Teamwork is evident at Benton Community each day. The volleyball team jumps, sets, and spikes the ball to score a point. A huddle of football helmets whisper plays to out maneuver the opposing team. Elementary students organize elaborate games at recess. Band students march together to create a dazzling display of music and motion. All of these examples take place amongst our students. Each example highlights how our students work together; however, it may not be as noticeable how many people work together to create a positive learning environment in our buildings.
Adults collaborate and work together each day, but we may not always view our group as a team. Yet, that is exactly what we are. A team working together to create positive experiences and maximize the learning potential for all students. One team that teachers may be a part of is their building team. Each school building in our district is distinct. A few district employees have the advantage of working in each of the buildings in our district; those who travel to different buildings will find that no building is exactly the same. Each staff group is their own team. Within each building, there are a number of data teams. These teams, either grade specific or content specific, work to evaluate student data and brainstorm ways to meet the needs of each student. These building level teams work together to problem solve and build relationships with everyone in their building.
Each building group works together to form the district team. As a district, teachers work together to learn and create positive learning environments for all students. There are a few times throughout the year when the public can see all of the teachers and students in one place; Homecoming and Veteran’s Day are the most visible. However, all of the teachers in the district meet to learn collaboratively at several points throughout the year. These days allow staff to work toward district goals while learning from each other.
Parents and teachers make up one of the most important teams in students’ lives. When parents and teachers communicate, it has a positive effect on student achievement. Parents and teachers can work together as a team to create the best possible learning environment for students. There are several ways teachers communicate home to let parents know what is happening in the classroom. Some teachers have websites, or apps that communicate home to parents such as Seesaw or Remind. Parents can email parents or set up time to talk about their child. Sharing what is happening at home and in the classroom helps teachers and parents to work together to create a shared vision of student learning.
So just as the show choir members line up in anticipation to take the stage or the stars of the musical wait anxiously in the wings for the curtain to rise, Benton’s teachers prepare and work for each day to provide the best experience possible for our Bobcat community of learners.
What does “continuous growth” actually mean? To some it may mean taking a class to learn something new, observing someone else at their trade in order to gain new ideas or insight, or even thinking about something in a different way based on reflective conversation. To others, it could be refining a skill they have already acquired or practicing to get faster or more efficient.
Maybe to you it means these things or even something more.
Coaching cycles are one way that teachers at Benton Community model continuous growth. Our coaching cycles at Benton Community are framed around the needs of our teachers and students. This means that a teacher can choose to use a coach for instructional supports or engage in a cycle driven more by student data or needs. Teachers may choose to choose work in either an individual or team cycle when engaging in this process.
Instructional supports could be any of the following:
Teachers receiving instructional supports from a coach may determine this based on a goal they have set for either themselves or their students. As coaches, this may look very different based on teacher or student need, timeliness, school or district goals, or an area the teacher would like to improve upon or refine.
A student-centered coaching cycle means just that. The data, goals, action steps, instruction, and assessments are centered on the students. Whether this happens with an individual teacher or with a team, student data and evidence of student growth are at the core of all decision-making in this framework.
When a teacher is looking for support around strategy implementation, feedback on their practice, or working with a reflective partner, he/she would be taking part in a teacher focused cycle. The goal setting, action steps, and meeting design would be centered on an “Identify. Learn. Improve” structure to allow the teacher to refine and grow in their desired area.
Coaching cycles can also look different depending on both the coach and the teacher. Just like teachers in the classroom, coaches bring their individual personalities and passions when working with teachers . They must differentiate their instruction and practices based on the needs of the teachers and students they’re serving Coaches have built a framework for our practice around a variety of models. This means we are able to meet the needs of our teachers using multiple methods and tools, just like they do when teaching students.
Regardless of the direction the teacher decides to take their coaching cycle or what supports the teacher/students need, we know that at the heart of this work is the desire and push for continuous growth in order for our students to have access to a school experience that will foster characteristics of lifelong learners
Our core values are beliefs our staff and students strive to meet daily. Last week’s blog was focused on the core value of Caring and Belonging. This week we are going to look at what Educational Excellence looks like at Benton Community Schools and how this ties to our district goal.
Our district goal is for 100% of students to make one year’s growth based on state and district assessments in reading comprehension. In order to attain this goal, Benton has identified an instructional framework, utilizes a data team process, and makes collaborative learning a priority.
Benton has adopted the Characteristics of Effective Instruction (START model) as our instructional framework. We see this framework as a model for what great teaching should look like in all classrooms in our district. We strive to center our instruction, data teams, and collaboration around this model in order to keep students as our primary focus.
The START model consists of 5 characteristics:
Student Centered Classrooms
Teaching for Understanding
Assessment for Learning
Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum
Teaching for Learner Differences
Last year, our coaches and administrators had the opportunity to attend the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) Training at Grant Wood AEA focused around providing meaningful feedback. This training led our administration and coaches to have goal-based conversations with all full-time teaching staff. Triad meetings may have looked different in each building, but they focused around the teachers choosing a goal. These triad conversations also allowed us to narrow our goals in order to create personalized Individual Professional Development Plans to fit the needs of each teacher.
Another way Benton strives for Educational Excellence is through our data team cycles and collaborative learning time. Benton has made collaboration and teamwork a priority, and it has been a movement that has changed the way we do business! We all believe that collaboration is critical to the way we serve our students. Through the data team process, teams are using common formative assessments, charting data, analyzing student work, and monitoring student and teacher behaviors to offer the best learning experiences for all students.
We continue to build knowledge in the data team process and refine this process in order to grow as educators and teammates. Through professional development, we have taken time to learn how to be more efficient, use research-based strategies, and think through the lens of OUR students. We continue to strengthen the data team process, while building the capacity of collective efficacy within teams. Of course, all of this intentionality is so we can provide the best possible educational experience for our students at BC.
One of my favorite questions to ask in an interview is… “What is your unfair advantage?”. So, when I sat down to write this post I had to ask myself…
What is Benton Community’s unfair advantage?
The answer seems simple, but it really isn’t. Benton Community’s unfair advantage is that it truly is A Place to Belong. We are a school district spanning across 330 square miles, 7 communities, and 3 counties. And even though it would be easy for us to be divided, we continue to pull our communities together to form one district, one community, one family.
Our mission statement is depicted as a wheel.
Our core values are on the rim of our wheel:
Caring / Belonging
The spokes of the wheel show the actionable steps:
Creative Problem Solvers
This is what we expect from our students, our families, our staff, and our community.
WE ARE BENTON!
One of the core values on the Benton Wheel is Caring/Belonging. It is something that is embedded in everything we do, everything we produce, and how we act. This past week you could have witnessed this great community at its finest.
Homecoming is such a special time of year for all Bobcats, past and present. It is a time to celebrate, remember, connect, and relish in the amount of pride within this community. Our week started with dress-up days that coordinate with the homecoming theme. This year’s theme was “Dressing Up Homecoming 2018.” You could have seen preschoolers dressed as cowboys and seniors dressed in full luau gear. Everyone was invited to participate! The highlight of the week came on Friday when the entire district was transported, in their blue and gold gear, to the HS/MS for the annual parade and pep rally. Community members joined in on the fun and could be found right along side of the student body chanting B-O-B-C-A-T-S as the band kicked off the parade. The parking lot was full and so were our hearts.
After the parade everyone filed into the gymnasium for the pep rally. The cheerleaders burst through a banner while the band erupted into a hearty rendition of “The Benton Fight Song.” The elementary kids rumbled their feet, and the MCs announced the entertainment line-up.
First out of the shoot this year was the staff dance. This year the staff dance was structured as a Fortnite Battle Royale. This challenged each attendance center to give their best attempts at a handful of the popular video game inspired dance moves. It was awesome to look up and see kids K-12 doing the dances in the stands while the staff were rocking it on the floor. It is always amazing to see adults being willing to put 100% into activities to excite our kids.
The pep rally continued with Kiss the Pig where Ms. Brown got the opportunity to do just that...kiss the pig. This is an annual fundraiser for the FFA (Future Farmers of America). This year’s funds were donated to the Crawford family to help with Myra’s battle against leukemia, which is a great example of Bobcats rallying around their own. Before the elementary buildings needed to head back to their attendance centers, the cheerleaders led the “GO BIG BLUE” competition. They invited each class to stand up and yell “GO BIG BLUE” to determine who earns bragging rights for being the loudest grade. The pep rally ended with an open invitation for the kids, staff, and community to come to the football game later that night.
The pep rally must have done its job because Bobcat Stadium was packed Friday night with Bobcats both young and old. Thank you Student Council for your hours of planning and preparation for this year’s homecoming festivities. Benton Community is truly a place to belong because our unfair advantage is we are one big family.
**Picture credit: Andrea Townsley, Laurie Donald, Margo Redlinger, and Gary Zittergruen**
On Thursday, August 17th, the Benton Community School District kicked off the 2018-2019 school year with all staff. Each year, this event serves as a great reminder of what makes Benton A Place to Belong.
In our school improvement presentation, we asked teachers to reflect on why they chose Benton. We asked teachers to think about why they continue to choose Benton on a daily basis. Sometimes, we make a choice, and the reason we continue to make the choice differs from our original reason. For example, I chose Benton 7 years ago because people I love chose Benton. Some of my family lives in the district, and I wanted to live closer to them. I wanted them to be an integral part of Carson’s life. I also knew that they had great experiences as Bobcats. I continue to choose Benton each day because my family has grown. No, I haven’t had any more children of my own, but the people that I work with and the students and families I serve have become part of my family.
As teachers reflected on why they continue to make the choice to be at Benton, they had similar responses. Family was a theme throughout the room. Some of the responses teachers shared are listed below.
Throughout the year, we’ll continue to reflect on why Benton remains our choice. Some of these reasons may change and evolve while others might stay the same. Either way, we hope that students and families share some of the same reasons for why they choose Benton today and every day.
Our choices help us remember why we “carry the banner” at Benton CSD. Our core beliefs are what make up the banner that we carry. Throughout the month, we’ll bring you more information about each of the core values/beliefs or pieces of the banner we carry at Benton CSD and how those help make Benton A Place to Belong and provide students with A Quality Education for a LIfetime of Learning.