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Binder Boot Camp gets SMS sixth-grade students organized

by: Barbara Sherman <b>NEW FRIENDS</b> - A bonus to the Sherwood Middle School Binder Boot Camp was eighth-graders and sixth-graders getting to know each other and becoming friends, as sixth-grader Julia Forsyth (left) and eighth-grader Kendall Swanson, who was Julia's mentor, demonstrate.

Safe, responsible and respectful are the focus of Sherwood Middle School's behavior program, and now a new word can be added - organized!

On Sept. 14, the school held a Binder Boot Camp for some sixth-graders to learn how to get their binders and notebooks organized to help them keep track of assignments and turn homework in on time.

Eighth-grade students were the mentors and worked mostly one-on-one with sixth-graders who had been referred by their teachers for the program, which utilized donated notebooks, folders and binders.

'It helped me a lot since we got the binders,' said sixth-grader Britnie. 'My stuff was usually messy, and I just tossed stuff in my binder. Now I know what stuff to take with me, and it saves trips to my locker.'

Caleb, another sixth-grader, also has utilized the system he learned.

'Since we did it, I've turned in almost all my assignments on time,' he said. 'Before, it was maybe half, and some were missing.'

In addition, the session gave Caleb a new respect and appreciation for eighth-graders.

He said before starting school that he was somewhat afraid 'something bad would happen' when he encountered eight-graders, but instead they turned out to be helpful.

The idea for the boot camp actually originated last year when a sixth-grade teacher asked leadership teachers if their students could come into sixth-grade advisory classes and help students with their Raider Organizers, according to Associate Principal Michael Fisher.

'This year, as staff watched the sixth-graders struggle through the first weeks of school, it reminded us of what that teacher said, which was, 'Many of the students' problems in not completing work are because they are not organized,'' Fisher said.

While teachers tried to help some of their students individually with organization, 'staff realized this problem was bigger than a couple of kids, and a few adults were not enough to get the job done,' Fisher said. 'As we so often do at SMS, we turned to student leaders who are in the trenches and know the importance of organization.'

Fisher said that the idea was proposed to some eighth-grade students, who agreed to help.

'We communicated with teachers, asking for a list of students who they felt needed some help organizing their binders to be more successful in school,' Fisher said. 'Teachers sent the names, and students were matched with mentors.'

The eighth- and sixth-graders were all excused from class to participate in the event, which 'far exceeded expectations thanks to the help of teachers, administrators, instructional assistants and mostly because our students are so awesome and caring,' Fisher said.

Eighth-graders Kendall and Adam said they liked getting to know the sixth-graders and helping get them off to a solid start for not only the school year but also middle school.

'Caleb was my mentee along with another student,' Adam said. 'I could tell when we started talking that they weren't open to telling me where they were having problems. But after a while, they showed me how disorganized their papers were. I had come up with a system that includes a 'rush' folder for things that have to do done right away.'

Caleb added, 'That's what I'm doing now.'

Fisher noted, 'Staff and students alike have noticed a marked improvement in organization for many of the students who participated.'

Britniel said, 'I wanted to be more organized during class. We only have four minutes between periods, so it's hard to go to your locker between classes.'

Fisher complimented Britnie on her binder, saying it was 'pristine and perfect.'

She admitted that it had been messy before, adding, 'It wasn't good that I couldn't find papers. I got tips at the boot camp, like taking time when you put papers into your binder to put them in the right place and not just shoving them in.

'I was taught how to use folders and label them. This taught me how to be better organized.'

Perhaps an unexpected bonus to come out of the Binder Boot Camp was the friendships formed between the eighth- and sixth-graders.

'It was kind of fun getting to know Caleb and my other mentee,' Adam said.

Fisher added, 'One of the sixth-graders, Britnie, said, 'It's nice to have an eighth-grade buddy.''

Britnie was paired up with eighth-grader McKenna who taught her to not just toss stuff in her binder.

'And I'm glad to have an eighth-grader looking out for me,' Britnie said.

Eighth-grader Brendon said he liked sharing his organization tricks with his mentee that include a homework section for every core class like science, social studies and language arts.

'And it's kind of cool helping sixth-graders and having them look up to you,' he said. 'We became friends and buddies and say hi in the hallways. This was not only a great way to teach organization but to make new friends too.'