Sangre Ridge benefiting from new direction, mutual respect, personal accountability
as reported by The Stillwater News Press
Great things are expected at Sangre Ridge Elementary now that they are a Great Expectations school. Nearly all of their teachers received fourdays of professional development Great Expectations training this summer to learn the common language and classroom practices that are now used throughout the building.
“The training was rejuvenating,” said second- grade teacher Wendy Lantz. “It brings back the feelings of my love of teaching and why I started in the first place.”
Fourth-grade teacher Susan Coltharp said the training was great because “it built camaraderie and trust between us. Teachers are more respectful toward each other.”
Gay Washington, assistant superintendent of educational services for Stillwater Public Schools adopted Great Expectations in 2001 when she was a principal at Richmond Elementary.
“Great Expectations is really about teaching expectations that lead to positive behavior,” Washington said. “The philosophy is to teach what you expect, reinforce what you expect and then allow for re-teaching.”
After only seven days of school, Coltharp said she is already seeing a difference.
“The hallways are quiet,” Coltharp said. “Students walk with a zero level so they don’t disturb other instruction.”
Some of the 17 practices include educators modeling the expected behaviors and attitudes, students standing and speaking in complete sentences when answering a question and The Magic Triad, which encourages educators to offer kind words, a smile and a gentle touch.
Sangre Ridge adopted a school creed. Students stand and recite the following.
“I am a Sangre Ridgerunner … BEEP, BEEP! I will be kinder than necessary. Expect the best from everyone but most of all expect the best from me. Expand my efforts through hard work to get smarter. Practice responsibility because my choices today shape my future. I WILL succeed. I HAVE pride. I AM a Sangre Ridgerunner … BEEP, BEEP!”
“I think that GE teaches to the whole child, not just the academic side,” Lantz said. “I’ve noticed kids on the playground are interacting more respectfully.”
Betty Flurry, an instructional coach for Oklahoma-based Great Expectations, works with the Stillwater schools, who spent $500 per person for the training.
“Great Expectations is about holding yourself to a higher standard than anyone else expects of you,” Flurry said. “I think that is something parents would want of their children.”
Teachers work to implement 17 classroom practices and six tenets into their instruction each day.
Great Expectations provides onsite monthly trainings to assist.
Flurry said Sangre Ridge staff should expect to see a decline in student referrals and absenteeism.
Sangre Ridge Principal Ryan Blake said the training has been great for educators.
“Instead of hearing (a teacher tell a student) ‘stop that,’ you might here, ‘Boy, I sure like the way you are walking today,’” Blake said.
He said it is a subtle but a positive change.
Support staff at the school received a half day of training to learn the common language so they could be on the same page.
Teachers model positive behavior and in turn, kids do the same for other kids, Blake said.
“Schools have a tremendous responsibility,” Blake said. “Most would agree they want their kids to have strong character and have a good value base.”
He said GE does that by teaching students skills like speaking well and looking others in the eye.
Sangre Ridge has been working for three years to implement Great Expectations practices at the school.
“Without the support of Dr. Washington, it would have been much harder to make this happen,” Blake said. “It is great knowing we have support downtown and from the board.”
Washington said many teachers throughout the district have received Great Expectations training and use those practices in their classrooms.
“It is probably some of the best training you can do as a whole staff because it puts you on the same page,” Washington said.
Fourth-grader Carter Wilfong follows Great Expectations practices by standing to answer a question from teacher Susan Coltharp during Monday’s class at Sangre Ridge Elementary in Stillwater.
Stillwater Middle School adopted Great Expectations practices last school year and Richmond Elementary has been using them continuously since 2001.
“I believe GE is a positive program worth investing in,” said Stillwater Middle School Principal Cathy Walker. “I think it has had a positive impact on our students and our teachers in how we treat each other. It has truly elevated the level of respect in the building.”
Walker said one reason the middle school adopted Great Expectations was because of the Great Expectations instruction Richmond Elementary students received.
“Their level of confidence and ability to communicate was higher than student at other schools,” Walker said. “We wanted to foster a positive learning environment for all of our students to meet their academic goals.”
Blake and a team from Richmond Elementary went to a Great Expectations model school in Edmond to observe how Great Expectations worked there.
“We were able to debrief afterward and talk about the differences between the model school in Edmond and Richmond, what worked for us,” said Richmond Elementary Principal Kendra Rider. “All of our schools have their own special culture and utilize their own form of community building but at Richmond we have common procedures and expectations for academics and behavior PreKfifth.”
Rider said Great Expectations builds a sense of community and pride for students.
“Our students internalize life principles and apply beyond the school walls,” she said. “Students learn life principles such as service, responsibility, respect and self-discipline.”
Rider thinks those benefits will be felt by Sangre Ridge students.
“Providing consistency with common language and procedures schoolwide will truly change their culture,” she said.
Blake agrees and said, “I’m so excited that the staff has bought in. I want parents to celebrate the success of their kids. This is good for kids.”