Well hello there Elk Plain Families,
Thanks for taking the time to check out the Principal’s (that’s me) Message! This first section is an introduction to what Elk Plain is all about. I’ll put more current messages with a date below this section, so you can always skip to the most recent message, or if you’re really bored you can scroll down through the older ones. Usually these will be the text of the robo calls and emails I send out.
Elk Plain – What’s It All About?
Elk Plain is a Kindergarten through 8th grade school of choice, with an emphasis on Science and the Arts, the only school of this type in the Bethel School District.
We have a school-wide goal at Elk Plain: that all we do regardless of subject area is designed to create Confident, Capable Learners. Regardless of what age they are, regardless of their abilities, we want them to wake up to the very real fact that they CAN learn ANYTHING! We’re here to guide and coach them in that pathway, but I can’t stress enough how important it is that at home you’re encouraging this attitude as well.
Confident Capable Learners have several consistent qualities.
- They know where they’re going. More specifically, they know what they’re trying to learn. One of the best ways you can support this at home is to ask your student what they learned in their classes. Please note: what they learned is a very different thing that what they actually did as a task. For example, a student might have worked on a paragraph, but what they were really trying to learn was how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence and strong supporting details.
When your child explains what they did in class, try to push them to tell you what that was supposed to teach them, what they were trying to learn. If they are unable to tell you, consider writing a note to their teacher about it. I used to do this with both my daughters as they went through school and I can tell you from experience it makes a real positive difference! It also breaks through those conversations that happen all too often where you ask, “What did you do in school today?” and get a “Nothing,” in reply.
- They have strategies to get there. Confident capable learners realize that any time they’re learning something new, or trying to get better at something, there are strategies they can apply that will help them. Strategies include knowing their resources, understanding the stages of what they’re trying to learn, and focusing on what success looks like. Teachers at Elk Plain work to help students be aware of the strategies available to them.
You can reinforce these at home too. When a student is struggling with an assignment or what to do, ask them any of these questions:
- What strategies do you have for this problem?
- What resources can you use if you don’t understand?
- Who can will you ask for help on this tomorrow?
The point is less about solving the immediate problem and more about helping students to learn to help themselves.
- They seek and use feedback to further their learning. This may surprise you, but real learning is not measured by grades – it’s actually about being able to use and apply what you learn! In fact, mistakes are WELCOMED by confident capable learners because they know fixing mistakes is where you learn the most. Students who never make mistakes aren’t being challenged enough! To that end, teachers at Elk Plain try to focus on feedback that is helpful to learning – suggestions about ways to improve, models for quality, and scaffolds for understanding...each of these are inputs for students that provide a far greater impact that merely seeing if they were right or wrong. More than anything else, teachers at Elk Plain try to cultivate an environment where making mistakes is welcomed as an opportunity to learn and grow.
You can support this at home in the way you give feedback to your students about their work. Research has shown clearly that the best feedback focuses on effort rather than achievement. Instead of saying, “You’re so smart!”, consider saying, “You really worked hard to get this! You can learn anything!” Also, consider providing information on specific things they did well – this kind of feedback helps them to transfer that success onto the next similar learning task.
- They work to develop effective learning habits. Confident capable learners recognize that there are ways of approaching learning and the work toward it that are helpful and others that are not. Focusing on the task at hand, getting to work quickly, getting rid of distractions, setting goals for accomplishment, and even planning short breaks to stay fresh… all of these and more are habits that confident capable learners practice.
At home these habits include a regular study time each night whether there is homework or not, developing and using calendars to track assignments and due dates, and planning ahead for upcoming events. Of course it’s also a good habit to go to bed in time to get a full 8 – 10 hours of sleep and eat a healthy breakfast too!
When I was kid and I asked my mom and dad questions, even if they knew the answers they’d say, “Let’s go look that up in the encyclopedia.” Neither of them went to college, but they modeled for me that knowledge and learning was always within my grasp – there was nothing mysterious about it. That was about 30 years before that thing called the internet existed! Help your child help themselves become a Confident Capable Learner!