By Toni W. Riley
When students walk in the doors at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School at the beginning of the school year, they can look forward to an exciting new focus that a team of seven teachers and three administrators learned from a Model School Conference.
Jane King, a 27-year kindergarten teacher, talked excitedly about the philosophy of the conference the team attended in June. King gives credit to MLK principal Cassandra Spearman, who built on the recent success of improved test scores and provided the team the opportunity to attend the conference.
The focus, building relationships in the classroom, was repeated over and over again throughout the conference. King pointed out that new research in education shows that innovative ideas aren’t enough, but the culture of the classroom — the relationships the teacher builds with the student — is the key to developing a culture of education.
She also noted that the conference pointed out there is not “one right way” to successfully educate. Schools have to learn what is right for their community.
King said that the adage, “Kids’ don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care” is an important strategy to help children develop a love of learning.
One of the terms that will be part of the MLK philosophy for the coming year will be “growth mindset.” Children grow in learning from were they started to where they end. Students will also be involved in writing “kid friendly” learning objectives, so the students know what they are learning. This will be accented by “student led learning” where students will take an active position in the learning process. Teachers facilitate but students will be sharing what they know about the subject matter to broaden the scope of interest.
King used the example of teaching the No. 8. She could stand at the board and review eight, but it would be much more interesting and meaningful to have the students talk about what they know about the number.
The team’s enthusiasm from the conference will be shared with the entire staff at the school. The team developed a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan for engagement. They have planned activities for entire staff to share the excitement and build enthusiasm for the coming year.
The first couple of weeks of school the teachers will spend time getting to know their students and to begin to build the culture of the classroom. They will play Get to Know you Games and the teachers will take the time to listen to what the student says. King notes that ability of the teachers to get to know the student is important to the student success.
Parent-teacher conferences are also critical to the culture of the classroom.
MLK teachers will be having conferences at the midpoint of the first nine weeks to help access the student’s progress with parents early on. Teachers are required to have conferences with all of their student’s parents.
King says that of all the things parents can do to help their child be successful in school, the most important thing parents can do is instill a positive attitude about learning and to help their child love to learn. King acknowledges this mindset can be difficult for parents who did not have a positive educational experience.
She hopes this new program at MLK will help the students love to learn and bring the parents along.
1. Contact the teacher via email to explain your concerns. Expect a response within 24 hours.
2. Know when teachers’ planning periods occur if it is critical to talk to the teacher in person or by phone. It is difficult for teachers to talk to parents during instructional time. Parents should be aware that even if they call, the teacher may be in a meeting during their planning period. Parents who want to talk to the teacher in person should make an appointment.
3. If the parent has an immediate concern, call the school as soon as possible. You may not be able to reach an administrator after hours, but first thing in the morning. Teachers and administrators want to come up with a solution as quickly as possible.
4. Understand that teachers and administrations want to work with parents to make sure each child has a positive learning experience.
While teachers across the system are working hard to educate their students, parent and students have a vital role in the success of the student’s education.
1. Attendance is key.
2. The student should come to school prepared for the day with a good night’s sleep.
3. Make sure your student has homework assignments completed. Mrs. King has a quick assignment called a 2-minute homework habit that parents are asked to help with and the parent know what the child is learning.
4. Children need to do what the teacher asks, and ask the teacher to explain difficult assignments.
5. Parents need to watch for introductory letters that come home in the first couple of weeks of school. These letters inform parents about their child’s teacher or teachers and what the classroom expectations are for the success of the child. These letters also let the parent know the best ways to contact the teacher.
6. Students and parents have a positive attitude about learning.