Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Golden Apple

I am very happy to announce that this year’s Golden Apple award winner for excellence in education is Diana Pace.  There are so many reasons that I can think of which make Diana a deserving recipient of this award, and I’ll try to name a few of them here.   What immediately comes to mind is her selfless dedication to so many of the neediest children that pass through our doors.  She is always thinking of ways that she can reach them better, giving up her personal time to meet with them or their parents, or advocating for them in IEP meetings.  The list of the ways she devotes her time to kids could go on or a long time.  Above and beyond that, however, are the relationships Diana builds with her students—she really loves each and every one of them, even though some days they make it harder than others.  Diana is also continually looking for ways in which she can get better as a teacher.   She is willing to try new things with instruction, technology and classroom management.  She’s been at Henley for quite some time, and her love of and dedication to the school is always evident.  Whenever we need volunteers to talk about issues that impact the school and to come up with ideas to solve a problem we are facing, we will usually find Diana volunteering for that group.  Staff members often look to her for guidance and support as well, and she is always willing to listen and make suggestions that can help them along the way.  I’m so glad that Diana’s hard work and dedication are being recognized this year.   Congratulations to an outstanding teacher.

Loved Lessons

Here's one from Eric Betthauser's Guitar class:

It was several weeks ago that I saw this lesson, but I wanted to make sure I got a chance to write about some of the work that Eric Betthauser’s guitar students did this year.  I stopped by his classroom and students were paired up both in the room and out in the hallway to write their own blues songs.  They were learning some blues riffs on their guitars and were working together to develop lyrics and music to perform for their peers.  The kids I saw working together were having a great time and learning an incredible amount.  They were critiquing their own and their partners work, revising and improving their lyrics when something didn’t seem quite right, and writing music that was incredibly meaningful and personal to them.  This was one of those great lessons in which the teacher in the classroom really is just a facilitator of learning.  Eric had given the kids all of the tools they would need to create this music, and then he let them go.  If they hit a wall or didn’t understand how to do something, he was there to help, but for the most part they were on their own creating, analyzing, revising and performing their original works.  They were highly engaged in a lesson and were learning a skill that will stay with them forever.  Great lesson, Eric!

Monday, March 9, 2015

They really work!

At Henley, we’ve invested a lot of time over the past several years in developing and implementing
programs that are designed to focus on improving our kids’ social and emotional well being.
We’ve put in place things like second step, morning meetings, common sense media
studies and we’re hoping to have some good strategies about building growth mindsets
going in the next year. These programs take a lot of time for our staff, and I appreciate all of the hard work that each of them has put into implementing them with our students.

A study recently published by a group of researchers at Columbia University’s Teachers
College shows us that these programs really do have a great value to our students and to
society as a whole. This study focused specifically on the return on investment schools
and society see from implementing strong social-emotional programs. It found that for
every dollar a school system invests in these programs, there is an average return of eleven
dollars worth of benefits. Now, I’m no economist, and things get a little fuzzy for me
when they are explained in terms of dollars, so I’ll steal a quote from an edweek article to
help explain what this means.

“[A] successful bullying intervention may reduce missed school days that can cause
students to struggle and need extra academic supports, and it may reduce the amount of
costly personnel time that staff spend addressing student complaints. And programs that
lead to improved academic results may lead to higher income for students later in life, the
report says.”

The report specifically cited two programs we use or have used in Henley--Second Step
and Responsive Classroom (the ideas of which we are building our morning meeting
program around). This was really affirming to me that we are on the right course with the
programs we are putting in place, and that they will have long-term benefits for our kids.
If you’re interested in reading the article, you can find it here.