October 2023 - Our Blueprint in Action: Empathy in the Meadowcreek Cluster
Join us as we explore Empathy in our Meadowcreek Cluster.
Through Empathy— the ability to understand the feelings of another person and place yourself in their position— we ensure that Team GCPS students, families, and staff have an entry point towards creating a culture where ALL feel a sense of belonging and safety. Our school communities understand, negotiate, and balance diverse views and beliefs as they engage with the unique perspectives of others through mutual respect and open dialogue. Each and every student and staff member exhibit emotional intelligence and a curiosity about other cultures, leading to a learning environment where diverse views and thoughts are embraced and valued.
Throughout the Meadowcreek Cluster, Empathy is opportunity. Starting with roleplay at Graves Elementary, students engage in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) by acting out real-life situations that their peers may experience. This shows each student how to approach sensitive topics. Through this activity, students can share a safe space together to learn more about each other and prepare them for topics and conversations that may happen outside of the classroom.
Radloff Middle demonstrates this by offering students a space to explore interests and build the Whole Child through community activities offered during the school day and after, including flag football, knitting/crocheting, guitar, and family cooking classes. Families and community members are invited to participate at times that may be more convenient, helping bridge the gap between school and family, which is an integral part of a child’s learning foundation.
“We work with community partners so that our families can both see and access various resources and opportunities,” says Principal Dr. Jennifer Callahan. “We recognize that our families wear many hats, and so we offer community opportunities at various times to meet parent convenience.”
Radloff’s affirming environment makes for a space where each and every part of a scholar’s identity is acknowledged. This starts with learning more about each other, where students participate in 30-day morning huddles and ongoing weekly advisements.
Meadowcreek High opens the door for opportunity through Mock Trial interviews, where students are interviewed by professionals and law enforcement officials in their community.
McClure Health Science High features an array of outlets for students, such as its College and Career Fair, Special Olympics Medical Day, and more. Hosting nearly 40 colleges, universities, and military recruiters, McClure connects students to direct opportunities by meeting students where they are.
Rockbridge Elementary focuses on the ability to explore empathy through activities where families share their personal experiences and stories with staff members. Rockbridge staff explore lessons of empathy together, like visiting the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
¡Hagamos un sándwich de crema de maní y jalea! No olvides un paso, la profesora está escuchando atentamente. Sí, you’ve began the Spanish part of your day while enrolled in the 5th grade Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program at Meadowcreek Elementary. Gabi Quezada creates a welcoming and supportive community within her classroom that allows her to make deep connections with her students. Ms. Quezada says respect plays a huge role in her classroom where she makes content accessible for students while supporting their development in two languages.
“Once you make those connections with [students], you are able to work with them and communicate with them– this is OUR community and we have to respect each other and work together to understand others,” Ms. Quezada adds. “Feeling a belonging somewhere is so important. We build relationships in both areas where we speak different languages, and the emotional part comes across in both places so we can understand each other and how we’re feeling without speaking the same language.”
¿Estás listo para explorar letras y sonidos? In Brianna Marsh’s kindergarten classroom, 5-year-olds are self-directed learners who explore content in a fun and exciting way every day. Ms. Marsh has created a space where students can take risks, learn, and have a strong sense of belonging. She even dedicated her free time to learning Spanish to better communicate with students and families. For incoming kindergartners and their parents, the first day of school, and even the first year of school, can be daunting. Students wanted to connect with Ms. Marsh and share stories, but the language barrier made the situation overwhelming for everyone.
“I felt motivated to learn Spanish so I could understand cultural differences and connect with my students in a better way, even just to be able to console them on challenging days and say, ‘it will be okay, we’re going to have a great day,’” she said.
Ms. Marsh credits play-based learning and joyful learning for helping build a community in her classroom centered on respect. Engaging in hands-on activities, drawing, reading, fashioning letters with Play-Doh, and identifying objects together helps students make their own connections while learning and growing.
Are your ears open? Is your heart caring? You’re ready to be a role model today at Ferguson Elementary where Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a focus in Specials rotation. The work that SEL teacher Latoya Stevens does with, and for students, is critical to helping them learn about and practice understanding their feelings as well as the feelings of others. This work helps foster and sustain a sense of belonging throughout the school and in the community.
Walk into a bright, comforting room where the walls are covered in affirmations— “Your feelings are valid,” “You are kind,” “You are capable.” The other students are gathered around and waiting for you to share. It’s your turn— how do you feel today? From practicing strong listening skills in kindergarten to helping 5th graders learn respect and leadership online, Ms. Stevens says her goal is to equip students with the skills they need to help them through life and show them how to be a positive example for their peers.
“SEL is a need for our students to equip them with the life skills they need— social awareness, self-awareness, responsible decision-making, self-management, and relationship management,” Ms. Stevens adds. “[Students] need these skills to get through life, and starting now, setting that foundation is very important to developing empathy and being mindful of their peers’ point of view.”
Throughout the Meadowcreek Cluster, the opportunity and message of Empathy is clear. IT matters. YOU matter.
Learn more about Our Blueprint for the Future and Empathy, and join us in November, when we explore Student Voice with our Shiloh, South Gwinnett, and Lanier Clusters.