Schools Should Start with Why

It makes what we do more effective

Starting with What

Public schools are quite proficient at communicating “what” they do. By way of example, when addressing the achievement gap, public schools commonly communicate the new program being implemented e.g. the new position created as a result of the new program, the new acronyms, the materials etc.  Magically, everyone feels better about the achievement gap because something now exists that describes “what” we do to support children.  Public schools are great at head counts.

In my view, however, programs rarely qualify as substantive, effective long-term solutions because programs do not implement themselves.  A human implements the program—a human with a heart.  We need more heart counts.

Starting with Why

I began teaching in 1984.  In the day, there was a lot of discussion about teaching diversity and tolerance.  Ola Joseph says: “Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.”  I love that.  Regarding tolerance, I’ve always felt a better approach to making connections with others is love.  Tolerance doesn’t require anyone to do anything. Tolerance makes a superficial connection with differences.  Love is different. Love requires actionLove creates an emotional connection with someone else’s humanity.

Do you remember your favorite teacher from your childhood?  As an educational consultant I’ve begun a number of workshops for educators by asking that question.  I follow up by asking, “What did your teacher look like?”  Almost to a person, the response is the same.

She smiled.

I witnessed a great example of this the other day at Greenvale Park.  Students were getting ready to work with partners.  In the corner of the classroom one child was sitting on the floor, arms wrapped around the legs, forehead pressed against the knees, agonizing about something.  The teacher (a smiler:-) slowly approached and sat on her knees next to the child.  They spoke in quiet voices.  A moment later the teacher rose and smiled.  A few moments beyond that the child rose and found a partner.

Here’s how it might have looked without the emotional connection.

Screenshot 2016-03-30 14.13.12

Smiles create an emotional connection. Try smiling while at the same time yelling as if you are angry.  IMPOSSIBLE!  Smiles communicate genuine empathy.  Your favorite teacher growing up was your favorite teacher because the smile rang true.  The smile made you feel loved.

At Greenvale Park we believe every heart counts.  We water the seedbed of the human spirit by teaching children how to make emotional connections with others.  We accomplish this by modeling empathy with a smile.  We are also intentional about teaching life skills that empower others as well as ourselves.

At Greenvale Park, we believe every heart counts.  It’s why we do what we dosmile

Site Council Belief Statement:

In order for the whole child to learn, a child’s basic needs of security, love, and sense of belonging must be met. Then positive adult-child relationships can develop and enrich a child’s emotional/social intelligence. When this occurs, engaged academic learning can take place using appropriate resources and differentiated instruction.

About Greenvale Park:

Greenvale Park Elementary School is located in an established neighborhood near St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Greenvale Park opened in 1971 as an open school for grades one through six.

Desk in classroomWith an enrollment of approximately 500 students, Greenvale Park faculty and staff have the privilege to serve children and families from a variety of backgrounds.

Greenvale Park is a Title I funded K-5 elementary school.  We are home to a number of programs. In the fall of 2014, our kindergarten program started serving all children all day. Families who wish to have their children participate in kindergarten on a half day basis may do so if they are able to provide their own mid-day transportation home.  In the fall of 2014, Greenvale Park also became home to the district’s DCD program.

We offer two philosophical approaches to classroom instruction:

  1. Our Contemporary program is rooted in tradition yet is always evolving through educational innovations. Students acquire skills in the core areas of literacy, math, science, social studies and health.  A combination of whole group, flexible group, and individualized instruction are utilized to meet the instructional needs of each student at their instructional level.  For more information about our Contemporary Program click here!
  1. The Compañeros program is a two-way dual immersion setting in which students in grades 1-5 learn to speak, read, write, and listen in both English and Spanish.  Literacy instruction is split evenly between English and Spanish.  Math is also taught in Spanish.  Science, Social Studies, Health, Specials, Recess, and Lunch occur primarily in English.  Children are not automatically enrolled in the Compañeros program.  Compañeros enrollment is based on a lottery. Parents need to choose the program for their children.  For more information about our Compañeros Program click here!

Regardless of the philosophical approach, it is our aim to equip children with the qualities and capacities required to cope with an ever changing, fast paced, technologically advanced world of the future.

Northfield elementary school curriculum overviews can be found on the district’s curriculum and staff development web page.  

Greenvale Park Elementary School • 700 Lincoln Parkway • Northfield, MN 55057 • p 507.645.3500 • f 507.645.3505 • gvpinfo@northfieldschools.org