Monday, December 18 , 2017, 9:43 am | Fair 54º


Before Looking to Their Future, Mountain View School Sixth-Graders Reflect on Their Past

Exit interviews with local community members provide a different kind of academic perspective

In a culmination of their elementary school experiences, Mountain View School sixth-graders gathered Tuesday morning for the campus’ annual “exit interviews” with different members of the local community.

The 60 children were placed in small groups of two or three students to an interviewer and were asked various questions about what they have learned throughout the year and how they have grown as students and as young people.

The activity gave the students a chance to reflect on their time at Mountain View and to show off their portfolios from their last year at the Goleta Union School District campus. The students worked hard to prepare for this event and were eager to share their knowledge with the interviewers.

At 9:15 a.m. sharp, the students filed into the multipurpose room with its carefully arranged chairs and dressed-up adults. Though at first seemingly a little nervous at the sight of this somewhat intimidating scene, the students were soon at ease as the talking began. Smiling faces filled the room as the students enthusiastically spoke about what they’d learned throughout the year.

“In the beginning I was really nervous,” allowed sixth-grader Tave Grabenheinrich, who, with classmates Caleb Jones and Erin Mahan, was interviewed by Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen. “Then once we started talking, it was a lot easier and way more fun than I thought it would be.”

Added Erin: “It’s just talking about me, which isn’t that hard to do!”

While the activity gave students an opportunity to practice their interviewing skills in a safe atmosphere, it also allowed them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, their challenges and improvements, and their goals for junior high school in the fall.

“What’s most important about this activity is that the students get to reflect on their own growth,” said sixth-grade teacher Pia Tsuruda. “What’s most significant for me as a teacher is that they become advocates for their own learning. Nobody can force them to learn. If they can express to an outside person who they are and what is important to them, to me that’s a great thing.”

Throughout the hour-long session, phrases like “I’ve grown the most this year,” “I learned what I like and don’t like” and “Sometimes I don’t pay attention, but now I’m better at focusing” were abundant.

It was clear the students had put thought into their likes and dislikes, their talents and limitations.

That caught the attention of interviewer Susan Salcido, assistant superintendent in the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

“I was very impressed with how articulate and reflective the students were about their year’s work and their personal strengths and weaknesses,” she said.

The students’ energy was obvious. Many literally sat on the edge of their seats while they described challenges they had overcome and successes they had had.

The room was littered with colorful hieroglyphs created in class after learning about Ancient Egypt, sparkling masks made out of papier-mâché from art class, trophies from soccer tournament wins, and even a full-sized guitar. Students spoke of plate tectonics and algebra, the hydrosphere and poetry.

“We talked about math, we talked about art,” said interviewer Marianne D’Emidio-Caston, director of student teaching at Antioch University Santa Barbara.

“One of my interviewees showed me a picture of her dancing, which she had been doing since she was 3. She told me dance is what keeps her focused and that it is part of how she sees herself as a person. We talked about all different types of learning and I think that’s really powerful.”

One sixth-grade boy was dressed in a suit and tie paired with Vans shoes ready for recess. He held a portfolio of essays, art, poetry, science projects and math tests on his lap as he described his interest in sports to his interviewer.

This kind of balance could be seen and heard throughout the hour.

“The best part of this activity is that it allows the kids to share their struggles and successes over the year,” said Ned Schoenwetter, who is in his second year as principal of the school at 5465 Queen Ann Lane. “It allows them to shine and to reflect on themselves.”

Struggle and success, reflection and goals — these were all things the students had a very solid grasp on.

Retired Mountain View Principal Bob Wood, who initiated the exit-interview program at the school, further emphasized how important this understanding of self is: “The students had this self-awareness and honesty — acceptance of the areas that are not strengths while understanding what areas are their strengths, and that’s a very powerful thing to be able to do.”

Not only did the students understand their weaknesses, but they also had a strong desire to improve on them.

“It’s about that self-awareness where the students recognize, ‘Hey, this is a struggle for me but this is how I can get better,’” said sixth-grade teacher Amanda Graybill. “The learning process doesn’t end with the test. And when they come back from these interviews they feel really successful.

“It’s really an empowering experience for them. They realize they’re growing up and they feel excited. They all breathe that sigh of relief afterward and say, ‘Oh, I was really nervous but I did it!’”

When the hour came to an end, the students shook their interviewers’ hands and thanked them for their time. Their faces were bright and excited for the next step — even if that step at the moment was just going outside for recess. So, with their seven years’ worth of knowledge under their arms, they flooded out into the sun.

Noozhawk intern Erin Stone can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >