2012 SCORE Prize Winners: Embracing High Standards - Page 9

establishes a tradition for achieving one’s personal best academically, emotionally, and socially. We shall accomplish our mission by fostering civic virtue, cooperation, responsibility, encouragement, accountability, trust, equity, and flexibility. The focus on relationships extends to children’s families as well. School leaders know every parent, take steps to become familiar with and understand each family’s circumstances, and do what they can to help. “You have to see the whole child, and you have to do things consistently,” Wilson said. “We see learning as a shared responsibility. We want to understand the home environment, every child’s learning style, all of the issues they are dealing with. We want the parents to feel included and to work on issues with us. We really are all in this together.” EMBRACING HIGH STANDARDS The school sets high expectations for interpersonal relationships, individual effectiveness, and academic results for the adults and students in the building. Leaders believe learning starts with a positive environment rooted in a strong school culture. That culture must embrace a shared approach to classroom engagement and management, a common instructional framework, and a set of clear expectations for both behavioral and academic performance. Students are then expected to give their best. Keys to behavioral excellence. “Expect the Best” is John Sevier’s classroom engagement and behavior management approach. Working from the Quantum Keys for Excellence, a character education program of Learning Forum International, teachers use common language and reinforcement techniques. During the first few weeks of school, teachers explicitly teach the keys of excellence and then incorporate them throughout all aspects of the student environment and curriculum. The notion of behavioral “keys” takes on concrete meaning at John Sevier—students collect actual keys for their personal key ring. The keys, donated from local locksmiths, community members, teachers, and families, can be given at any time by any adult in the building (including teachers, staff members, custodians, and food service workers) who sees a student demonstrating one of the eight keys of excellence. According to teachers and leaders, the shared approach to positive behavior has created more coherence in the building. Adults use a common vocabulary to define and reinforce expectations. The same expectations and protocols apply in every classroom and hallway. “The keys are a good way for us to establish ground rules, but more than that, they represent the kinds of v alues we want to see in our children,” one teacher said. Teachers also give Paw Print Awards to students whose behavior is in line with the school’s expectations. Students’ names appear on the school’s electronic bulletin board and in announcements and their pictures are posted in the front hallway. Students get a prize and a certificate, and, each month, all of the winners are invited to eat lunch with the principal and assistant principal. School leaders and teachers are held to high expectations for their behavior and interactions as well. For example, the school has procedures in place to help facilitate constructive feedback among teachers. Teachers ask questions to seek understanding, explore alternatives for better teaching options, and find the best fit for their styles. Leaders provide feedback privately to prevent public embarrassment. In meetings, adults listen actively and try to understand the rationale for practices or procedures before giving opinions. Leaders have found that this expectation has led to a good balance between valuing instructional practices of veteran teachers and incorporating the perspectives of novice teachers. QUANTUM KEYS OF EXCELLENCE commitment: Finish what you start. balance: Balance needs and wants. failure leads to success: It’s okay to make mistakes. Just learn from them. flexibility: Be willing to change. integrity: Do the right thing. ownership: I am in charge of what I think, say, and do. I am responsible for ME! speak with g