After being on the road several days Wednesday was a catch up day with meetings and answering messages. February is the time we put budgets together for next year, and work on the school calendar, so we’re all trying to look ahead and make plans for what we will need.
One of the goals for our strategic plan is to develop more opportunities for our younger students to interact with children in the Chamberlain school in the hopes that it will help build friendships for our Native American students who continue on to Chamberlain High School.
Kathleen, our principal, helped me brainstorm about some ideas.
- Could we host an art fair or exhibit that would showcase works from area children?
- When we or one of the other area schools have a speaker or activity that would appeal to youngsters, do we think to invite other schools?
In a time when school resources are stretched, collaboration is one answer. But collaboration has its own rewards as well, particularly breaking down barriers and giving students the chance to know one another. We’ll work to try some activities next year.
Kathleen also shared a project she’s been working on with the student leadership group. They’ve been asked about the qualities of a good teacher, and the traits that get in the way of developing a trusting, working relationship. Fairness, and not playing favorites is at the top of both lists. They don’t expect a teacher to be their best friend, but a smile and sense of humor goes a long way in helping youngsters to feel comfortable. While they didn’t use the word “sarcastic” that was the attitude that best described what turned them off in the classroom.
Aaron, who does most of our videotaping projects, asked me to stop by his office to work on a piece for our historical display. In a section about life on Indian Reservations today, I remarked that while there are a host of social problems, we need to also acknowledge the positive developments.
Since I’m the one who insisted we tell that part of the story, I was elected to talk about tribal colleges, cultural preservation efforts, wildlife conservation and land management. There is still a long way to go, but hopefully our Lakota (Sioux) students will be part of the generation that can turn things around for their tribes and families.
I stopped by Summerlee Home (4th-5th grade girls). We just completed the remodel of their home, and the girls were excited about moving back in, especially the fifth graders, who remembered how it looked last year. I got the grand tour and they made sure to show me how their beauty parlor chair and hair washing sink worked.
I checked in on our thrift store conversion project. Our crew was installing the slat walls around the perimeter and finishing up some wiring. We hope to start moving clothes and other merchandise in a couple of weeks, and open sometime in March. Downtown Chamberlain is getting a new drug store and city hall as well, so we hope it helps keep our small town main street active and vibrant.
We hold case service plans for each of our students twice a year. The student meets with their Family Service Counselor, homeroom teacher, and one of their houseparents to see what areas they are successful in and in what areas they need improvements. Students’ families are invited to take part either in person or via conference call. We work hard to increase parental involvement. Unfortunately, many of our students are at St. Joseph because their parents have not been involved in their education and upbringing.
I sat in on a couple of meetings for two girls, and learned more about their issues and challenges. None of their parents or guardians were able to attend. One came to us after her family wound up in a domestic violence shelter. After six months at St. Joseph’s Indian School, she is starting to rebuild self-confidence and is showing leadership with younger girls in her home.
The second girl has only been here a few weeks, and is way behind her classmates in academics. Her teacher talked of the need for more testing to see what she needs to catch up on so she can move forward. It’s a long process that takes patience on both sides of the desk.
But that’s exactly why we’re here.
The students were also given the chance ahead of time to write down activities in the home or school they enjoy and would like to see more of, as well as concerns they may have.
Though it’s only 25 degrees outside, after school kids still flocked to the basketball courts! After we moved a storage building and put up some temporary goals on the foundation, that has been a draw for the students. The portable goals have been set low enough for fifth graders to dunk, and they showed me some of their best one handed jams as they dreamed of getting a college scholarship or NBA contract some day.
Afterwards, I joined the Cyr Home (4th-5th grade boys) for supper. They had a session at the Rec Center reserved, so as soon as the dishes were washed, the boys crowded the couches and counters to get tomorrow’s home work done. I helped with some spelling and vocabulary words. It’s easy for an adult to give answers to a worksheet, but much harder to get a child to reason out loud and come up with their own conclusions. But that’s what it takes for them to learn.