No More Pencils, No More Books...
Updated: Jan 20
... at least not for students, anyway.
As a principal, I will continue to plug away at all of the "behind the scenes" items pursuant to my position.
Before that happens, however, I'd like to take a minute to reflect on this previous year. Last summer, the Board of Directors approved a change in the vision to "serving students, family, and faculty, inspiring them to reach their fullest potential through a lifelong love of learning and of Christ." Spring boarding off of this vision, I'd love to share the wins we had this year:
We certainly had more "love" this year. We had three full spirit weeks which ranged from "book character day" to "U.S.A. day" and "twin day." There were many kids who participated in these and nearly EVERY kid participated in at least 1 or 2 days out of 12 total spirit days. This is great because it gives us a chance to be silly together. Dr. Becky Bailey of Conscious Discipline teaches us that the best ways to make connections are to laugh, play, make eye contact, and physically touch (handshakes and hugs). Spirit week naturally lent itself to these four actions as we took pictures of each other, met each other's creative costuming in the hallways, and during our morning assembly Bible studies. It was so much fun!
There were examples of kids being encouraged to reach their fullest potential: A number of middle school and high school students increased their sketching skills tremendously, being able to recreate famous anime characters, make up their own, and even create life-like sketches of people. A number of our students won awards at the county fair this past year as well!. There's something about watching a kid do art that just thrills me. High schoolers helped me, the principal, to teach and lead the younger students. I really feel the school has become more cohesive due to this.
Middle school and upper elementary also pushed their students to write more than they ever had before. Upper elementary had to complete a 7-paragraph analysis of a book of their choice and boy, did they rise to the challenge. Middle school had to analyze a famous detective story of their choice after studying Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. I'm excited to say that many of their essays were thoughtful and interesting to read.
One of our high school classes, the audio-visual class, re-wired the microphones on the stage this semester. As someone who was in audio-visual class myself in high school, I hope that they remember that for the rest of their lives - I know I remember a number of A/V class activities. High school also had fun in the guitar class - they learned how to play a LOT of songs this year - at least 10 songs. This was a lot of fun to watch and listen to. Finally, I took great joy in watching the high schoolers play. They printed out a number of paper foldables and started hiding them around the school. Nothing like finding a paper cat and paper Harry Styles in my room while teaching to illicit joy! They also created a "recyclable knight" during their breaks. This was so humorous and they thoroughly enjoyed showing off their creation at the Celebration of Learning.
I was excited to see a number of kids step out of their comfort zones at the end of this school year. Twice per year we have a "Celebration of Learning" where students get on stage to present something they have learned or just discuss their favorite lesson, class, or project. We had a young man who dreaded going on stage and needed a lot of support in January who was able overcome this stage fright and sing with a friend this June. We had a parent gloat on Facebook that she was pleasantly surprised to see her shy daughter playing guitar on camera and sharing a full sentence on stage. Although the kids don't "love" Celebration of Learning, it is so beneficial to help our students step out and experience something new in a rather low-risk environment.
We don't put a lot of emphasis on standardized test scores. We do truly look at the whole student in decision making, but that being said, our test scores were pretty good this year. 61% of our students have IEPs or 504s related to a specific learning disability. On our IOWA standardized test scores, we had the following results for the 51 students who took the test:
Reading: 30 scored at their grade level or above, some scoring years above their grade level (59% passing). This is great because of the 21 who did not "pass," 19 of them have IEPs or 504s specifically related to a learning disability. Of those 21, 11 were at Educational Harbor last year. Of THOSE 11, eight scored a year and a half HIGHER than they did last year, and some jumped even more than that. Within the 30 that did "pass," there were 2 kids who went from "below level" to the "on or above" level category. Last year we had 44% passing.
Math: 26 scored at their grade level or above, some scoring years above their grade level (51% passing). Of those who didn't pass AND took the test with us last year, 8 scored at least one year higher than last year, with a few scoring as high as two years more than last year. Last year's passing rate was 37%.
Overall, I'm pretty excited on how much better we did on the IOWA this year, how much the kids read and wrote, and how well they did on their math tests. I loved having the teachers come up to me with gradebooks that show their students passing history and science tests in the 90s-100s and asking me "are my tests too easy maybe?" And I was able to answer, "I've seen your class. They are remembering it because you make it so interesting and interactive."
We are so blessed this year. Our students really grew a lot and were able to express themselves in a variety of ways. I look forward to continuing this energy into the next school year!
God bless you!