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CARES Model Continues To Support Community Environment At Sandy Hook School



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CARES Model Continues To Support Community Environment At Sandy Hook School

By Eliza Hallabeck

From the first moment students stepped off their buses at Sandy Hook School for the 2012-13 school year, the school’s CARES model was in action, said school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and Lead Teacher Natalie Hammond late last week.

As part of the school’s Responsive Classroom program, the CARES acronym reminds students of the importance of Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-control.

The program started between ten and 12 years ago when former Sandy Hook School principal Donna Pagé learned about it from a teacher who brought it to the district, said Ms Hochsprung.

“It started with one person,” Ms Hochsprung said, “… and it has just blossomed from there.”

From the way teachers greet students to classroom practices, Ms Hochsprung and Ms Hammond explained, students are reminded about the CARES model, and that helps to create a positive community environment.

“The thing that makes it work so well is that every adult in the building believes in it,” said Ms Hochsprung.

Ms Hochsprung said the five model behaviors mentioned in the CARES acronym are expected from all adults and students in the building.

A few years into having the CARES program at Sandy Hook School Ms Hammond said an evaluation was created comparing data from before and after program training for teachers.

“We looked at the results and were like, ‘Wow. Not only do we feel good about it, but here’s the data. It works,’” said Ms Hammond. “Kids are expected to be responsible. You’re responsible for your behaviors and taking that ownership in every way, shape, and form.”

Two years ago, as Ms Hochsprung pointed out, a chart was created by kindergarten through sixth grade teachers in the district that reflect how students should act in different parts of their educational environment, like in the classroom, on the bus, and on the playground.

In Practice

“In the classroom the teacher places ownership on the students,” said Ms Hammond. “Yesterday, I went into a first grade classroom where they were doing something as simple to us as learning how to hold scissors safely. And the teacher was modeling it, and the students were going to go through their own guided discovery of it.”

On the first day of school, Ms Hammond said every teacher in the school brought their students out for a “guided discovery” of the school’s playground. The teachers, she said, reviewed the proper things to expect to see and the proper ways of interacting outside.

Ms Hochsprung said the model also helps students feel more secure in areas of their day that may have less structure and adult oversight.

“When we can have our entire school founded on one philosophy that helps kids understand what the expectations are across the board, and every other person holds each other accountable to it, children and adults, it really takes the edge off that lack of security kids could feel when things are less structured,” said Ms Hochsprung.

As part of the CARES practice, Ms Hochsprung and Ms Hammond explained all students are greeted by name by both their teacher and each of their fellow students.

“That helps kids walk into school and know that they are a cherished member of the community,” said Ms Hochsprung.

In third grade teacher Courtney Martin’s classroom on Friday morning, students began their day by greeting each other, having one student share something special to them, and finally an activity was held.

As their morning greeting activity, third grader Aidan Berry was put in charge of deciding which activity to use for the morning, and he chose “Skipping Numbers.” Each student, starting with Aidan, counted by fives to randomly select the next person in line to greet with a handshake until the whole class had greeted one another.

Later, the class read a morning message together, written by Ms Martin. The message described what the class would be covering that day to help them focus on their work ahead.

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