Avoca West News

September 20, 2019

Spotlight on Color Crews - A SUPER way to start the year!

One of the many things that makes Avoca West a special place is our newest structure to encourage collaboration and a greater sense of connection within our school -- our Color Crews! This idea originally came from Ron Clark (one of Disney's Teacher of the Year Award recipients) and his Academy in Atlanta, Georgia where students are sorted into different houses -- much like the sorting hat in the Harry Potter series. In addition to strong academics for students, this idea begins to transform the purpose of the school to one that values the interconnectedness of its students and staff members. The system also bolsters school spirit and reinforces character values within the school.

When it comes to making sure students feel safe to take learning risks and to thrive as humans, we know that relationships matter most! Last year was Avoca West's inaugural year with color crews. Grade levels, classes, and students were intentionally matched and time was carved out each month for our "crews" to get together to get to know other friends at school, to build leadership in our older students, and to allow for natural pairings/audiences for academic showcases when possible. The endeavor was a huge hit among our students!

This year, several enthusiastic staff members took on the task of running our Color Crews for 2019-2020. New alliances/partnerships were set, new colors assigned, and all with an EPIC superhero theme! Our color crews will be working together to fill their super hero's Infinity Gauntlets with the:

  • Creativity Stone
  • Compassion Stone
  • Collaboration Stone
  • Communication Stone
  • Critical Thinking Stone
  • Principal Stone (given out at Mrs. Hutchison's discretion for something truly spectacular!)

To capitalize on the superhero theme, all students and staff were given a superhero cape to match their crew's color. This will be a physical reminder to call on their super character traits in making Avoca West a better place for us all!

This morning our crews met up for the first time to create their color crew cheer -- their signal that is given to let us know that they have assembled each time we get together. When asked what they like most about color crews, our students shared their excitement about this year's theme (and who doesn't love a cape!) and the fact that they get to hang out with younger and older kids in the building. Stay tuned for upcoming adventures of our color crews and to see all that they'll accomplish together!

Color Crew Superheroes

Social Emotional Learning

Avoca's academic achievement is something that has always been something we're proud of, but doesn't capture the whole child approach that is also a huge point of pride for our district. Thankfully, the great state of Illinois agrees that social emotional health is a critical component to making sure our students function well in school and far into their future. In fact, the Illinois Social Emotional Learning Standards capture the developmental expectations for us as educators in where to support our students in mastering necessary life skills.

Taken directly from the Illinois State Board of Education's site, “SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to:

  • recognize and manage their emotions;

  • demonstrate caring and concern for others;

  • establish positive relationships;

  • make responsible decisions; and

  • handle challenging situations constructively.”

“Quality SEL instruction in which students learn to process, integrate, and selectively apply SEL skills in developmentally, contextually and culturally appropriate ways in conjunction with a safe, caring, participatory and responsive school climate can result in positive outcomes including:

  • promotion of mental wellness;

  • prevention of mental health issues;

  • school connectedness;

  • reduction in student absenteeism;

  • reduction in suspensions;

  • adoption, implementation and institutionalization of new practices; and

  • improved academic outcomes."

What does that mean for our staff, students, and parents at Avoca West? This year we will be focusing on growing our knowledge of the SEL standards, what they look like at different developmental levels for our students, and how to consciously embed the instruction of them into our day throughout the building and among all staff. What might it look like?

  • Intentional and purposeful play as a means of supporting interpersonal skills
  • Goal setting in academic, personal, and friendship realms so they may see how to break down goals into smaller steps and how to course correct or learn from the process
  • Classroom meetings and routines that allow practice in taking perspective, noticing feelings and emotions in ourselves and in others, and helping our students to facilitate resolution among peers
  • Time for students to practice self-talk, mindfulness, and other calming strategies to allow them to cope when life gets frustrating or stressful

The possibilities for learning and exploring in the social emotional domain are endless -- and will also include a parent education component. Stay tuned for information about which of the standards can be reinforced at home. As your child's first (and forever!) teacher, bringing you into the fold always helps to make our students and our efforts more successful! In the meantime, there is a great TED talk below about the different mindfulness aspects we can practice as adults or at any time to help develop ourselves on our quest to be better versions of ourselves. Enjoy!

What Are You Practicing Right Now? | Dave Mochel | TEDxPasadenaWomen
Check out the Avoca PTC's Updated Website

Don't forget to stop by the Avoca PTC website for updated information and dates to put on your calendar as well. There are many exciting events going on -- including our Spirit Wear sales!!

Questions? Comments?

Please feel free to reach out to ask any of our office staff for help!