifically for young adolescents.
“They were looking for all of these different opportunities listed on the wall or academic connections listed on bulletin boards, conversations they overhear and how is it empowering,” Moulton said. “I think Sarah Scott does a great job of empowering their students, so we were able to see a lot of examples of positives notes left on students’ lockers by other kids or administrators.”
State students spent a few weeks of first semester rotating between class in the second floor room at Sarah Scott Middle School and going to their field placements, they but were unable to finish the spring semester because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When Moulton met with Scotia Brown, principal at Sarah Scott Middle School, and Stacy Mason, director of secondary education for Vigo County, he explained his desire for this experience to be mutually beneficial.
“I wanted our students to be volunteers, help with the school improvement plan and be a part of the community,” he said.
When Moulton isn’t in the classroom his focus is often turned to another passion – issues related to poverty and access.
“When I lived in Houston and taught in middle school class, I would host a lot of drives for homeless shelters because I had an idea of what it was and not thought about my students that way,” he said. “I lived in downtown Houston but taught outside the city so I drove through three districts to get to my district and one day saw one of my students getting on a bus.”
Moulton said the students said his mom lost her job and they were evicted from their home, so they had to stay at a nearby shelter.
“It showed me I not been considering how my definition of homelessness impacts my classroom. I thought homelessness was everywhere but my classroom, but I obviously didn’t know anything about it until that experience,” he said. “If a student experiences homelessness that’s a lot of weight on their shoulders. I decided to do research and worked with a few kids in Georgia to try and re-humanize homeless, who it is and what their experiences are, to see how schools meet their needs so they can succeed.”
In April, Moulton had an article published on homelessness and practices schools can put in place.
“I share my research with (my students) because it feels beneficial to have those conversations. At least a group of future teacher graduates from a teacher prep program will have talked about the issue,” he said. “With my research, my goal is to educate teachers and future teachers on who qualifies for services. Hopefully, we can begin to be more proactive with issues of poverty and equity and get to a place where schools recognize the signs of a family experiencing homelessness and can support them before they lose housing and locate alternatives to help students who may lose housing do to financial hardships.”