Last week I asked members of our Springville school community to share their stories of learning at SGI. I heard from parents, teachers, support staff members, BOE members, and former students. I’m incredibly grateful for the time that so many of you took to write and tell me your stories!
Please consider adding YOUR voice to the story of Springville-Griffith Institute. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org–don’t let worries of length, spelling or grammar quiet you–no judgment here. I just want to read what your experiences have been. And check this out! Students who aren’t interested in writing to me during the summer but love selfie videos–you can tell me your story here, on Flipgrid! It’s super easy–give it a try!
Here’s what I’ve learned about our story of learning so far.
We value encouragement of every student, opportunities to try just about anything through clubs, sports, PE, and technology classes, respect for everyone within our school community and beyond, and finding the joy in learning. Our students are polite and caring, respectful of each other and of adults. Students feel loved and safe and connected to the adults who include our teachers, administrators, support staff, bus drivers and families. We see a Springville education as a time to help students develop a love of reading, to find a sense of self, of confidence and tribe, while feeling valued, encouraged and loved.
Our teachers often find ways to teach that make learning meaningful–examples include Mr. Karb and Mr. Beiter’s middle school social studies classes where students learn by doing with project based units and real world connections about “how to take action to address problems, not admire the problem”.
From more than one person I heard compelling stories of Mrs. Laurel Rugh’s elementary classroom, “In fourth grade, I was lucky enough to have Mrs. Laurel Ruch as my classroom teacher. Her room was unconventional…a table with benches, couches, easy chairs, a loft running around the outside of her space, a wood workshop, kitchen, and “Corner Store”. She taught fractions through the doubling and tripling of recipes, and then we executed the recipe. Running the store (which sold school supplies, snacks, wood projects) we learned to count change, keep track of inventory, interact with customers. She used the architecture of Buffalo to teach the history of our region and relate it to that of other cultures. Our year came to a close using the money we had earned, to journey to Buffalo for a 3 day field trip. She was creative, constantly pushing the envelope and thinking out side of the box. To say her room was “hands on” would be an understatement. I believe the education I received in fourth grade was influential to the remainder of my career as a student (and an educator). My hope is that SGI can encourage teachers to place students in authentic learning environments as much as possible, to think outside of the box, and to create!”
I heard from a mother who’s son felt incompetent after receiving a 2/4 on a NYS math test in 3rd grade and hated math until 5th grade when Mr. Noeson taught Math through fantasy football and therein made a connection that worked for him. I heard about a note attached with the gift of a Harry Potter book by Mr. Scarpine, current SES principal/former teacher, that inspired a lifelong love of reading and Harry Potter.
I’m guessing we have 1000 other stories about meaningful learning experiences –please share them with me, there’s no deadline here.
I was deeply affected by the words of a teacher who said that he knows a percentage of our students are succeeding academically while many are nice and pleasant to work with but don’t necessarily see the importance of learning. He spoke honestly of the many creative lessons he’s developed on his own, that often fell short with a number of his students and he asked, “what methods can we come up with as a district to get all students interested in learning?”
And there it is. Exactly the work we can do to move forward as a district. We will be a learning organization in which we develop a vision centered on learning for all students. We’ll collaborate and create a culture of inquiry, innovation and exploration. We can do this together–learning what other ways there are to learn and then taking a risk and trying them. Our leadership team starts on August 7 and then we’ll move that work out to everyone else in our school community when school starts.
We’ll do what our Springville Middle School students are taught in their social studies classes. Instead of admiring (or blaming or commiserating or relishing) the problem that our current traditional educational system isn’t good enough, let’s take action to address it. Let’s make school at Springville a place where the really meaningful learning I’m hearing about in your stories is valued, talked about, learned from and expanded. Let’s determine what’s best about what we do now and figure out a way to do more of it. It doesn’t have to be bad to get better.
Let’s grow as a district, reimagining and redesigning what a Springville education looks like for every student. Together. Keep telling me your stories Springville, I’m listening.