Love first, teach second is the motto for staff this year
At Monday night’s school board meeting, Principal Kathy Taylor made a presentation on her school, Jonesville Elementary/Middle School. She said the school motto is “One family, one mission,” but they have an additional motto for staff, which is “Love first, teach second.” She said the school sets lofty goals for its students, including 80% of their students showing growth and 50% meeting or exceeding their MAP test goal; increase their text level by at least 4% yearly; and increase their SC Ready rate of meeting or exceeding by 5% each year.
She talked about several interesting programs in place each week for their students, including Mystery Reader Monday, where the students try to guess who the mystery reader is on the announcements; Tangy Tuesdays, which deals with a program they have in place for math; What to Read Wednesdays, which features students recommending and reviewing books for the student body; and Feature Fridays, in which teachers find a way to feature a student’s special achievement in some way. One thing Taylor said she was particularly excited about is the school’s brand new book vending machine. They cut the ribbon on the machine this week. Students earn tokens in various ways that they can then take to the book vending machine and spend on a book they can take home and keep.
They celebrate students frequently, with everything from a monthly writing celebration to a partnership with Kona Ice to honor a student from each grade level every nine weeks for exhibiting praiseworthy character traits.
Teachers are given many opportunities for professional development targeted to their grade level. One Taylor emphasized in particular was training on using math manipulatives for the middle school grades. Dr. Jane Wilkes cited a study that shoed the one thing that most determines if a student will graduate high school is how they do in 6th-grade math. Those who fail 6th-grade math, more than any other grade level, tend not to graduate. Taylor said manipulatives are important to allow students to visualize the what is going on in the problem.
One other emphasis is on social and emotional learning activities, as student mental and social health suffered during the pandemic. They incorporate morning meetings and daily check-ins to see how everyone is. They utilize read-alouds and conversation to relate to one another, and they have what are called attitude control folders, which can contain some calming exercises for a student to do as needed, or the teacher can have the student take the folder to another teacher who checks it and sends the student back to class. This gets the child away from the stressful situation and gives them a chance to calm down and return to learning. They also engage their staff with different activities to build them up as a team and encourage their social and emotional health.