Coleman Elementary has been nominated for national recognition, based on the efforts of its faculty to capture the hearts of their students.
The Flippen Group, led by Flip Flippen, founder of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts initiative, has named the campus a finalist in the selection process for the 2017-2018 National Showcase Schools Award for the dedication of administration and staff in making their school a place where trust, respect and caring relationships flourish.
The Capturing Kids’ Hearts initiative, built on the concept that “if you have a child’s heart, you have a child’s mind,” is in its second year of implementation on all CISD campuses. Establishing healthy bonds between teachers and students and collaborative agreements of acceptable behavior, including social contracts developed by both the teacher and students clarifying classroom expectations, are among the tools in use.
“You just don’t know what goes on in these kids’ lives until you build these relationships,” Coleman Principal Marla Roth said. “Through our implementation of Capturing Kids’ Hearts, I think our kids feel comfortable with our staff. But it’s been a gradual process.”
“Last year, when we introduced this, I wanted every child greeted at the classroom door by their teacher and a social contract established,” Roth said. “This year, we have expanded the initiative and are seeing great success and great response from our students.”
Roth said she first learned about the National Showcase School Award during a training visit to her school by a Flippen representative.
“I thought my school could achieve that recognition,” she said. “I asked my staff at the start of this school year if we wanted to make this a goal and they all said yes. I really felt at some point we would be considered for the nomination process, but when Mr. Flippen said he was calling our school because we were the ‘best of the best,’ I was beyond excited.”
From the sharing of “good things” happening in their lives, to a “launch” at the end of the day in which a student leads a discussion on what has been learned, or a quote or character concept that has inspired them--made them think—Coleman Colts are beginning and ending the school day on a positive note and are more engaged in the learning process.
Teachers, at Coleman and around the district, are also using the four-question model: “what am I doing; what am I supposed to be doing; am I doing it; what am I going to do about it?” which has students examining and often self-managing their behavior.
Kenny Rigoulot, the father of two Coleman students and a volunteer at the campus, believes Capturing Kids’ Hearts has had a great impact.
“I’ve seen teachers welcome students by name—not just their students, but those in other classes and grades,” Rigoulot said. “I feel the students know they are in a safe place where they are taught and educated--and they matter. The kids feel welcomed for who they are. As a volunteer mentor, the teachers encourage me in my work with students and the value of my sharing with them good news, as well as concerns. They obviously care about our students, as persons.”
Rigoulot has also heard from his own Coleman Colts of the use of the social contract and other CKH concepts in their classrooms.
“My kids came home telling me about the social contract they made at the first of the year, the commitment they chose to make, and how everyone is held to it. I think that, and the other initiatives relating to self-discipline and self-expectations have been very positive. I feel the kids can use these strategies with each other as gentle reminders, rather than tattling to the teacher.”
Fifth grader Britten Jones can attest to the value of the social contract and what it means in his classroom.
“The social contract is like something to help you follow the rules,” he said. “It helps you stay on track and not be mean to each other. A couple of the words we have in our social contract are like the Golden Rule and also to keep your hands and feet to yourself. I like it—it’s cool. We don’t fight with each other like we used to.”
Classmate Morgan Lanum likes just about everything that has been inspired by Capturing Kids’ Hearts.
“We try to be respectful of each other,” she said. “We are greeted at the door, told ‘good morning,’ and talk about good things. We share if we got a puppy, new shoes—stuff like that. If I was a new kid, and didn’t know anyone, that sharing of good news would help me learn more about everybody. I really like it when people share that they got a dog—I’m a dog person.”
Each day one student is designated as the Classroom Ambassador and charged with welcoming any visitors who may stop by. The Ambassador also invites the guest to read and sign the posted social contract.
Fifth grade science teacher Amy Moses, who is in her tenth year at the campus, believes Coleman’s use of the CKH initiative has given students a sense of belonging.
“I use the social contract and the greeting in my classroom,” she said. “But I don’t shake their hands—I hug. My students come in with a smile and are eager to share good things to start out the day. I love that.”
“At our campus, I think this has given students a sense of belonging,” Moses said. “They know someone cares beyond their academics. When you use Capturing Kids’ Hearts in establishing those relationships and connections, the students want to do good things to please their teachers. I still hear from kids I had last year. They tell me how they are doing in sixth grade, how their grades are going. The relationships we are establishing can be that strong.”
As a Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School nominee, Coleman will undergo a site visit in the spring to let Flippen evaluators to see for themselves the level of implementation of the CKH processes. The evaluation will also be based on survey results and campus data reflecting the impact of the program on attendance, discipline, academics and school climate and culture.
Moses believes her school will pass “inspection” with flying colors.
“We would not be where we are with CKH if it wasn’t for the leadership on this campus,” she said. “I feel this program has also impacted the relationship between staff and administration. Our administrators want to know how we are doing, and we feel comfortable sharing and discussing. I think that’s been the key in building relationships in our classrooms and as a campus. Our administrators have inspired us and we in turn are inspiring our students.”
Roth relates and credits Capturing Kids’ Hearts, and the buy-in, the way it has been adopted by her staff, to the many positives taking place at her school.
“Last year, we used the social contract as more of a discipline-type thing,” she said. “This year, we are using the social contract for the positives it incites. Students can be nominated for the Coleman Character Award for being helpful to others, being respectful, caring, showing responsibility. It’s more about the positive, than the punitive.”
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see our staff embrace Capturing Kids’ Hearts—to take it and run with it,” Roth said. “We feel and see a difference in our students and staff because we have all embraced the process. That’s why it has worked so well, and we can see the success it has made.”
“I hear parents all the time say there’s a difference here,” she said. “Instead of an expectation, Capturing Kids’ Hearts is now a natural part of what we are doing every day. And we are building on what we’ve got. You can call it a program or a process, but really it’s about loving kids and building relationships.”
“It’s made things better here,” fifth grader Britten Jones said. “I really like to come to school.”
Coleman Elementary Principal Marla Roth signs the social contract stating the classroom expectations developed by Rhonda Day and her fifth grade students at the invitation of Classroom Ambassador Katie Ryder. Coleman has been named a finalist in the national Showcase School Awards for the level of implementation of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program at the campus.
The sharing of good news by students, and often the teacher, starts the day in Coleman classrooms. The day ends with a "launch,"as a student leads a discussion on something learned or "food for thought" as the head home.
Questions, quotes and challenges line the walls of Rhonda Day's fifth grade classroom that engage students in the learning process.