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Texas District Creates a Common ‘Language’ with Great Expectations

Northgate Crossing Elementary community rallies around methodology that builds positive atmosphere

Northgate Crossing Elementary School opened in 2008 in Spring, Texas, with more than 700 students. It was the 29th elementary school in the district, but Northgate stood out for all the right reasons in the community and state after its first year.

Amy Elkins was fresh out of college when she began at Northgate Crossing Elementary School as a third grade teacher. When the principal told her they were going to be a Great Expectations school and she had to attend summer training, she didn’t know what to expect. Elkins wondered why she was attending more training since she learned everything she needed to know in college. She’d soon find out.

A Common Language
The summer before the school opened, the whole Northgate staff attended a four-day Great Expectations methodology training. Although skeptical at first, Elkins began implementing the best practices that fall and saw miraculous results.

“Great Expectations gave the school a common language,” said Elkins. “No matter where you went, everyone was treating the students with respect, and everyone was referring to the life principles. It made for a seamless beginning of the year because expectations were already established, for both the staff and students.”

No Work, No Money
One thing Elkins was sure of when she graduated from college was that she would be doing assertive discipline in her classroom. From her student teaching, she learned that if a student acted out once, there would be a small punishment. The second time would get a larger punishment, and so on. What Amy wasn’t prepared for was how Great Expectations would change that approach.

“If I hadn’t gone though the methodology courses, that is what I would have done,” said Elkins. “That isn’t preparing kids for life, that isn’t responsible.”

With Great Expectations, Northgate Crossing educators don’t discipline through fear or humiliation. They do it through setting procedures, being consistent and demonstrating respect.

Another aspect is the academic component. Elkins’ classroom has a motto: “No bees, no honey, no work, no money,” meaning that if you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the reward. If she sees her students getting off task from the task at hand, Elkins will have her students repeat this mantra back to her. Therefore, without having a negative reaction towards discipline, the students get back to work.

Teacher of the Year
A few years ago, Northgate Crossing’s administration changed and the future of the Great Expectations program was unknown. It came down to a forum, one with the staff and one with the parents. The message at both was clear: they wanted to keep GE.

“We always get the same comment: ‘It just feels different, there is a good feeling here,’” said Elkins. “I completely believe that is because of Great Expectations. We have a positive atmosphere. The halls are quiet, it’s calm, people are treated with respect, and it creates a great atmosphere.”

Elkins is now a GE instructor. Over the summer, she teaches other educators the GE methodology and real life application of the seventeen practices. Now in her seventh year of teaching, Elkins was named Northgate Crossing’s Teacher of the Year.

Elkins attributes much of her success in the classroom to GE. “Great Expectations is who we are and if we lost that, then we would be losing the heart of our school,” said Elkins.