Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the Hilliard City School district near Columbus, OH. I made the journey with a small group from my own district. I chose to focus on the elementary options of the visit since that is the grade level I work at. (Others in my group got to see the amazing things at the middle and high school level.)
I'd like to share some of the things the 2 elementaries are doing. I visited JW Reason Elementary and Brown Elementary. Kudos to BOTH principals! Both were very energetic and passionate about their jobs and roles in moving their staff and students forward. Kudos to all the staff at both for the awesome things I saw going on! You should all be proud!
So many of these are things are low-tech, and high impact.
🔻FOLDER OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM ↬ easy access to a folder containing students who shouldn't be photographed. I could see this working in any school. Going a step further, teachers could include other specific info (just be careful with HIPPA). I could see it being the "go-to" for fire or safety drills and hanging in a spot in the classroom near the door.
🔻GOALS OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM ↬ each student's photo was hanging outside the classroom with a speech bubble that can be written on with dry erase over and over. Even the teacher was included! What a great visual on what each person is working towards. Some were school related, but not necessarily.
🔻DISTRICT UNITED PLAN, YET BUILDING UNIQUE ↬ everywhere I went, it was clear Hilliard had bought into a program called the R-factor. I heard a lot about it. And the message clear and united. But each of the principals made it clear they were allowed their own twist to it. The underlying message is the same ... but the implementation was specific and unique to the building. It was also great to hear from the 2 tech guys who split their time between 2 buildings - this is my role as well! They both shared they could use the same vocab in each building.
🔻POSTCARDS ↬ JW Reason shared that at the beginning of each staff meeting, each staff member picks up a JW Reason postcard (with the theme of their buildings 60th birthday) and write a personal note to a student. Sticky address labels will help ensure all students receive one. Super 💗 this one!!! She said they send out about 40 postcards after each meeting. Wow!
🔻SUB BAGS ↬ Brown Elementary shared this idea and, with the shortage of subs, I thought this was perfect! Their kindness club decorates brown paper bags and then they add in a few "supplies" a sub might night: a bottle of water, a handwritten thank you note from a student, etc. I'd want to add in our sub lanyards, a small treat bag, and a notecard with pertinent info - like phone #'s of who to call.
🔻STAFF ONE WORD WALL ↬ Brown Elementary took us into their staff lounge and shared their "one word" wall. Each staff member picked out a word to be the theme for this year. Done in the school colors, they were hung in a quilt-like fashion. Such unity & again, public admission of a goal.
🔻FRIDAY MORNING 'CLASS' ↬ JW Reason had a pretty awesome way to have what I'd have assumed to be after-school clubs during the day. A small amount of time was set aside each Friday morning for non-traditional activities. There is a "tasting" period where students can check out various options, and then I believe they will stick to an activity for 4 weeks. This continues for the remainder of the year. I saw classes like "Diving into Game Boards" & "Yoga Pretzels". How awesome of an experience for the whole school!
🔻SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL INSTRUCTION ↬ both elementaries have invested a lot of time and energy into this aspect of their school culture and climate. I could tell it's very important and a focus for the buildings. In our world today, I agree this is an important piece to our education. It was great to see schools who were a few years into their SEL work. It won't be a cure, but it will certainly help. Several staff members shared about experiences with students using the vocabulary built AT school OUTSIDE of school (at the local pool, in Boy Scouts, their own children who attend Hilliard).
🔻BADGE TRACKING ↬ I love the idea of gamifying in the classroom - it can add a layer of fun that pushes teachers & students in a way a worksheet never will. Outside of classrooms at JW Reason was a small poster with a blank spot awaiting a badge for completing/mastering that months focus lessons. What a great way to publicly announce that this classroom IS improving?
🔻CHECK-IN STICKS (for lunch & more) ↬ This is super cool! My background is teaching middle school, but at the elementary level, it seems taking attendance and getting a lunch count go hand-in-hand. Brown Elementary kicked it up a notch & added colors. For example, if a student is having a rough morning, when they check in, they might choose their red stick & indicated their lunch choice. The teacher knows right away something is going on & can address it quickly. On the other hand, if a student indicates their lunch choice with a green stick, they are feeling a-okay!
I truly wish that I could have seen more of the schools in Hilliard, but this one day gave me numerous ideas I can take and share with my district and as well as you, too! Some will require more work than others, but many are just so amazing how can you NOT??
Which one(s) can you ... no, which one(s) WILL YOU do?
A special thanks needs to go out to all at Hilliard who arranged this site visit. It was a wonderful day and a wonderful way for outsiders to peek into the awesome things your district is doing. Congratulations on a job well done!
Follow them on Twitter: @jwreasonelem @BRN_Elementary @HilliardSchools @drjcm
To wrap it all up, I heard a few things that I'd like to share ...
"Culture eats strategy."
"If permit it, you promote it."
"We can't do Bloom until we do Maslow."
Please reach out if you have questions. You can comment below, or find me on Twitter @kiefersj -- or Google+ +SarahKiefer .