By Joelle Quick
It’s a happy feeling inside. Every day I wake up and I’m excited to get ready for work. It’s crazy that feeling of fulfillment that no one can describe—and that is how I feel going to Hope Community Charter School to teach my kindergarten class. Every day my colleagues and I have the privilege to make a difference in the lives of the children parents have entrusted to us as educators. And every day, it is our mission to build the enjoyment of lifelong learners and teach our students the joys of learning—especially reading—that sets us apart from other schools from other schools in Camden.
At Hope Community, the mural and school brochures state the school’s mission to “provide a safe, caring, literacy rich learning environment that guides and inspires students in building a solid academic foundation.” But it’s more than words written on walls and paper. It’s our life in the classroom and culture throughout the building. We (the staff) are strongly committed to having our students reading on grade-level—or beyond—while enjoying it and having fun.
We model a Responsive Classroom that has taught us how to manage classroom behaviors, engage academics, use morning meetings, interactive modeling, and academic choice to build positive community within the classroom and throughout our school. As a result, misbehaviors are at a minimum so we can concentrate on academics. The mornings are routine and consistent with the Morning Meeting, which is how we get the morning started by greeting the students, having a group share, doing a group activity, and reading the morning message followed by a literacy block.
Literacy Block is my favorite part of the day starting because students are eager to understand the words and symbols around them. Because of that, we 45 minutes every day to phonics—the foundation of learning to read. It’s a joy to watch children engage with the sounds of consonants and vowels and learn syllables through rhythms of tapping. In literacy is where the magic begins—I have watched my class grow from non-readers to readers of books up to level E (an advanced first grade reading level). They’re determination and success is truly amazing and I am so proud of them. To witness a child’s transformation from barely being able to say the alphabet to reading words and books and writing sentences and stories is a remarkable privilege I get every day. To know I work in a school environment where that love of reading and learning will continue to be fostered gives me great joy and peace of mind to know their learning will continue beyond their time with me.
But I don’t do this work alone. Parents play a vital role in the students’ success. Parents participate in their child’s learning by assisting with homework and take home reading where students have a book to read every night (including Fridays) and the student must read to the parent or the parents read to the student—more than 95% of students are completing their logs. In addition, once a month Hope Community Charter School hosts Literacy Night where parents and students are invited to dinner and guided reading lessons to help improve their student’s reading comprehension. After dinner, the teachers read a book and give an example of types of questions to ask before, during, and after reading. At the conclusion of the evening, each student receives a book to take home. The idea is that the parent practices the skills taught that night. We have much success and participation with Literacy Night.
In addition to parent participation, teachers have mandatory Professional Development to guide our instruction with research-based data/information. We dissect data and monthly running records to drive instruction and keep our students on target with Common Core and Reading Levels. We are vigilant in using data to propel our students forward. We use higher order questions with rigor to challenge students to become thinkers. No matter how many years you have taught, there always is something new and Hope Community Charter School ensures we have access to those resources.
Hope Community Charter School has made a commitment to its students, parents, and staff to educate the leaders of tomorrow and I am so proud to be a part of it. We have integrity and proven leadership to push our students to a bright future. The possibilities are endless and I am in love with our students, our teaching model, and everything our school does for our students.
Joelle Quick is a Kindergarten teacher at Hope Community Charter School.