By Craig Vogt Principal - Jefferson Elementary School, Bergenfield, NJ
Promoting daily, incremental growth to help raise your school to new levels of success.
As we approach the two-year mark since this whole craziness started, I keep asking myself the simple question: Are we doing this right? As a school, are we headed in the right direction and are we leading the children out of this quagmire? How do we get our students learning with the same rate of growth we had prior to all this mess?
March, 2020 the whole message changed. “Together, We can do anything” was the daily mantra to hold onto for me, our staff, our students, and our families. As a neighborhood school, I kept wondering, “Is everyone okay??” “What can we do to help?” “Does anyone need anything our school can provide?” As time progressed, the answer became more clear: School is the sense of normalcy we need. The messaging out of the main office each morning was an attempt to reclaim normalcy and hopefully, a feeling of structure for the children logging in remotely. We wanted students met with a welcoming teacher and staff members as they progressed through a day of learning. What we received back from our school community was a master class in resiliency. Communication from families was incredible. They made sure their child was ready each day, logged in, and a purposeful learner. (Yes, we had to chase some to get them logged in).
Through the hybrid learning experience and now having all the students back since September, I kept going back to the message my mentor kept telling me years ago, “Just focus on improving everyday”. Keep it simple. To me, the concept is easy to wrap your head around and we apply it to all of our messaging. If we get better at something everyday, we are headed in the right direction. Improving behavior, improving focus, improving our work ethic, it is something that applies to everyone. So, “Improving Everyday” replaced “Together, we can do anything” as the message our children see each in the morning announcements that come from my desk via Screencastify.
From a Teacher standpoint, their focus is taking each child on a journey of self-improvement as a person and within our curriculum construct. As professionals, we are well aware that every child improves at differing speeds. The magic lies in continuing to build their confidence, getting them to believe in themselves, and to see true value in their EFFORT each day. Growth mindset at the elementary level is ongoing. The more students see how effort pays off, the more we will reap the rewards as a school through their academic success. As a building leader, among all the worries we have, I keep a close eye on the enthusiasm as we enter the building each day, and the students’ engagement / exploration in their learning. I see a focus from each of us (staff and students) on getting better at something everyday. Here are a few talking points we center our discussions around:
Small Wins – whether moving up a reading level, consecutive days completing all homework assignments or for those who are really struggling, showing up each day and trying. Small wins are so important to celebrate and be enthusiastic about and eventually may turn into HUGE wins.
Mistakes Are Our Friend – we use mistakes as teachable moments to understand the why in our academics. Behavioral mistakes are also teachable moments where we look through our options and understand we need to pause before we react or act out.
Hard Work Pays Off – effort is everything.
Be The Reason Someone Smiles Today – enthusiasm is contagious.
Keep a simple message at the core of what you are doing each day and ALWAYS search for the small wins. The small wins will eventually turn into HUGE wins and your children will recognize their efforts matter.