Paula Zona: What it means to be a Pirate
The classrooms and playgrounds of Seeliger Elementary School are more peaceful this year as staff members rolled out a new curriculum called “Getting Along Together.”
This curriculum is part of a school-wide program designed to build students’ ability to learn by focusing thinking, managing their own behavior, building positive relationships, and understanding and dealing with feelings.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently shared basic competencies young people must possess in order to hold a decent job and earn a decent living. Those skills are participate as a team member; teach others new skills; exercise leadership; and have the ability to work with diverse groups of people. At Seeliger, we are starting early on those college and career competencies by focusing on skills and strategies to help students be successful in school and life. Our students are learning how to learn, independently and together.
Getting Along Together promotes thinking and cognitive skills by teaching brain tools to increase working memory, attention and focus, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. Teachers begin each day with a “brain game” that helps students improve their focus to maintain attention on a task and use listening skills to take in and retain information. It also promotes emotional management by teaching students to identify their feelings, regulate their emotions, and control their behavior. Students are taught how to identify and express feelings by using conflict resolution strategies such as thinking through the situation, using “I” messages, and controlling behavior. This calmer and more respectful environment enables students to focus on what really matters: learning our rigorous academic curriculum.
Teaching students how to read and respond to social cues, how to solve problems, and how to develop empathy and perspective for others also focuses on interpersonal skills. Students develop goals in their teams, participate in class council meetings, and follow the “Peace Path” to resolve any conflicts. These skills have already improved our students’ ability to resolve problems and come up with solutions.
As we approach the middle of the first quarter already, discipline referrals have dropped almost 30 percent from this time last year. The more time students spend in the classroom learning and not waiting in the office to be seen for a referral will translate into more time on task and ability to learn.
Our hope is that by focusing on these strategies during daily lessons, we raise a generation of more respectful Pirate students who are:
Ready to learn
Paula Zona is principal of Seeliger Elementary School. She can be reached at 775-283-2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.