Administrator’s Corner: School is not just about reading, math

Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

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Administrator’s Corner by Nicky Severtson

The beginning of the school year is always an exhilarating time when students and staff come back and reconnect with each other. Students are happy to see their friends and eager to share what they did over the summer break with staff. It has been an exciting start to the 2022-23 school year at Sibley Elementary as we re-establish relationships and build a community of trust and safety.

Sibley Elementary School, along with all of Albert Lea Area Schools, is committed to providing high-quality instruction and support to promote academic achievement and the social-emotional well-being of all students. To reach this goal, a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework is used to maximize the success of all students.

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MTSS is an educational framework used to determine if a student is responding to classroom instruction and progressing as expected both academically and socially. It is used in schools to provide well-designed instruction, closely monitor all students’ progress and provide additional instructional support to all students.

High Reliability Schools Level 1 focuses on providing a safe, supportive and collaborative culture for our students. With this in mind, we have been intentional at building a community and establishing structure and routines in our classrooms that will help students be successful all year long. A few of the ways we’ve established a community is through morning meetings, closing circles, incorporating school-wide behavior expectations, implementing Sibley buddies and teaching social-emotional learning and activities throughout our day. 

Each morning at Sibley Elementary, students gather as a class in a circle to hold a morning meeting. This is where they greet one another by name, share something about themselves, engage in a fun cooperative activity together and read a message that highlights something they will be doing that day. At the end of each day, students come back to the circle to reflect on their day and have closure. This cornerstone on students’ social-emotional well being is so important for building a classroom community and sense of belonging.

Students are also learning what it means to show Tiger Pride: CARES (Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy and Self Control), our school wide behavior expectations. This promotes social and emotional learning in the classroom. CARES helps students understand ways to be respectful and breaks positive behaviors down into kid-friendly social skills/terms. Students understand the necessary social skills behind being a respectful student, classmate and friend. 

Another fantastic activity we have is the Sibley Buddy Program. Each week upper elementary students from one classroom are paired with younger students from another classroom. This helps to promote friendships, behavior and social needs while fostering a greater sense of belonging in a more inclusive school community. 

Our fifth-grade students participated in a high energy day of gaining tools necessary to develop empathy and promote kindness. At the Kindness Retreat students were empowered to be everyday heroes. The day was surrounded by understanding why and how to make kind choices, enhancing empathy skills to understand how words and actions affect others and developing conflict-resolution strategies that can be used in response to unkind actions. 

In supporting our social-emotional learning, we use a research-based program titled Second Step to teach all of these critical skills. The four areas that students learn about are Skills for Learning, Empathy, Emotion Management and Problem Solving. Second Step lessons are delivered by our school counselor with extension activities taught throughout the week from classroom teachers. Our morning announcements and monthly assemblies spotlight the social skill that is being taught. 

We want your child to be as successful as possible at school. Success in school is not just about reading and math. It is also about knowing how to learn and how to get along with others. 

Growing together; every learner, every day.

Nicky Severtson is principal of Sibley Elementary School.