Lessons Learned by LARRY WATTERS Principal, Parkside Elementary School There is a poem and poster entitled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum that I had hanging in my classroom years ago. Some of the significant instructions Fulghum had listed on the poster include: “Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and point and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder.” These words of wisdom, although hopefully learned in kindergarten, are not always acted upon as we become adults. That is why so many of us in Rockford Public Schools (RPS) have been blessed to work in a profession where we are reminded of many of the tenants mentioned above by those that have learned them most recently: elementary students. I was reminded of one of the tenants the other day as I learned of a first-grader who decided to pick up trash from the entire playground. When asked why he decided to spend his time picking up our playground, he responded with, “I want to make the world a better place. Besides, I use the playground. Don’t you think I should help keep it clean?” Clean up your own mess. A fourth-grader, when challenged by his teacher to make a difference in the world, made “puppy chow” and sold it at his mother’s workplace, raising over 50 dollars. He used the money to purchase movie gift cards for a family whose mother was battling serious medical issues. When asked his intent, he answered, “I wanted them to enjoy a night out and not worry about their mother’s illness. I wanted to do something to help.” We all should hold hands and stick together. During conferences, the elementary school buildings hold book fairs. Each student in the building is able […]
NRMS pilots Ram Buddies program by LARRY WATTERS, Assistant Principal North Rockford Middle School In the words of Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we really are, far more than our abilities.” One of the choices we have made this year at Rockford Public Schools that I am extremely proud of is the Ram Buddies program being piloted by North Rockford Middle School (NRMS) and Lakes Elementary School. This program, initiated by parents active in the lives of their special needs children, is an opportunity for students without disabilities to develop relationships with students with special needs. This service learning activity helps to provide support, friendship and encouragement while reinforcing our goal of academic and social success through the cooperative efforts of staff, parents and peers. The Ram Buddies application process required interested students to obtain parent permission and teachers’ recommendations prior to being selected for the program. Once selected, students received training from counseling and special education staff. The training consisted of the basics of friendship, leadership and disability awareness. When the training was completed, Ram Buddies were matched and made commitments to spend time together during the marking period. These commitments could be as simple as meeting at a locker, eating lunch together, visiting during intervention time, or possibly attending a sporting or after-school event together. Currently at NRMS, 12 special needs children are “buddied” with 32 general education students. In most cases it is indistinguishable as to who is providing the service and who is receiving. As we assess the value of the program in the future, I am confident the benefits gained by the special needs students will be abundant, but the growth of everyone involved will be unmistakable. It is our choices in life that help define us, and Ram Buddies is another reason Rockford Public Schools can be described as a student-centered district providing opportunities to learn and develop in a social world.