It is time for afternoon announcements. Good afternoon again brothers and sisters of Turner. As always, we will end our day celebrating successes across the school. First and foremost, shout out to all of our student leaders—you know who you are. You have got caught in the act of demonstrating one of our core values today: respect, cooperation, or integrity. Give yourself a big pat on the back a nice hug or kiss your brains.
When I took over as principal of Turner Elementary School, the school year of 2013-14, I realized very clearly that we had a lot of challenges. We had cohorts of students that demonstrated academic, social-emotional challenges. I had a staff of teachers that had had limited opportunities to develop their capacity and understanding for how to match the needs of students with good practice. And so, in the school year of 2014-15, we had an opportunity to partner with Bank Street and an African-American males pilot program, which were opportunities for not only for our teachers to receive ongoing training and support on strengths-based practices, trauma-informed practices, how to best serve and teach and be responsive to our students, but also sessions for families where families could learn a bit more about their own children. So, our mission at the Center on Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street College of Education is to support organizations in helping them to build the capacity to be more culturally responsive to the needs of the children and the families that they serve. The district itself wanted to look at schools that were in the highest need areas in the city. Turner Elementary School was one of the schools that we worked with and one of the schools that we found to have the greatest systemic change. Prior to participation in the pilot, we really had a deficit approach to provide an intervention and being responsive to students. Our mindset shifted and we began to think more about how can we leverage strengths, how can we make sure that we always hold an empathetic lens, that we’re understanding, that we're responsive, and we do that really by focusing on the adult—looking at changing the attitudes, the dispositions, the skills, and practices that the adults have in working with communities and families. It's not about fixing kids and families, but really looking at changing the mindsets of everyone else. So, I would say that that program experience for me was about learning how to put names to some of the experiences that we have in the classroom and becoming more culturally aware of some of the biases that we have. I think it definitely was a shift in mind state, and I think that that came from, like I was saying, knowing, though knowing the stats and a lot of these teachers are not from this area. A lot of these teachers, if they are from this area, definitely not from this neighborhood so they just see it on the news as opposed to, you know, being told exactly what it's coming from, being told how it's affecting that kid, being told what's gonna happen to that kid in 20 years. That makes it so personal, especially when you have a love for these children even if you, even if you, thought you were the best teacher in the world, you're like, “You know what? There's some things I can tweak to make sure that every kid gets it as opposed to just the kids who come in already happy and already positive.” You have to get that other kid a lot of time. To see students, we just looked at the external, their behavior; you know things we don't like to see unfortunately. But when we change our lens and look for that strengths-based perspective, look for that positivity in that child, we're able to see them from a positive light. We reduce suspensions in our school by sixty percent from that first year to now. We've also been able to neutralize where many of our discipline referrals—this is when a teacher says, “Hey office, I need help. This is a bigger behavior problem than I can handle right now in the classroom.” We've been able to reduce that each year by no less than 20% from those first three years, and over the past couple of years, most of our behavior referrals are from of an increasingly smaller cohort of students. I also noticed teachers reaching out for more support regarding behavior interventions regarding students. So before, it's like maybe an isolated situation but now there there's more collaboration amongst school personnel. So some examples of positive changes are saying our students are happy to walk into the classroom, happy to walk into the school door before they even get down the long haul into the classroom. Parents were like super excited to come in the classroom because their child is telling they really want to be in school. So now that excitement has spilled over to the family. Pilar has definitely helped with bringing a more sense of community within the school and when I say community I mean between teachers, students, and families. Being able to include families and parents and the plans that we come up with and collaborate with them helps us to use a team approach into coming up with solutions for problems that we might have so that everybody does feel included and everybody does feel like the voice is heard. It's participating in the workshop, my relationship with my kid’s teacher has improved greatly. I feel like it's important to have a strong relationship with your child's teacher because he see the teamwork between us, he sees that I'm comfortable so I think it escalated him on the charts—like it made him want to do his best me and his teachers working together to build him up. When I step back and focus on the students’ strengths—so what can you bring, you know, what's he bring to the table, what is he trying to do, what is he looking for? And I'm able to assess that and pull that out of him. I'm able to intervene better as well. African-American male students are valuable and important. I want to see them succeed. it doesn't always have to look like this cylinders or sitting a seat or seven chair type of learning, it can be learning as engaging in many different formats and ways and I think for me, personally, my mindset should allow me to say okay let them learn that where they are and meet them where they are and really, really embrace that process.