School Beat

Encouraging a Safe and Positive Learning Environment

May 20, 2015 // 0 Comments

Kelly Amshey, ERMS Assistant Principal Each day, schools around the nation buzz with the activity of children and young adults. Schools are exciting, filled with rigorous academic activities, engaging lessons, and countless social interactions.  Schools are also challenging: academically, organizationally, and socially.   In any given day, no two students have the exact same experience, but one thing that all students deserve to experience each day is a safe learning environment. Mean behavior and bullying are frequently identified as significant barriers to student success. The appearance of bullying has changed significantly over the years. Many parents envision bullying as beating up a classmate or stealing his lunch money. Most students, however, describe bullying as making mean comments, name calling, giving dirty looks, rumor spreading, or cyberbullying. Students who experience these behaviors may become unhappy, angry, and/or anxious about school. While no school is free of mean behavior and bullying, it is essential for schools to actively and intentionally work to provide a safe environment for all students. There are many practices that can be used by schools to discourage mean behavior. The first, and most critical, is to promote a positive environment. Students should be frequently encouraged to display positive behaviors, such as helping others, including others, sharing, etc., and they should also receive recognition when they engage in positive behaviors. Schools can also encourage positive student behaviors by hosting all-school activities that encourage and celebrate acceptance, tolerance, and diversity.  Examples may include special lunchtime activities, team-building exercises, assemblies, or announcements. The second piece to creating the positive environment is practicing “zero indifference” toward mean behavior. “Zero indifference” is a policy that requires that mean behaviors, large or small, will be acknowledged by an adult and the incident will be documented. The school should also have a consistent set of consequences in place for mean behavior so that students know what to expect, and those consequences should increase in intensity for repeat offenders. Another important component of the positive and safe learning environment is providing students with an opportunity to report mean behavior in a confidential manner. Students often worry that the behavior will get worse if they tell, or worry that they will be viewed in a negative light for telling. However, what occurs more […]

Crestwood Kids Connect to the Greater Community ~ Kids’ Helping Kids

May 13, 2015 // 0 Comments

The 400 kids at Crestwood Elementary have been working all year on a Service Learning Project studying the theme of Hunger and Homelessness. The essential question for learning has been, “How can we make a difference?”   Crestwood chose Kids’ Food Basket, which has a parallel theme to Crestwood’s “Kids Helping Kids!” Kids’ Food Basket (KFB) attacks childhood hunger in the greater Grand Rapids Area.  KFB packs and delivers more than 5,000 sack suppers each weekday! Our mission was to support them as a charity partner and raise what funds we could through our work.   What is Service Learning? Service Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich learning experiences, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Through service learning, young people use what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. They not only learn practical applications of their studies, they also become active contributing citizens through the service they perform. There were direct curricular connections to reading, writing, math, and social studies through the study of hunger. At Crestwood, students built their personal character as they worked with others in their school and community to create ceramic bowls in art class. The Empty Bowls project focuses on hunger, homelessness, kindness, and philanthropy. On April 21st , Crestwood held a community “simple” dinner. Families came together to eat dinner and “purchase” their child’s bowl through a donation. Students’ curricular work was showcased as a culmination of the project. All of the food items were donated through local business partners. On May 8th, Kids’ Food Basket will be at Crestwood Elementary to put on an informational assembly and the kids will present KFB with a check of over $3200.00.   Nicole Reeves Crestwood Elementary Principal  

April is Autism Awareness Month: ASD Peer to Peer Support at Parkside Elementary

May 11, 2015 // 0 Comments

Larry Watters Parkside Elementary Principal In the past year Parkside Elementary has welcomed the elementary regional autistic program and the rewards have been great. Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. It impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. All students are considered general education students first, and are placed on general education class rosters. Each child in the program is supported with an IEP and support staff to provide access to the appropriate curriculum according to individual strengths and weaknesses. General education teachers are supported by the ASD staff as students participate in grade level curriculum and special classes like Physical Education, Music, and Art.   In addition, students at Parkside have been supported by itinerant staff conducting a peer to peer support program this year. The peer to peer support curriculum has been implemented by Parkside’s social worker, Dawn Thorsen, who is teaching general education students about ASD and helping them understand the specific needs of classmates with ASD.   This knowledge helps students support and develop friendships with their non-neurotypical peers. There are social skill opportunities planned and practiced across multiple settings and peers to help increase competency. The benefits of peer to peer programs are well documented for the ASD population and their general education peers. Its positive effects may be the most researched and supported social intervention for ASD students. The increased knowledge of their friends and empathy toward their peers is the obvious benefit to the general education participants. Hearing of planned play dates outside school hours between general education students and their ASD peers warms my heart. The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for life.” With peer to peer support programs like the one at Parkside, the new saying could be, “Pair me with a student for a day and we will be friends; teach me how to understand others better and learn to accept them for whom they are and I can grow friendships anywhere.”

When Kids Don’t Want to Read

April 24, 2015 // 0 Comments

Do you have kids who compare having to read to getting shots at the doctor’s office? Sometimes we have to creatively adjust this attitude with new ideas, providing motivation and modeling to encourage our kids to become lifelong readers.   As parents, we are responsible for assisting our kids with tasks they don’t necessarily find desirable, such as brushing their teeth every day, dressing properly for the weather, healthy eating, and many other things they may not always choose to do without our guidance. Motivating kids to read should be right at the top of that list.   Research shouts from the rooftops that early literacy is critical to developing lifelong readers. There are a variety of ways to bring reading to life for your children on a daily basis, especially when you see a lack of interest from them when it comes to reading.   Consider trying some of these ideas to ignite the reading spark with your children:   Remember that reading doesn’t have to be a chapter book! It can be anything you have available in your house-newspapers, magazines, journals, joke and riddle books, cook books, coffee table books, etc. Model, model, model! If your kids see you reading they are being influenced to read. Focus book choices around the interests of your children. If they love riding dirt bikes, find a dirt bike magazine or visit the outdoor sports section of your library. Do your kids love animals? Find interesting animal tales or encourage them to read articles online about their favorite creatures. Make finding the reading material half the fun! Take a family field trip to your public library. Let them choose a book for a birthday present. Let your children pick out a new magazine subscription for the family to enjoy. Read aloud to your child. Find a regular time each day to read an adventurous story to your child that will hold their interest. They will soon be begging you for “just a little more!” Tie reading to technology. Discover literacy-rich websites. Encourage your children to participate in literacy blogs with other kids their age on trusted sites to talk about books together. Download apps that have literacy games with letter sounds and rhyming, or apps with kid-friendly […]

School Beat

April 2, 2015 // 0 Comments

Dear Rockford Community and RPS Staff:   On May 5, 2015, Michigan voters will have an opportunity to vote on a “Safe Roads” ballot proposal that will amend the State constitution and provide $1.2 billion a year to repair and renovate Michigan roads and highways. The purpose of my article is to provide voters with the facts regarding this proposal so you can make an informed decision when you cast your ballot on May 5. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the May 5 ballot issue, please contact me at 616-863-6557 or Thank you.   Sincerely, Michael S. Shibler, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools

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