There is a great deal of anxiety across the state as school districts begin implementing the Common Core State Standards. In Loudon County, we feel clear, concise communication will be the center of a successful implementation. This communication needs to include all stakeholders–administrators, teachers, students, and their families and communities. But how do we get past the “it is just another new initiative” attitude? The base of successful communication must be centered on trust built within relationships and caring interactions.
This caring interaction begins at the local school level and involves every facet of positive school culture. At Eaton Elementary, we worked to make everyone feel as special as they are by taking the time to interact with enthusiasm:
- Students greet others with “Good morning! How are you today?” because they see that modeled by adults many times each day.
- As an administrator, I had a personal goal of speaking to every student by name every day—all 750 of them!
- Opening arriving car doors provides opportunities for the administrator to say hello, praise a child for a success in front of the parents, and give an avenue for positive and open communication of all types.
- Having an open-office-door policy encourages interaction between administration and parents, teachers, and students while building capacity through quick response and genuine concern.
- Twenty-four hour response to phone calls and emails lets parents know that administrators and teachers are fully engaged in making each student’s day a safe and happy one.
- Growing a one-to-one adult-student mentoring program and before-school tutoring program builds trust and opens the pathway for more communication.
- Working collaboratively with local churches to start a weekend food backpack program and quarterly events that provided groceries, coats, shoes, and gently used clothing to families helps build trust that our school truly cares about the whole child.
Within the Eaton Elementary, creating and sustaining a culture of learning together with the philosophy that “it is OK to make mistakes” enables teachers as well as students, to step outside their comfort zone and dig in deeper to the TEAM evaluation model and Common Core Math standards. Developing formative instructional practices and assessments empowers students to take academic risks that result in broader understanding. Scoring formative assessments without grades gives students permission to struggle constructively and presents parents with a clearer image of their child’s true academic progress.
This year as we roll out the English/Language Arts Common Core Standards, we will use those same cultural views and attitudes to build trustworthy communications with our teachers, students, families, and communities. We will transparently tell them of our successes and our challenges. We will relay the message that effective implementation of Common Core standards has exponential advantages for our communities and families by graduating career- and college-ready students who can think globally and problem solve creatively and collaboratively. By graduating a pool of capable work-ready employees, Tennessee will attract new businesses to our state and continue to grow already established businesses. Successful, lucrative employment is the key to keeping our communities alive and vibrant, and through our continued drive and initiative, we can help make it happen. These amazing results, based on clear communication within trusting relationships, will be a goal we all want to meet.