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Box Elder School District will start off the year with three new initiatives that have been crafted together into the acronym SEE. The S stands for Strengthen Professional Learning Communities. The first E stands for Expand Student Connections and the second E stands for Elevate Employee Appreciation.
None of the three initiatives are new, in fact these are things that we talk about and try to improve on all the time. In last month’s Superintendent Corner I reported on what a Professional Learning Community is and how we are trying our best to improve our use of the Professional Learning Community concept to help improve the effectiveness of our teachers to help students learn. As I stated last month a Professional Learning Community is a process, it is never a destination. We are constantly learning how working together, sharing teaching techniques, talking about student data, and improving on our interventions helps improve student learning.
The first E in our acronym SEE is all about connectedness. There is a very old saying in education that I believe holds truer in today’s world that at any other time. “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Think back to your school days and list your favorite teachers. I will bet that the things you think about when making that list have a lot to do with how that teacher made you feel. How they let you know that they truly cared about you both personally and educationally. The teacher or teachers you listed were genuine and sincere and truly were a person that you knew had your best interests at heart. In today’s world where there are more broken homes, more distance between close family relations, more emotional and mental issues with kids and adults we, as educators, know we may well be a young person’s best resource to feel connected to school and to this world in general.
In a national survey in high schools across America in urban, suburban, and rural high schools the results showed that as many as 40-60% of high school students did not feel connected to their school. As many as half the kids did not have a connection. In numerous studies for many years now the results have shown that students involved in extracurricular activities have better GPAs and score better on national tests than do their counterparts who do not engage in extracurricular activities. Being in the band or on the debate team, being in sports or participating in FFA or any of the many things that are available will help a student be more connected to their school and in turn help them in their desire to learn and succeed. It is our job to help kids feel connected. Not all circumstances allow students to participate in extracurricular activities so it is our job as school employees to help those kids feel connected also. It can start on the school bus with a great bus driver who makes connections with kids. A caring custodian, or food service worker that knows the importance of making connections can have an impact on a young person and help them have a smile on their face and know someone cares. We are making a strong commitment to focus on this initiative this year and for years to come. In our current world, there is a certain aspect of being somewhat mean and outspoken. Students at school need to feel concern, connection, and yes even love to succeed and be successful.
The second E of our SEE initiative is to Expand Employee Appreciation. I think it obvious that our employees feeling good about themselves is key in sharing that feeling with the children they work with. It would be downright foolish of us in leadership, in this district, to treat our employees poorly while asking them to treat the children with love and respect. Once again back to my original question of who did you list on your favorites teacher list? Certainly that teacher was happy and positive and excited about being to school each day. It is our job to see to it that teachers have a positive workplace that they can feel safe and thrive in their efforts to help kids be successful. In my past school district, Carbon School District in Price, Utah the Board President Wayne Wood Woodward would say all the time, “You’ve got to feed the teachers, or they will eat the kids”. Now certainly he did not mean that in a literal sense but he knew in order to keep the students happy and thriving we needed a happy, productive and thriving workplace. The Box Elder School District Board of Education has also taken this approach. Currently for a learning project, the Board Members read a chapter each month from the book APPRECIATE (Celebrating People Inspiring Greatness). Then in board meeting they take a few minutes to share the ideas that really stuck out with them. In the past year in our monthly principal meetings we studied and practiced techniques from the book the Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. This year in our principal meetings we are focusing on the book CULTERIZE (Every Student Every Day Whatever It Takes) by Jimmy Casa. We are doing our very best, as leaders, to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
I want to share that sincerely we want all children to be successful, happy, contributing members of our society and we take that responsibility very seriously. Thank you for your support and help us SEE Box Elder School District into a fantastic 2018-2019 school year.