m.s. 88

sorting the students

Class of 2016

New York

At an election voting site, a pep talk and a work day for teachers

Blended learning teachers at I.S. 88 on Election Day. From left, Jared Cohen, Margherita Gallina, Principal Ailene Altman Mitchell and Emily Gordon. As one of about 700 school buildings to double as a voting site today, M.S. 88 saw democracy in action on its first floor, where Brooklyn voters cycled through hallways and into a gymnasium to fill out their ballots. But it was business as usual up one flight of stairs, where teachers graded tests and papers, caught up on lesson planning and attended training sessions on reading techniques and new co-teaching models. On Election Day, schools are closed to students, but have remained open in recent years for teachers for professional development. It's up to principals to shape the day and each school in the city uses their student-free time a little differently — though the Department of Education offers some hints about what to focus on. At M.S. 88, a 1,200-student middle school in District 15, Principal Ailene Altman Mitchell said she started the day off with something of a motivational speech. "The teachers, I wanted them to calm down a little bit," said Altman Mitchell. Stress levels were high and teachers were anxious about the negative attention that's been focused on new teacher evaluations being rolled out citywide this year, Altman Mitchell said. So on a few pink Post-It notes, she jotted down a list of school's accomplishments to remind her staff of over 100 teachers and administrators about some of the year's highlights.