Building Hope Through High Expectations

Glasgow Middle School is located in Glasgow, Kentucky and was a Model School featured at MSC 2021.

Recognizing that the time we have with our students is precious, the staff at Glasgow Middle School in Glasgow, Kentucky spends every minute of every day working to make a strong impact in each one of our students’ lives. We accomplish this by focusing on relationships and creating a safe place for students to learn. At this distracting time, we know that we must make a focused effort to maintain a culture of high expectations while providing students hope. We want to encourage them to strive daily to “Be a Scottie—Work Hard, Be Kind, and Represent.”

Due to COVID-19, this school year, students have received either blended learning (online and in person) or virtual instruction; however, we continue to hold our students to the high expectations of working hard, being kind, and representing themselves and their school well.

Improving Student Mental Health

Although we have always prided ourselves on teaching and nurturing the whole child, more recently, we began to notice a need for a heightened focus on the mental health needs of our students. We began to see them increasingly show signs of issues with depression and anxiety.

Therefore, we implemented a focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) this school year. With a growing enrollment of over fifty students for the 2020–2021 school year, our school counselors have worked to provide for our students in an unprecedented time of mental health challenges. All students receive classroom guidance lessons twice per month, and each of them has access to resources and support materials via a virtual Bitmoji Classroom.

Focusing on Social and Emotional Learning

Through added SEL support, students receive both individual and group counseling sessions, and as a result, we’ve had a reduced number of students referred for crisis intervention counseling this year. For our virtual students, manipulatives such as gum, peppermints, coloring kits, stress rocks, fuzzy pom pom balls, and essential oils on cotton balls, were handed out during our drive-through back-to-school bash to help students de-stress and cope while learning from home.

In February, GMS students attended our “Making the Middle Matter” week. Middle school is often referred to as the “forgotten middle” because families and students are more focused on the joys of beginning school in elementary and the anticipation of what high school graduation will bring. Middle school tends to be a time where students just try to survive. “Making the Middle Matter” week focused on tying together our SEL support and the “Be a Scottie” motto on working hard, being kind, and representing. As students and families pulled into school, they were greeted with a yard sign that read “We love our Scotties,” as well as positive signs along the hallways. Throughout the week, students received special guidance lessons to help students understand how “Be a Scottie” skills and SEL lessons work together to make a healthy student. We gave out T-shirts, and students had an opportunity to spend “Scottie Bucks” at a Scottie store.

Tracking Student Growth

Students’ SEL health is reviewed regularly as well, and are divided into Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 groups.

Tier 1 supports are provided to all GMS students through lessons provided by the school counselors that address the social and emotional needs of students. When students need additional support they are moved to Tier 2, and when a Tier 2 student does not demonstrate data-supported growth, the student is moved to Tier 3. Tier 3 supports include an individual plan for each student, which may include community or school mental health counselors, a threat assessment, or a student safety plan.

Tier 1 students periodically complete forms and surveys that measure their SEL growth and help counselors form small group supports. The data from the forms also feed classroom guidance topics. Our mental health team, along with our teachers, use a mental health screener to identify students who need additional SEL supports. By pairing specific Tier 2 students with teachers, relationships are formed that give students additional support. One of the ways that this is tracked is with a 2 by 10 formula: 2 minutes/10 times. Teachers work to form connections with specific students by providing them meaningful 2-minute conversations, twice a week, for 10 days. While this time is short, it means so much to the students to spend uninterrupted time in control of a conversation with a trusted teacher. Teachers then have students complete a questionnaire about their emotions. These responses are tracked ten times and then reevaluated.

At-risk students are tracked through a “Name and Claim” system as well. With this system, Tier 2 students are named and then claimed by their teachers. When a teacher claims a student, they check in with them periodically throughout the day and take note of their social and emotional health. Tier 2 and Tier 3 students are monitored by our mental health team and grade-level PLCs.

GMS teachers tracked mental health data in October and at the end of April through the Student Risk Screening Scale - Internalizing and Externalizing (SRSS-IE). In particular, this scale helped us track the internal behaviors our students exhibited, such as depression and anxiety. From the beginning to the end of the year, Tier I internalizing behaviors went from 82% up to 90%, Tier II went from 8% down to 4%, and Tier 3 went from 10% down to 6%. This screener was a great way for us to determine if the supports put in place were truly effective and producing results in our students' lives.

While this past year has been challenging for students, teachers, and families alike, the teachers at Glasgow Middle School have worked hard to shine in the darkness and give hope to the hopeless. Our teachers have provided safe places for our students to go when things seem helpless. We truly believe that we’re “Making the Middle Matter” in the lives of our students every day.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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