LIKE THE electricity powering your home’s heating and cooling, you can’t see it, but you can feel the results of it. At Highland Rim School, that thing you feel is the energy and effect of life in the house of Hornets.
The 2022-23 school year is buzzing with positive change. Last year, Highland Rim teachers and administrators expressed their desire to see students develop life skills and build relationships with one another. They wanted ways to have conversations and teach responsibilities. Over summer break, they built upon a program that began the prior school year to do all that and more, and students and staff are seeing the results and feeling the shift in the school’s culture.
Assistant Principal Will Harbin said, “For some students, this is their only safe place, their only sense of normalcy. We want to teach students to be proactive, be great people, and respect themselves and the buildings here. We focus on little things and finding a way to teach them how to get along with others and work well in groups with each other.”
They are teaching students to LEAD. In the program’s stages, students progress from learning to empowering to achieving and finally discovering how to be the best for themselves and everyone around them.
Imagine a giant hive where everyone goes to learn and grow together and helps and looks out for each other. There – you have a picture of the House of Hornets.
Within the hive are 900 staff and students grouped into six house families of students and staff from pre-K through eighth grade. Upper-grade students are paired with lower-grade students, and everyone works together on projects as a house family.
“They’re all unified toward whatever we’re working on, creating those bonds and a family,” Harbin said.
Homerooms in each grade gather for 30 minutes each Friday to work on the program’s principles. Although students are in different grades, all are working on the same principles or themes.
Once every nine weeks, the hive buzzes even louder when all the house families gather in the gym for House Day activities and awards. It’s a special day for every member of the family. Special sweatshirts are handed out during House Day to a student in each grade nominated by their teacher for exemplifying all of the traits represented by the program.
Harbin said, “You have to earn it. It’s for the student who respects others, takes care of something, notices trash on the floor, and picks it up. The student who exhibits all of those traits is surprised with a sweatshirt on House Day. It’s a big deal. They will scream, holler, and cheer. Administrators also do this for the teachers on House Day. But it’s all about finding those students and teachers who work on relationships and really get in the nitty-gritty of being a good human.”
It’s a positive change and way of life, where students and staff are happy to go to school every day. And the shift is being noticed outside the hive as well.
“The parent interaction has increased. At Walmart, someone says, ‘Hey, what you all are doing is really awesome. I can’t believe my child’s started talking more. I can’t believe they are becoming more independent. It’s noticeable.’ You go to a ballgame or out somewhere and see a kid making a difference or doing something kind for someone else. If you ask them to go help a person, you’ve got 10 kids running at the same time,” Harbin said.
And it’s more than helpfulness and kindness that’s spreading.
Harbin continued, “Discipline has decreased, attendance has increased, and there’s data to back that up. Something’s working. The school culture has improved, the climate has improved, and the community sees it. A lot of good is happening, and even better things are yet to come.”
It’s foundational and something to build upon going into the future.
“For our eighth graders who are leaving, we set them up for high school. For every other student here, we can build upon what we’ve done this year and continue that next year. We’re just going to take what we have and keep building and make it better,” Harbin said.
At the end of the day, it’s about bonding and relationship building, and it’s working.
Harbin said, “Everyone is excited to come to school, both the adults and the students. We’re happy to see your face when you walk in the door.”
Who couldn’t use a lot more happiness in their day? GN