Guest post: Changing classroom culture at Parker
NOTE: Grants from the Community Foundation and the AT&T Foundation funded the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program at A.H. Parker High School. The Community Foundation grant is part of on-going work with the Birmingham Education Foundation (BEF), which grew out of the Community Foundation’s Yes We Can! Birmingham initiative. Victoria Hollis, program specialist with BEF, wrote this guest post about the results.
“I won’t tell you what to expect,” A.H. Parker High School Principal Cedrick Tatum says as he opens the door to Ms. Sandra Weems’ 9th grade social-studies class. “I’ll just let you see it for yourself.”
I am at Parker to learn about the schoolwide transformational process, Capturing Kids’ Hearts, which Tatum has initiated at the school. Capturing Kids’ Hearts (CKH) is a nationwide leadership training program that is designed to “change the culture” at a school by altering the ways students, teachers and administrators relate to each other, especially in matters pertaining to discipline and classroom conduct.
Teachers undergo a series of skills-driven sessions that instruct them on how to implement processes such as the Flippen EXCEL model into their classrooms. To date, approximately 75 percent of the teachers at Parker have undergone the training, and Tatum expects that number to rise to 90 percent by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
In his view, Ms. Weems’ is an ideal classroom, and she is one of the school’s “process champions,” a teacher whose CKH process implementation has been most successful and who acts as a mentor to other teachers.
“Welcome to our class. Can I invite you to read and sign our social contract?” Christian McIntosh approaches me as soon as I enter the room. As the designated ambassador for Ms. Weems’ class, he greets everyone who comes into the classroom and asks them to sign the social contract, to commit to observing and abiding by the classroom’s self-designed rules.
Items on the contract include “Use good grammar,” “Respect personal space and property,” and “No put downs,” an item that Tatum says is important to the authentic application of CKH. Students who put another student down, whether with words or laughter at another’s failure, may have a “foul” called by another class member and be required to complete two “put ups” in atonement.
This is an example of a self-managing classroom, one of the outcomes of successful CKH implementation. Tatum says the entire school is calmer and quieter now, with fewer disciplinary complaints from the teachers practicing the new design.
“We want to foster an environment where the kids are performing because they respect the people who are here teaching them,” he adds. “We have the ability to be one of the highest performing schools in the district.”
You can learn more about Capturing Kids’ Hearts at the Flippen Group or find out more about BEF, created as a result of the Yes We Can! Birmingham initiative of the Community Foundation. Together we are working on an important Result that our community wants for itself: Children are successful along the education pipeline.