By Toan Chau
Katie Goddard teaches a new course called Habits, Community, and Culture and is a mentor to a group of ninth graders at Summit Public School: Rainier. The course allows teachers to teach habits of success.
- In your opinion, what factors make students perform below grade level?
“There are tons of factors that make students perform below grade level. I think one factor is how much they feel like they are safe and belonging in the academic environment. I think another factor is how engaging the curriculum is and how relevant it is to their lives. I think another factor is the academic ability and another factor is prior academic experiences. There’s all kind of different personal, academic, emotional, and habit space factors that go into student performance. All of those can contribute to how a student does in school.”
- In your opinion, which factor would be most important to why a student is performing below grade level?
“To me, the one that’s most important is that a student feels like they belong in the learning environment. I think if they feel like they are valued and understood then students are more willing to push themselves and take challenges and take academic risks and that leads to a lot of learning taking place really quickly. And for students who feel like they belong and are valued in our community, I think it makes it more likely that they can overcome academic barriers than students that are not in that situation.”
- What factors, in your opinion, make students perform at or above average level?
“I think for those students, often times they have figured out how they learned best and they are able to tap into their interests in school to continue to work towards goals. I think for students who tend to be above grade level, maybe they are more active or better at some of the academic habits that we see being very helpful in school like taking notes, or reading for fun, or doing their homework every night, and sometimes those habits better prepare students to do well in school than students who might not have those same habits that our school system currently values.”
- In your opinion, which factor would be most important to why a student is performing at or above grade level?
“I think helping students understand how they learn is a really important piece of a teacher’s job. I think especially in today’s day and age where there are so many pieces of information that we could teach you guys. It sets students up for success better if we can empower you with the skills of how to learn and how to understand what you’re learning than if we give information that we ask you to memorize. So, to me, the most important factor is helping you all figure out how you learn and what you are interested in.”
- What can Summit do to help students who are performing below, at or above grade level?
“A big word that we use at Summit is ‘Personalization’ and another big word that we use is ‘Differentiation.’ So the idea behind both of those terms is that we can understand what each student needs and what growth looks like for each of those students. And you see that being applied to a lot of academic programming. From everything from Summit Reads and Summit Solves, which are tailored to the individual needs of the students, to in project time the way that teachers might do interventions or support students differently based on their starting point in that class. Now, what’s really important about that is that students are held to really high expectations no matter where they’re starting from. But I think the best thing the teachers can do and what the school is doing is trying to make sure the students get the support they need to be able to access the higher level pieces of projects in the same way.”
- How can you as an HCC teacher deal with all the factors that determine if a student will succeed?
“I think a big thing that I can do is get to know my students as much as possible. I think it’s impossible to know what a student needs if you don’t have a base relationship with a student. Otherwise, sometimes you’re just guessing and that can have the opposite effect that you intended to. So for me, a really important part of my teaching is trying to understand my students and where they’re coming from so that as I sit down and design lesson plans, they are in response to what those individual needs are instead of just blindly following a curriculum. So that’s one big thing I can do. I think another big thing I can do is to as much as possible work with my colleagues in order to learn or think more about how to support you all. I think one of my greatest fears going into teaching is that it was gonna feel like I was teaching on an island and that I wouldn’t get to collaborate with other people who were doing the same work as me. At Rainier, I think we do a really nice job working together to make that doesn’t happen and I see that as being really, really valuable for helping students all get the support they need.”
- Do you think the community can affect how the students perform in school?
“You know, there’s a ton of research that talks about the importance of students feeling like they belong in a school community and that being tied to their academic performance. So I’m a strong believer that the more that we feel a sense of community, the more students are gonna be motivated to achieve what they can academically. And that comes from little things like students wanting to come to school, wanting to be here, to big things like students pushing themselves to write the best quality paper and not just finish the paper and things like that. So in my mind, that sense of community is really really important for the academic success to happen for students at all levels.”
- Do you think that parents can affect the student’s performance in school?
“I wonder about that a lot. There’s a great quote about how in education ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and that involves the parent, the student and the teacher all working together and you see that with PLP meeting at the beginning of the year as an example of that. To me, I think the more that parents can contribute to our community, the more that parents can be involved with the policies and the procedures and programs that we have, the more that parents are gonna be able to help us work towards this goal that we all share which is the success of the students. So I think that it’s our responsibility as a school to really try to involve the parent as much as possible so that we have all the information we need and all of their expertise to help students be successful as well.”