I was recently talking with one of our Juniors who has attended Humanex for the past three years about his transformation and growth since beginning at our school. His insight around his own personal growth and progress over the past few years was spot-on and directly related to the mission and vision we have set as a staff.
The student’s first comments were about the support he receives from every teacher in the building and the positive relationships that he has cultivated with staff and peers. He also focused on the flexibility of the curriculum, non-time bound calendar system, the individualized approach that teachers take when working with each student, as well as the availability of counseling support by our full time Psychologist, Dr. Tom and the counseling interns from the University of Denver.
It is a part of our vision to provide a structured and individualized approach to learning for students who learn in a variety of ways in order to meet each student where they are at and in a way that they can best access the curriculum. Promoting this through school-wide programs and involving students in discussion about school culture and vision, goes a long way to keep these ideas as the main focus for both staff and students. Linton and Davis (2013) discuss the four elements that are key to accomplishing equity, which include expectations, rigor, relevancy, and relationships. Setting high expectations through schoolwide programs, involving students in relevant discussion, and building relationships through this process is key to our cultural equity building process.
While schoolwide programs are a great place to start and continue, it is essential for us to work with students on these ideas at an individual level as well. Many of our students are working with deficits in memory and processing, which means repetition and trust building are key. We also have many students who have experienced trauma in various forms and we are constantly working to reestablish school as a safe place where there are people who believe in them and believe that they can meet and exceed the expectations set forth.
Helping students to find a trusted adult in the building is essential. We start this process through having an advisory period that is broken into two parts. Students meet with their advisor first thing in the morning to do check-ins related to their emotional and physical well being, which are then shared with other staff members to ensure clear communication among staff. The advisement class then meets again after lunch to discuss how the day is going, work on goal setting, and practice social skill building. I believe that this is laying the groundwork for what the earlier mentioned student stated as the keys to his success since beginning at Humanex. It also works toward providing an equitable educational environment, which is defined as occurring “when educators provide all students with the individual support they need to reach and exceed a common standard” (Linton & Davis, 2013, p. 19).
Linton, C. & Davis, B.M. (2013). Equity 101: Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.