“Use Your Voice” Initiative at Smallwood Drive Earns 2022 Promising Practice Award
It’s a hat trick for Smallwood Drive Elementary School as it earned a Promising Practice award from Character.org for the third year in a row. Smallwood Drive was the only school in New York State to achieve the recognition from the national organization that fosters character development in children and teens.
Smallwood Drive’s “Use Your Voice” initiative was the brainchild of the school mindfulness committee which felt strongly that as the community continues to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic students needed to improve on the skill of using their voices in a positive way.
“Out of the pandemic we knew that our voices had been silenced and we really wanted to emphasize that using your voice in a powerful way can make such a difference,” said Principal Rich Crozier. “I want to thank the entire school community, the faculty and staff, and our parents for their support in using their voice this year and really making Smallwood a school that all of us can be proud of.”
The mindfulness committee selected the book "My Voice is Trumpet" by Jimmie Allen as the anchor for this initiative. The children’s book helps students recognize the different ways they can use their voice to make a difference. Examples shared in the book include using your voice to speak up and have courage to stand up for what is right, helping others by using your voice to show empathy and compassion, and when to use a soft voice and listen.
Students were read the story early in the school year by Mr. Crozier and teachers during morning meeting time to teach students skills connected to using their voice in our school community in a positive way. Mr. Crozier begins each school day on morning announcements saying, “My voice is a trumpet, how will you use your voice today Smallwood?”
This year, the school has a skill streaming segment dedicated to helping students with improving social skills. During Friday morning video announcements, these skills are taught and modeled on camera by Jen Noe, school social worker, and Roary the puppet. As an example, one segment discussed talking to a trusted adult if experiencing a peer conflict on the playground.
In the rotunda area near the library at Smallwood, a giant black mailbox decorated with orange paw prints was set up so students could write letters to Roary as another way to use their voices. To create some suspense, the mailbox was set up with a cover over it. Teachers asked their classes to come up with ideas of what it could be. After it was unveiled, the Mindfulness Committee hosted a school-wide assembly starring Mr. Crozier, members of the Mindfulness Committee, Roary, the puppet and fifth-grade student leaders who modeled ways to write a letter to Roary. Teachers have special stationary for students to use for the letters to Roary. The whole school learned a new jingle titled, “Dear Roary,” that is played on Friday TV announcements when it’s time for the Roary’s mailbox segment.
All faculty silk screened a bright blue t-shirt during a professional development day early in the year with the message of Use Your Voice.
“We are thrilled to be recognized by Character.org for the third year in a row,” said Principal Rich Crozier. “Our Power of a Puppet initiative was recognized in 2020, Mantra Monday initiative was recognized in 2021 and this year Use Your Voice was recognized. To be the only school in New York State to get that recognition is quite exciting for us, but more important than the recognition is the impact that it has had on our entire Smallwood community,” said Mr. Crozier.