A Whole New Chapter at Burns Elementary, Part 2

A Whole New Chapter at Burns Elementary, Part 2

Welcome on Friday this week, as we continue our ongoing showcase of ECM’s current program at Burns Elementary! This time around, we’re digging deep to share some more of the background details about the early stages of this fantastic partnership with a community that is very near and dear to us.

Beginning very humbly with local officials at the Charleston County School District inviting ECM leaders for a school tour, the Burns story also presents a good example of how ECM strives to be specific and personal in its approach to each community, school, classroom, and program participant. It’s our shared belief that there is a profoundly human story behind every statistic, and we always aim to recognize it!

In terms of surface details, the needs of the Burns community at the start of this school year were more than clear. Test scores were isolated in low percentile ranges, and general demographic information spoke of a community struggling with the understandable (but unacceptable) effects of poverty and a lack of social resources. Teachers and administrators also told us that they felt students had become locked into a cycle of discipline issues, and though it was clear that intervention was needed, there remained much to learn about the people and families that were working hard every day to conquer the hurdles at Burns.

So far this year, the Burns Elementary community has made huge strides through the hard work that they’ve put into their collaboration with ECM, even in some surprising ways that we didn’t expect. First and foremost, of course, students are responding positively to both in-school and extracurricular activities in a wide range of fashions. In less than one school year, discipline issues have noticeably decreased and the school culture is benefiting from more structure, helping kids to build meaningful relationships, become better aware of their environment, and to invest themselves in the logical benefits of positive behavior. On the whole, tardies are down and attendance is up, and the promise of experiencing ECM programming either in class or after school clearly helps to motivate kids to live up to discipline standards, as referrals have become rarities when involvement is at stake. To our overwhelming pleasure, we’ve also received more than one enthusiastic email from students who are eager to be more involved in planning and supporting our activities in addition to participating. You can definitely look forward to seeing the results of their work soon!

Now, it’s not tough to remember that our kids are our first priority, but we’ve also found in our experience that the necessary components of teacher and parent support are often forgotten or left out of the extracurricular equation. This kind of engagement has generally been given much less priority when it comes to supporting positive change among an academic community, but it’s our humble opinion that the importance of holistic community support has been greatly highlighted during efforts at Burns.

Through only a bit of simple consideration and structured attention (including a warm welcome and morning snack during carpool), parents, teachers, and staff at Burns have made some very encouraging connections with us and the rest of their school community. Parents who never used to drive their students to school have now made it a routine. Teachers and staff are already more open, present, and social, finding new freedom outside the strictures of maintaining basic order and discipline. Simple gestures like acknowledgment and inclusion have even encouraged Burns staff, who deserve as much of those things as any other member of the school community.

What can we say? Despite some initial reluctance on both sides, we’re all trying something new, together, and it’s working!

Last week, our Burns Elementary School Improvement Council participated in a very productive and exciting field trip to Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary, in order to collaborate with ARCAE students in planning a continued approach to improving both school cultures. When it comes to featuring Burns on the ECM blog again in the near future for another update, you can look forward to some personal details and messages from the young members of the Council. We’re very excited to share their work with the larger community, and to continue to highlight the amazing potential possessed by our Burns students. In the meantime, you can be sure of one thing about the mutual progress taking place at Burns – there’s a whole lot more to come!



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