For the past 20 years, the Sharon Baptist Head Start educational approach has been based on the Creative Curriculum model. We pride ourselves on being an agency that provides a culturally, socially, and emotionally responsive environment. Creative Curriculum guides our practice in helping us to understand and respect that children have individual differences that must be taken into account in order for them to learn most effectively. It shows staff how to teach with intention and responsiveness. The curriculum directs our strategizing in creating classroom layouts, routines, and practices that positively affect children on a social-emotional level. Our staff works diligently to build secure relationships with each child and parent and to instill a positive, healthy classroom community where each child and family “has a voice.” We guide children’s behavior by using a variety of appropriate strategies/techniques such as redirecting negative behavior, offering choices, and engaging children in positively stated rule-making, and teaching children how to resolve conflicts with peers. We also take into account each family’s belief structure, cultural practices, and we value their traditions. Parents are actively encouraged to visit the classroom to share their traditions, beliefs, and culture with all of the children and staff.
At Sharon Baptist Head Start, our approach to dual-language learners is to respect each child’s home/dominant language and to encourage the continuance of developing that language while also learning English as a second language in school. Because the greater majority of our children speak English or Spanish, each of our classrooms has at least one teacher or assistant teacher who speaks both Spanish and English. Additionally, we have staff members who speak other languages as well including French, Twi, Gaa, Haitian Creole, and Garifuna. Common classroom objects and toys are labeled in each language spoken by the children in every classroom and books are made available in appropriate languages. Developmental screenings are also conducted in each child’s home language, if feasible. Translators are utilized otherwise if needed.
In the summer of 2015, Sharon Baptist Head Start began a journey that we predicted to be a paradigm/idea shift within our agency. Each staff member, custodians, cooks, education, and social services staff members and administrators participated in a 4-day training called Conscious Discipline. We learned how school climate impacts all achievement. The culture of a school can foster bullying, blame, and cliques. Or it can build cooperation, willingness, and responsibility in adults as well as children.
Conscious Discipline says, “Historically, we have unconsciously used the metaphor of a factory when creating our classrooms and schools. The goal of a factory is to create standardized products through a rewards and punishment paradigm. Research and experience prove that we need a new metaphor if we wish to build successful and safe educational institutions.”
With this information and much more at the end of the 4th day, Sharon Baptist Head Start staff went about creating a “School Family.” The goal of a School Family builds connections between families and schools, teachers and teachers, teachers and students, and students and students to ensure the optimal development of all.
These connections provide the three essential ingredients for school success:
- A willingness to learn: Without willingness, each interaction becomes a power struggle instead of a learning opportunity. The School Family brings all children, especially the most difficult, to a place of willingness through a sense of belonging.
- Impulse control: Connection with others is the construct that literally wires the brain for impulse control. Disconnected children are disruptive and prone to aggressive or bullying behaviors. External reward/punishment systems cannot improve a child’s ability to self-regulate because they are not designed to teach new skills. The School Family uses a connection to encourage impulse control while teaching self-regulation skills in context.
- Attention: Our attentional system is sensitive to stress and becomes engaged with positive emotions. The School Family reduces stress while creating an atmosphere of caring, encouragement, and meaningful contributions. These components are essential for children to develop and apply sustained attention.
The School Family is created through routines, rituals, and structures.
The School Family creates a fundamental shift in education and classroom management. Leave coercion, fear, and external rewards behind and step into the world where intrinsic motivation, helpfulness, problem-solving, and connection govern your classroom.
For additional inquiries, please give us a call at 718-466-1604. We would be happy to speak with you today.