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Here are the ways educators and community members ‘do school’

9:52 am October 21st, 2013

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"The critical importance of reading skills cannot be emphasized enough," says Krestin Bahr, Eatonville School District's superintendent.

“The critical importance of reading skills cannot be emphasized enough,” says Krestin Bahr, Eatonville School District’s superintendent.

y Krestin Bahr
As this is homecoming month for our Eatonville School District, I wonder what we do as educators and community members to make this the time that students solidify their routines and ways of thinking/behaving. In other words how do they “do school?”
Our goal is that students are safe and healthy in learning environments that allow them to be successful in school and beyond. How do we help children develop lifelong habits of mind and practice? We know that research says that explicit teaching and encouraging success, while allowing failures to be viewed as lessons and crucial to learning, is the optimal way to teach. Fall is the time for making connections and relationships and to come together around learning. The frantic purchasing of clothing and school supplies is over, and a routine begins.
Multiplication and subtraction. What does nature have to do with mathematics?
As a child and a grown up, I have long been fascinated by fall and the colors that paint the trees with yellow, orange and red. How does this happen? Why are some years so brilliant and others less so?
A science lesson for this month reveals that the color yellow always exists in the green leaves. Carotene, the same pigment in carrots and egg yolks, are present in leaves all summer long. The green Chlorophyll in the leaves bleaches out after the first cold chill to result in the remaining gold color. The new tints we see are not new at all, they are colors that have been there all the time.
Reds, however are caused by addition, the inclusion of something that was not present in the leaf before. These are called anthocyanins – the cell sap pigments. These pigments are carried in the sap of the tree. Wherever the sunlight hits the leaves or fruits like apples, the colors occur. This is a genetic tendency so apples that remain green have no anthocyanins.
Hmm … addition or subtraction.
Red: Something new that circulates throughout the organism and reacts with sunlight to make a vivid color. Or;
Yellow: The discovery through subtraction that something brilliant was already there. Perhaps the orange trees have both addition and subtraction: it does not always cancel each other out.
Our goal has been to define our educational goals for Eatonville schools in terms of this. Our constant quest is to determine how we ensure that, as professionals, we help children discover and nurture their talents. We encourage all students to try to add new skill sets so they will be able to react/survive and grow in the world. As a school district we help them discover the attributes that have always been there, and then seek to add on specific skills and knowledge that need to be developed and improved.
This 2013-14 school year, we have established clear benchmarks for student achievement. These are indicators of educational health; in other words if your child meets these standards, they will be on the road to being a successful graduate. I addressed the first benchmark last month as part of our all-day kindergarten program.
The second benchmark is to look at our entire third and fourth grade students. Our goal for Eatonville children is to have 100 percent of all of our third and fourth-graders at grade level. This is a lofty goal, yet I am committed to this focus. It is the right thing to do and Eatonville schools, with community support, are the right place to tackle this national issue.
Research indicates that students who have met their grade level standard in third grade will have increased success throughout their school years. This does not mean that all children learn to read at the same time, or that all read with equal proficiency. It is an indicator that we can use to determine who might need more assistance or help to succeed.
The critical importance of reading skills cannot be emphasized enough. How can you support your child in the elementary grades? Consider these tips, courtesy of the Pierce County Library System:
1. Spend at least 10 wildly happy minutes reading aloud to your child every single day.
2. Read aloud with animation and listen to your child read to you with different voices. Have fun and laugh a lot.
3. Read with joy and enjoyment: enjoyment for yourself as a role model and great joy for the listeners.
4. Read the stories that kids love over and over again. Yes, this builds their understanding although it may drive you nuts. Repetition is a powerful learning tool, especially in creating patterns in young readers brains by hearing the words and meanings in your voice.
5. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them about pictures, words, or sing any old song that you can remember. This is what makes nursery rhymes and songs embedded in our minds.
6. Look for ways to make books come alive by talking with your child about their thinking around the story. Ask questions that allow your child to think about different ending or cause and effect. Have fun with their imagination.
7. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books. Keep it fun. If you do not read yourself, start the habit up.
8. Please read aloud and silently every day, moms and dads and grandparents, just because you love being with your child or grandchild, not because it is the right thing to do.

Krestin Bahr is superintendent of the Eatonville School District.

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