By Megan Sando Transcript Staff Writer
What does a flock of geese have to do with educating young minds? A group of teachers discovered the answer during a call and response exercise Friday at Reagan Elementary School during a Great Expectations program.
A flock of geese has a naturally supportive essence. Geese behavior can teach people about how to have each other’s back, Madison Elementary music teacher Emily Richardson said.
“We were doing a recitation activity where we were connecting a poem, a prose or a piece of writing to character development and building a moral compass in our kids,” Richardson said.
The Great Expectations program, which includes 17 teaching practices, was founded in the early ‘90s by Ponca City native and insurance salesman Charlie Hollar. When he retired at 55, he set out to change the culture of public schools. Great Expectations spread throughout the state and continues to expand in the Midwest following his death in 2011.
Great Expectations “provides intensive professional training to teachers and administrators that promotes improved student self-esteem, attendance, discipline and parent participation — all of which result in improved student achievement,” according to the program’s website.
Great Expectations is in four elementary schools: Reagan, Kennedy, Roosevelt and Madison, said Toni Shamley, Great Expectations instructional coach for Norman Public Schools.
As word spread of the changes and the positive attitudes coming from Norman teachers and students, she said others schools wanted to join Great Expectations. Teachers can attend at no extra cost to the school district through scholarships and grant funding.
The program reached teachers in Norman two years ago, but Oklahoma City school districts are measuring the program results. Its elementary school districts reported that Great Expectation schools increased average reading scores by 17 percent on the state-monitored Academic Performance Index.
In the same study, schools labeled “Model Schools” of the program see long-term suspensions diminished.
During the four-day program training last week, everyone was involved on a volunteer basis, from the principal to staff assisting special education students.
“The Great Expectations practices are a compilation of good teaching practices,” Richardson said. “We work out how it pertains to our school, our students and our classrooms.”
Richardson has the opportunity to see all Madison students at least three times a week. She said her students are going to love what literature she brings to them.
“It is really opening my eyes to finding quality literature, whether it be a book or a poem or a quote, and exposing my students to that and then relating it to their lives,” Richardson said. “You know, what does this tell us about how to treat one another, how to take care of one another and how to take care of ourselves?”