Breaking News! Smallwood Named a National School of Character
Smallwood Drive Elementary School has been named a National School of Character, building on the New York State School of Character designation it received in January. Smallwood Drive shares the national honor with 88 other schools of all grade levels throughout the United States and one in China. Both the state and national designation remains effective for the next five years; from 2019-2023.
“This is truly a testimony to our incredible faculty and staff, our students, and to all of our families,” said Principal Daniel Lewis. “I sincerely believe that the strength of our partnership directly correlates with the strength of our children’s overall educational experience. I know that together, we will continue to do amazing things to support each of our students in this exceptional community!”
A team of 16 teachers, parents and administrators at Smallwood Drive spent a year developing the application for the state designation which allowed the building to reflect on its practices. Based on how high Smallwood’s score was at the state level, the building was considered for a National School of Character designation.
The national designation required more information about how the building meets the 11 principles defined on the character.org website. Character.org is a national organization whose mission is to support schools that positively shape the social, emotional and character development of the young people entrusted to them each day.
“Our faculty and staff have implemented the 11 principles of character development to guide the education of the whole child,” said Lewis. “In schools that teach and reinforce these principles, students feel safe, respected and connected to those around them.”
“These two great distinctions are directly supported by our Strategic Plan,” said Lewis. “There were many faculty and parents who were instrumental in the development of our application.”
Smallwood Drive was one of 87 schools and 3 districts in 18 states designated as State Schools of Character for 2019 in January.
Smallwood’s character education program uses a multi-faceted approach with programming delivered in classrooms by the school psychologist and school social worker. The Second Step program for students in grades K-2 encourages students to explore and identify their feelings to practice empathy, coping strategies and problem-solving skills. In grades 3-5, the Steps to Respect Program: A Bully Prevention Program, students learn skills to help them build friendships, manage conflicts and recognize and report bullying.
Schoolwide at Smallwood, the values of the month are built into classroom learning and students “caught” demonstrating the character trait of the month are recognized with a Tiger Paw certificate. Morning TV announcements reinforces the monthly trait.
The PAWS in Our School is a behavior plan used in each classroom, as well as in the hallways, bathrooms, cafeteria, bus, playground and after school program, to provide students with clear rules throughout their day. The plan has four main focus areas of Practice being a friend, Always be respectful, Work to learn and grow, Safety first.
Introduced this year is a new initiative of Mindfulness which teaches all Smallwood Drive students about social, emotional and mental health awareness, as well as skills involving emotional self-regulation. Through the use of a puppet named Roary who is featured in weekly videos where he experiences different emotions, students start to learn different mindfulness techniques to calm themselves. Teachers can play the videos at any point during the day in their classrooms to reinforce a technique.
Another tool in the mindfulness program is the “Pause Box,” which is filled with short activities for students to perform when they’re having a challenging time and need a few minutes to redirect their thoughts and self-regulate their emotions. The “Tiger Breath” – a deep breathing technique – is a skill that students are being taught to use to handle tougher situations such as right before a test.
“Students feel cared for when they come to school here,” said Lewis. “That’s the feedback we get every day. We see happy kids, who are smiling and have friends. They feel connected to their teachers and other adults in the building.”