Our Superintendent, Dr. Greg Baker, recently visited the 4th grade at Sunnyland Elementary as part of his Walking in the Shoes... program.
He says, "Walking in the shoes of others is something I believe that is of vital importance. Not only does it help us understand issues more thoroughly when making decisions that affect others, but it’s part of our Bellingham Promise that learning is lifelong and essential to a high quality of life.
This idea came in part from my first year as superintendent during my Entry Plan process of listening and learning to our students, staff, families and community. I continue to share these experiences now in my fourth year as superintendent because my listening and learning is never over."
Dr. Baker has spent the day in a classroom for a whole day across the district in each of the grades pre-K through 5 so far. Here is what he had to say about his day at Sunnyland:
I want to end the week the same way we started it, with a short description of walking in the shoes of another, this time 4th grade with Mr. Brian Pahl and Ms. M’Lyn Avera, two fabulous teachers at Sunnyland Elementary.
As the bell rang, students came in and we went right to work on a daily math review. This particular review focused on fractions and decimals. Students worked individually with Mr. Pahl checking in with students around the room. After some group discussion, a student went to the front of the classroom and shared the overview of the day—what we would be doing and when. He also led us in the pledge of allegiance.
Within the first half hour, I had my first strong encounter with what would become a theme for the day—articulated in The Bellingham Promise with the Outcome of “Respectful and Compassionate Humans”. This occurred when Evan walked up to me and said, “Do you like it so far?” With a big smile I said I did and thanked her for asking. Throughout the day other kind comments and actions were displayed by these wonderful students. One brought me a pencil when he saw I was using a pen. Another brought me a piece of paper when it was time to take notes. At the computer lab, when we were learning to create hyperlinks and glogs, numerous students helped me problem-solve technical challenges. The students were consistently kind and caring. Loved it! I also got excited about the near future in our district where we will have numerous new computers in all our labs and classrooms. That time is coming soon! But even with older technology, Mr. Pahl described how he has students video themselves solving math problems, allowing him to then watch the videos outside of class time and understand how students might be struggling with different concepts.
Mr. Pahl and Ms. Avera are doing a collaborative specialist model where they each specialize and share their kids, Mr. Pahl with math, science and technology, and Ms. Avera with language arts, social studies and art. I enjoyed moving to different classrooms and learning environments. The day seemed to move more quickly. It also allowed each teacher the opportunity to teach the same lesson twice, which reminded me more of my days as a high school English teacher.
During science, we learned about gravity and density. Using balloons filled with helium we did an experiment predicting how many paperclips tied to a balloon it would take to keep the balloon steady - not rising or falling. It was a wonderful hands-on activity that closed with a video showing how many balloons it would take to lift a child.
At lunch, where we had cheese sticks, salad, fruit and milk, I overheard one student ask another, “Why do you eat so much?” Without missing a beat, the response was, “Because I’m a growing man!” Truth from a child.
After lunch we worked on goal-setting and self-monitoring. It was a great time to reflect upon the week and set goals for the upcoming week. We then transitioned to poetry and art. Ms. Avera gave me a poem from a student and asked that I give feedback. The piece was beautiful and described this student’s first day at school and how another student had come up and welcomed her. They are now best friends. The student had great descriptive language and again, displayed a great deal of respect and compassion.
I then went over to another student and asked if I could read her poetry. She said, instead “could I read it to you?” Afterwards I thanked her and she responded with “Thank you for listening!” We as a class then engaged in some art, where we could choose different mediums to draw, learning about different art elements and principles of design. And then after one more game of bump during a recess, it was time to say good-bye.
Thank you again to Mr. Pahl and Ms. Avera. Sunnyland is a wonderful place, filled with respectful and compassionate humans!
Thanks a lot for spending the day with us, Dr. Baker, and for your thoughtful and detailed description of your time here. We really enjoyed having you here. You are welcome back any time.