Eminence Independent Schools lit its teaching staff on fire recently with an inspiring field trip of surprise and service.
Eminence Superintendant Buddy Berry and Instructional Supervisor Thom Coffee always lead the professional development sessions not just to cut outside costs, but to inspire Eminence teachers with their customized version of surprise and delight.
Berry and Coffee challenged teachers during a recent professional development session to think of ways to implement the school’s mission to engage and inform students with the district’s new Framework for Innovation and Renovation of Education mission. The discussion led the teachers to something they didn’t see coming.
“School is a place that some kids don’t want to be at,” Berry said. “We want to engage our students while they learn. We asked our staff questions like how do we take the school on fire concept and implement it in the classroom? We know what education should look like and now how do we embed it?”
The discussion inferred to the Olympics and the idea of greatness. Berry and Coffee led the conversation to great local athletes. Someone mentioned Muhammad Ali as a great local athlete and they ushered the staff onto the Eminence High School’s Wi-Fi equipped bus.
“We reserved the classroom portion of the Ali Center for lunch,” Berry said. “We worked on our vision and on how to change the climate in the education industry.”
Berry said he wants his staff to create a learning environment in Eminence schools where children can be enthusiastic and engaged about learning instead of just being bombarded with tests. The surprise trip to the Muhammad Ali Center, which EIS rented for just $120, was an enthusiasm booster for the staff.
“They had no idea where we were going,” Berry said. “We want to keep things fresh and exciting for them, too. We want to collaborate at a school level and create a culture where it actually happens. We took them to a place where children are being tested all the time.”
The staff was bussed to Kosair Children’s Hospital where they were surprised again.
“Through an anonymous donor we had 40 stuffed almost five foot tall teddy bears delivered on another school bus while the staff stood out in front of the hospital,” Berry said. “They had no idea and were very surprised.”
According to Berry, the Kosair Children’s Hospital exhibits another place where children don’t necessarily want to be — a hospital.
“Kosair has a great culture instilled in their entire staff,” Berry said. “They have a musical cart that comes around delivering patients food, slushy machines in the hallway and make children happy while they are there.”
The staff met with members of Kosair’s team to understand the hospitals approach to making hospital stays more enjoyable for patients and their families. Teachers were then sent out in groups of three escorted by a member of Kosair’s staff.
“We sent them out with a teddy bear and a question,” Berry said. “The teachers asked each child how has Kosair’s made your stay better.”
In an environment where doctors poke and prod children with life threatening illness and injuries, Berry thought the qualities of Kosair Children’s Hospital’s culture were germane to Eminence’s mission.
“When you have a family that is coming there every four weeks to stay for a week with their children Kosair is doing something right,” Berry said. “School can be demanding and rigorous, but it can be a place of collaboration and celebration as well. If a hospital can do it so can we.”
Eminence teachers began finding new ways to make lessons more interesting for students Berry said. Eminence schools started doing interest surveys with the students.
“We did an exercise where we gave teachers three to four random objects,” Berry said. “The English teacher took a Nerf dart gun, a Batman magnet and a match and made a lesson out of it.”
Berry said the teacher decided the match was a metaphor for lighting the students mind, the teacher showed students the new Batman trailer, gave them a newspaper copy of shootings in Aurora, Colo., and asked the students to write a persuasive paper on gun control.
“You can be innovative and make a better lesson out of anything,” Berry said. “That is what an engaging lesson looks like.”
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