With each new year, school staff is faced with the challenge of developing meaningful relationships between members of a school’s educational community, while creating a safe, effective environment for learning. Spencer Community Schools works hard to accomplish this by utilizing the research-based processes of Capturing Kids Hearts to improve the five key indicators of school performance. These indicators include fewer discipline referrals, improved attendance, higher student achievement, lower dropout rates and higher teacher satisfaction.
Capturing Kids Hearts (CKH) was first implemented in Spencer Community Schools in 2013. Teachers, staff and administrators participated in the training that taught strategies to achieve success in today’s classrooms. In August, the two-day, immersive training was brought to Spencer, and new teachers, support staff, Instructional Mentor Coaches, administrators and board members participated.
The training was a reminder for Tim Wagner, the new Johnson Elementary School Principal, of the profound influence school staff has on students. “We must first be willing to build a positive relationship with students before we can instruct them,” noted Wagner. “They have to know we care first, and this training gave us the tools to do that.” Wagner intends to use the CKH training to build a strong school that starts with positive, healthy relationships with students, parents, and staff. “It was a great two days of getting to know colleagues across the different grade levels, and the students are the ones who benefit from our staff building those relationships!”
In her 10th year of teaching, Spencer graduate and newly hired middle school music instructor, Katie Bush, also completed the CKH training. When asked how the strategies would impact her classroom, Bush replied, “I love how this program empowers students to have ownership over their learning. As a choir director I will have almost 70 students in my largest choir. This program will allow the students to keep each other focused and on task without much interruption to my teaching. I will also have the opportunity to get to know students more quickly by greeting them every day and meeting them on their level.”
Implementation of the CKH strategies will be district-wide, and in all areas. “As a counselor, many of the things that were taught at the CKH training were not new. The trainer said these are common sense strategies, but not common practice. What I was most impressed with was the system-wide commitment to the training and implementation. Many teachers were re-taking the class as well as principals, the superintendent, and even a board member. I will definitely use the behavior contract and good things in my classroom,” said Elizabeth Petersen, elementary guidance counselor. This year will mark Petersen’s 8th year as an educator. “The four questions will be an integral part of my work with students in large group and individual settings. I think another strength of the training was the growth that took place in the relationships between the other adults. It's so much easier to work well with others when you understand them not only as a professional but also as people.”
The ultimate goal of CKH is to give educators the tools they need to engage and challenge students, and raise them to a higher level of performance.