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Weekly News - October 19, 2010
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First Person VTS

Tracy McClure, Old Adobe Elementary

Before VTS, Tracy McClure, a 22-year veteran sixth grade teacher at Old Adobe in Sonoma, CA, found herself stifled in the classroom because of testing mandates and, as she says, "the pressure not to be a low-performing school."
"It took the joy out of the classroom. But VTS allowed me to keep my passion for teaching," McClure says. "It's a reaffirmation of what kids can do."
Old Adobe ElementaryMcClure says the easy method of monthly 45-minute lessons were an ideal starting point for VTS, and was relieved to be able to add the teaching strategy without having to omit other material from her syllabus. But now, VTS discussions occur in the classroom spontaneously, and students use the learning strategy in language arts, social studies, and other subjects.
The VTS teaching program helps develop self-confidence in her students and respectful debate in the classroom, McClure says. It changed the dynamic in the classroom in a way that allowed everyone to flourish.
"The rules were completely different. It was very freeing to have no right answer," she says. As a result, "students who didn't usually take risks did, and had incredibly insightful things to say. There was and increased will to listen to all members, not just the 'popular' or 'cool' kids. Art felt very safe."
VTS was such a success at Old Abobe that the school recommended it to the entire district. "Two more schools in the district are now involved, and hopefully next year the VTS school program will be in 4 out of 5 schools in the district."
Williamson and McClure have both observed radical change in their school and with their students, and feel like the transferable skills and flexible thinking skills they are learning using VTS will stay with them as they become adults.
"They use VTS on their own now, and I know they'll never forget what they are learning," McClure says. "But, most importantly, they are beginning to think now in a way that could stay with them their whole lives."