Making Today Count: Planning for Continuous Improvement!
As I am sitting outside on my front porch enjoying the mild fall-like temperatures of the weekend, watching my 12-year old son contently shooting basketball in the driveway, my mind shifts to thinking about the importance of both physical and mental well-being for children. Just as my son is exerting physical energy running up and down the driveway with the goal of achieving his left-hand basketball layups, his mind is continuously thinking about the placement of his feet as he dribbles the ball with his left hand approaching the basket. His mental state shows concentration and determination as he approaches the net, feeling the sensation of the ball rolling off of his fingers with intended directional control. When the left-hand layup is successful, he looks at me with a jubilant smile and goes through the movement all over again. The following several successful attempts at making layups help him persevere through the unsuccessful attempts. He knows that continued effort and practice can bring improvement in speed, footwork, and ball control. And his growth in building resiliency helps him maintain focus and determination even after many failed attempts to achieve the shot.
These are key elements for consideration when striving to help students develop their emotional health and well-being. We know from research that students who are socially and emotionally healthy tend to demonstrate skills that help them be more successful in their academic learning, relationships with peers and adults, and overall motivation. Social emotional learning is essential in helping students become strong, healthy adults. In order for this to occur, schools need to address any barriers that inhibit healthy social, emotional, and academic development in children of all ages. Addressing barriers involves the need for equity in the school system. Equity in students’ access to educational programs and equity in the provision of interventions and supports when students are struggling. Equity benefits all students.
Thus, when the Manheim Township School District came together last school year to develop a new three-year Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan, the district and school-level planning teams addressed the need for continued academic growth at all grade levels. The planning for continuous improvement in learning across the district focused on the need for promoting equity and removing barriers to student learning. The title “Pursuing Excellence and Equity for All” was given to the Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a blueprint for promoting student learning and well-being over the next three years. Below are the three overarching goals of the Comprehensive Plan:
- Implementing effective instructional strategies district-wide incorporating 21st century learning and innovation skills;
- Addressing barriers to student learning in order to increase student achievement & graduation rates; and,
- Ensuring academically at-risk students are identified early and are supported with needs-based interventions.
The specific strategies and initiatives designed for the schools and the district to achieve the three goals can be found on the district website: https://www.mtwp.net/about/comprehensive-plan/. Some of these important initiatives include (but are not limited to) our focus on the following: implementation of early learning programs, a grades K-6 Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS), Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), trauma-informed care/practices, college and career readiness skills, student transitions between key grade levels, technology integration, meaningful professional learning for staff, and community partnerships.
An example of a district educator who strives to eliminate barriers to learning is our district October Employee of the Month, Mrs. Annette Frey, who was nominated by her colleagues at Bucher Elementary School for the ability to make a positive impact on students. They noted that Mrs. Frey is dedicated to providing interventions and supports to her students with special needs. During our October 18th Board Meeting, Mr. Andy Martin, Principal at Bucher Elementary School, shared comments from her colleagues such as “Mrs. Frey has an excellent rapport with her students. She clearly makes a positive impact on students, not only in their learning but in their daily lives as well.” He further shared that Mrs. Frey “truly cares about each student as an individual, and wants to see them succeed.” She knows when to provide extra accommodations for them, and when to “push a bit.” Her colleagues further noted that “she is always ready with a listening ear, a hug, or even a fidget toy when it is needed.” They shared that she has a great sense of humor, and can usually manage to laugh about something from even the most difficult days.” She is modeling for students how to develop a positive attitude and strengthen their social-emotional health.
We recognize the significance of social and emotional health on a student’s ability to develop secure relationships, regulate their emotions, and increase the capacity to learn. Connectedness is important to us at Manheim Township, and our new Comprehensive Plan guides the way for continued improvement in academic learning and positive social-emotional health.