GREAT BEND Carthage Central elementary school teachers soon will implement a new way of teaching that involves students in the learning process.
Carthage Elementary Principal Jennifer L. Vail showed a short promotional video of Responsive Classroom during Mondays Carthage Central School District board meeting, highlighting that the method, which combines social and academic activities, will be added to support the Dignity for All Students Act.
What it does is help students be responsible and kind to each other, she said. Responsive Classroom teaches what to look for (in bullying) in a way a child will understand.
Classes all start with a morning meeting where the teacher and students gather to discuss daily goals. Teachers are told to use positive language while teaching. Students help to build classroom rules, and if a rule is broken, the punishment is one that preserves the childs dignity.
Mrs. Vail said that, for example, if a child wrote on a desk, he would have to get a sponge and wipe it off.
Mrs. Vail has 15 years of experience with the method.
I started it during my first year as principal in Dryden, New York, she said.
Five years ago, loose teacher training began at some of the Carthage elementary schools but was not mandatory. However, Mrs. Vail began to see a difference in the way students acted toward one another and faculty.
The effects weve had in the classroom is just amazing, the difference in culture, she said. You can feel the difference in the building.
Officials from the Watertown City School District and South Jefferson Central School District can attest to this. Both districts have implemented Responsive Classroom.
Its a classroom management system that takes into consideration a lot of positive praise from the teacher, said Irene V. Wilson, principal of North Elementary School, Watertown.
Watertown Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said the program has gone on for years and years at the district.
Mrs. Wilson said she has noticed children have become more excited about school because they feel as if they are a part of a group. Attendance has improved and so have grades.
Its like coming home to your family, she said.
South Jefferson has finished implementing its first year of the program, according to Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Denny. Training began last August.
She said the school has just started collecting data, so she does not know whether grades and attendance have gone up. However, she said, she received positive comments from a lot of teachers, students and parents.
Students who were new to the district were able to adjust quicker than they have in the past because of the morning meetings, she said. Anecdotally, I would say we had a lot of positives in the past year.
Most of the teachers at Carthage Elementary will be trained by the end of the 2012-13 school year. In the next three years, all teachers and faculty will be able to inject Responsive Classroom into daily classroom activities and student interaction.
I hate to be a zealot, but Im kind of a zealot about it, Mrs. Vail said. You never hear anyone who says this hasnt had an impact on the children or the families.