North Bolivar looks at implementing new teaching style Featured

"Learning is a social experience. None of us learn anything in isolation," said Mound Bayou native, educator and director of Center for Responsive Schools Lora Hodges.

Hodges introduced a new program essential for teachers and students in elementary and middle school that the North Bolivar Consolidated School District is interested in implementing.

Hodges gave an overview of Responsive Classroom, an evidence-based approach to teaching, to the board of trustees earlier this week.

It focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management and development awareness.

Superintendent Maurice Smith, along with principals and a few teachers from the North Bolivar elementary and middle schools, traveled to Boston, MA, to attend a leadership conference to get training and learn more about Responsive Classroom.

The program and travel were funded by the Bell Foundation, a foundation established by a group of siblings looking to improve education.

One of the sibling's children attends a school where the students use the Responsive Classroom approach, and after discovering how effective the program works, the Bell family decided to fund the program at other schools.

Smith referred to the program as a "new way of operating how you set the culture in the classroom and how teachers, administrators and students talk to each other.

"One of the first things I heard when I came back to the district was that we need to work on how teachers talk to students and how students talk to teachers, and this program has a part of that," Smith said.

The program consists of practices and strategies teachers and administrators are taught that help build academic and social-emotional competencies.

Hodges explained Responsive Classroom has six guiding principals that include teaching social and emotional skills.

“How we teach is as important as what we teach and great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction,” Hodges explained.

"Cognitive growth is about that growth you can measure. It's about how you see growth in students from math and language arts from year to year, and if we empower teachers to be able to manage movement and manage interactive learning, that is the kind of learning you get the greatest cognitive growth from."

The other guiding principals include: what to know and believe about students; how to work together; and partnering with families.

"We really do help to build teachers, and our approach and our practices really are around those six guiding principles," Hodges said.

Hodges also introduced the board to a learning tool called Kaleidoscope that helps the teachers inside the classroom through online video training.

Although the Responsive Classroom approach is centered on the elementary and middle school level, the practices are essential for all teachers, administrators and students.

Smith said the principals and teachers were excited about the program and that one principal had immediately started using the practices she learned during the conference.

"That one energetic principal who started using it said the Responsive Classroom approach really works. How you talk to people and having a process for improvement really makes a difference," Smith said.

"The principals and the teachers that attended are elated, and we are looking forward to making a difference in the district."

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