This year, we focus on the “C” of Character. The teaching faculty began our year discussing how we can model character for our students every single day. It is often the little things - a genuine smile, a casual compliment, a joke, or simply a look of trust and empathy across the crowded classroom - that implant into the memories of our students. It is not the expertly designed interdisciplinary project or epic field trip or painstakingly crafted authentic assessment, as faculty members might hope. It is who educators are as people, as models of character in their students’ lives, that students remember and possibly replicate as they mature. I am certain that if you were to recall a favorite teacher or mentor, it is the spirit of that person - how he or she made you feel as a person - that remains close to your heart.
For me, it was Mr. Flaherty, my 5th grade teacher. Perched atop a blue director’s chair in the left front corner of the room, Mr. Flaherty was a master at differentiated group instruction before that term even hit the education world. Masterfully crafting groups of athletes, artists, academics, shy kids, “popular kids,” new kids, and kids from all walks of life, every lesson in Mr. Flaherty’s class ended with some sort of team challenge in which every student, at one point or another, felt as though he or she led the team to success. Your team also lost points if a member was absent and didn’t name his or her alternate. This made your physical presence in class matter. I can recall ten-year-old classmates who were not in my immediate circle of friends encouraging me not to go on a family trip to Florida because I would miss a speed reading competition at the end of The Call of the Wild! Mr. Flaherty made all twenty two of us feel as though we were integral members of the class, that we were important, and that regardless of whether our team won or lost, every one of us contributed to one another’s success in class.
It is my sincere hope that as this school year progresses every student at HTA finds that adult with whom he or she connects. Be it a classroom teacher, club advisor, enrichment coach, staff member or community volunteer, we are fortunate at HTA to offer our students a myriad of opportunities to engage with adults, both in and outside of our Learning Centers. Study after study indicates that attendance rates, academic growth, school re-enrollment and graduation rates all increase when students connect with a single adult in their educational sphere. Let us all seek to create a place in which every member of the HTA student and parent learning community feels loved and supported. Let us all remind one another that each of us serves as an integral part of the success of our school ‘ohana. And let us all work together this year to ensure that HTA is replete with “characters” to meaningfully connect with every student.
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