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From a new building to a new principal, Edgemont Elementary has gone through many changes this year. Gaye Gibbs, the new principal, has been working to establish educational changes at Edgemont that she hopes will benefit their school community and motivate students to graduate high school. Through promoting a growth mindset, providing interventions to ELL students and correctly integrating STEM into classroom learning, Edgemont is helping their students establish a drive towards high school graduation and life-long learning.
Gibbs strongly believes in the term “growth mindset” and strives to implement this in her school. Growth mindset is defined as individuals who believe that they have the option to improve their talents and other qualities through hard work and dedication, rather than not working towards tasks/qualities that are difficult. At the beginning of the year, Gibbs gave all of her teachers the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. Through reading this book, teachers can develop their own growth mindset so that they will be able to integrate this innovative way of thinking into their classroom. Gibbs believes that “the more of a growth mindset that a teacher has, the more that it will show up in their classroom”. Throughout the year, Edgemont’s teachers and leadership gather together to discuss this topic and look for ways that they can improve their methods of teaching and their school community. The book talks about how those with a growth mindset end up having greater success because they have changed their way of approaching a difficult task. At Edgemont, this is one of the many ways that they are teaching their students to succeed in the classroom and in life. Instead of allowing a student to give up when a problem becomes too difficult, they encourage the student to continue until they can solve the problem. Gibbs addressed this by stating, “one of the things that we have to help our kids understand is that struggle is a gift. It is a part of life and, when you get to the point where you think you need help, then of course [get help]. But, struggle with it for a while, don’t just say ‘I don’t get it.’ Try. Put down what you do know and go from there. Teaching these kids grit, perseverance, a growth mindset– it’s critical. Especially in the 21st century.”
Out of the 660 students attending Edgemont Elementary, there are 90 students who are English Language Learners (ELL). These are students who come from non-English speaking homes and may struggle with classroom learning in English. Edgemont has made a major effort to ensure that their ELL students are receiving the assistance necessary for them to succeed. Harmony Kartchner, the facilitator at Edgemont, stated that “our vision is that we want every one of our ELL students to make progress in their proficiency skills”. The major goal with these students is to ensure that, when they move on to the secondary schools, they will no longer be in need of ELL assistance. To achieve this, each ELL student has been given a personal learning plan. In this personal learning plan are different objectives that the student needs to work towards. These objectives evolve around listening, speaking, reading and writing. Through assigning each ELL student a personal learning plan and utilizing an objectives sheet, the goal is to make one level or more of progress each year.
STEM is an important part of every school and Gibbs believes that it is necessary to ensure a student’s drive for graduation and their success in the real world. She said, “most of the easy things of this world have been solved, but now we have bigger questions and problems. We are going to need people who can problem solve and work with people. I think that we’ve got to produce different kids to solve these big problems.” At Edgemont, they are striving to ensure that all STEM used in their classrooms is meaningful and does not just become an extra activity. The students love doing STEM in the classroom and all of the thinking and problem solving skills used with STEM are being reflected in the students’ other non- STEM subjects as well. Harmony Kartchner stated, “we found that these STEM thinking skills started trickling over to their language arts, math, etc. They wouldn’t give up when they got to a hard task — they would persevere through it.” Utilizing STEM further catalyzes growth mindset in the students and helps them to become the problem-solving, driven people that this world needs.
Through initiating growth mindset, providing interventions to ELL students and correctly integrating STEM into classroom learning, Edgemont is helping their students establish a drive towards high school graduation and life-long learning. Gaye Gibbs strongly believes that, through establishing these educational changes, a child’s educational priorities and success can be changed for good, saying “Some way, we have to get these kids to say ‘this is my school, this is my learning, this is important to me’. Once you do that, then the magic starts happening. The learning occurs exponentially, not just gradually.”