December 12, 2014
A young couple prepares to celebrate their first Thanksgiving together. They decide to invite their entire family to enjoy Thanksgiving lunch with them. Early on Thanksgiving the wife begins preparing the turkey to cook and she takes a piece of string and ties the turkey’s legs together before putting it into the oven. The husband asks her why. She stops, looks at him and says, “Well I don’t know, but that is what mom always did.”
Later, when her mother and grandmother are with her in the kitchen, the wife asks her mom the same question. The mother replies, “Well, that is what my mother always did.” They both look to the grandmother and she smiles and says, “Well I always tied the turkey legs together because if I did not, the turkey would not fit into the oven!”.
It is easy to get caught up in doing things and never reflect on why we are doing them. At the beginning of the school year, we asked our teachers to take time periodically to reflect on what they are doing and why they are doing it that way. This gives each teacher the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of their methods and look for ways to improve them.
As a school, we are doing the same thing. We are strategically looking at different areas of the school and determining if the methods and practices that we are using are the “best” at this time. There's nothing wrong with traditional practices and doing things “Old School” provided that we periodically evaluate the effectiveness of that practice.
We began last year instituting a reading assessment tool by Fountas and Pinnell in Kindergarten that will allow us to evaluate our students’ reading levels. This assessment is given twice each school year to determine the amount of improvement each child has had and determine strategies to help that child continue to improve. These assessments will be passed from one grade to the next to help give teachers more information about each student's ability. The assessment will continue to be given throughout lower school or until the student completes all of the assessments.
This summer our first grade team attended a training course to learn skills to teach reading, phonics and spelling. This new program is called Orton-Gillingham and has been shown to help students at various ability levels. These teachers have implemented many of the strategies they learned this year and believe it to be beneficial to all students. This summer we have made arrangements for all of our reading teachers in lower school to attend similar training so that this becomes a school wide initiative.
We have begun an initiative this year to help our students become better writers. Teachers in grades 3-5 have attended some in-house training in Excellence in Writing (EIW), the program that the middle school presently uses to teach students to write. A scope and sequence has been created to introduce and teach the writing skills that our students need in order to become proficient at writing and also to be better prepared for the expectations set in middle school.
Last January, we began a school wide effort to update continually our curriculum maps for each subject in each grade level. Teachers were allowed a day last year to begin the process and were given several deadlines beginning last May and continuing throughout this school year. Our goal is for these maps to be used to identify areas where more time is spent on specific concepts or skills than needed so that we can be assured that we prepare our kids to the best of our ability.
We are also continuing to systematically review the materials we use to teach our curriculum for our entire school. We are in a review process of our Mathematics and Bible curriculum now. We will look for areas that need improvement and then look for materials to use that not only meet those needs but also continue to teach all the concepts that we deem important.
As a school, we will always be looking for ways to improve every aspect of the education of your child. We do not make changes without carefully considering the reason for the change...the “why.” Our process will be methodical in an effort to avoiding making decisions that we later regret. Slow change can be frustrating but know that we always want to do everything we can to ensure that any change results in a more positive learning experience for students.
A final thought. We will always strive to keep “The Main Thing” the main thing. Every decision we make must support our mission -- “ . . to infuse our school community with a Biblical worldview by effectively sharing the gospel and developing fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ through scripturally based discipleship, academics, fine arts, and athletics.”