Two-day sessions review SPMT, SSST concepts and ideas
The Coker College library was buzzing with activity for two days in early August as teachers and staff from three of Hartsville's four Comer schools participated in professional development. Dr. Camille Cooper, the Implementation Coordinator for Hartsville and the director of Learning, Teaching and Development for the Comer School Development Program at Yale University, led the instruction.
The first day focused on the functionality of the School Planning and Management Team (SPMT). Starting on a positive note, a quick review of successes from the 2013-14 school year enabled paired teachers and staff from different schools to compare information. In one instance, teachers from Thornwell School for the Arts and Southside Early Childhood Center compared notes on incentive programs designed to encourage appropriate behaviors. At Southside, the Bear Hugs program is tied to the Comer Pathways. At Thornwell, the Tiger Paws program is also tied to the Comer Pathways, but it was modified for students in grades four and five who thought the rewards were too babyish.
Other first day sessions encouraged teachers and staff to work in breakout sessions with other schools, present findings and share common solutions. While discussing the role of the SPMT, Dr. Cooper suggested each schools strive to streamline its activities with a comprehensive school plan that combines required plans, such as TAP, the system for student and teacher advancement, Title 1 and others. “By aligning goals and activities, these plans can all work together,” Dr. Cooper says. “Streamlining makes it easier for teachers and staff to be successful.”
Later, participants from each school worked individually to assess the progression of its SPMT. They then worked together, discussing among themselves and arriving at a consensus, and later presented findings to the other two schools. Every school noted that communication could be improved, and that by focusing on school issues rather than personal/personnel issues, the team would be more effective. Other issues included bringing new teachers up to speed on the Comer Process and learning who is in charge of what on the teams.
The second day of professional development was similar in structure, but focused on the Student and Staff Support Team (SSST). Again, the day started with recognizing successes and identifying where gaps exist so plans can be made to fix any areas of identified improvement.
New team members were especially grateful for the overview of how the SSST fits into the school's day-to-day activities. One teacher explains, “This was a great session. I am new to the SSST and I am committing to being an active member in every way possible.”
The teachers and staff also reviewed and evaluated discipline procedures. Each school presented an overview of the process for disciplining a child, and then the entire group made suggestions and recommendations on how to overcome barriers that do not support development.
“Dr. Comer believes that when a child acts out, there is a development issue along one of the pathways,” says Dr. Cooper. “We need to prevent potential problems from becoming crises. We do this by providing classroom teachers with strategies to support development and model desired behaviors.”