CARE is a network of schools focused on improved outcomes in middle schools in Southern California. The administrative team at Lemon Grove Academy Middle shares how belongingness and valuing students’ cultures are at the center of the work they are doing with the CARE network.
VANESSA RUIZ: We truly believe in the work that CARE does, and the learning cycles and the lesson studies and the huddles have now been such a important part of building up our community. With the closure and the reopening of schools, the CARE Network came in right at the perfect time to help us reestablish what our vision for professional learning looks like.
TAMARA MUHAMMAD: Our children know that our staff care about them, but they didn’t feel that their cultures were being affirmed. So that’s one of the hugest things that we’re taking on. How do we embody our students’ culture? How do we get to know them better? Therefore, the gap is not so wide anymore, and our teachers get to know them and therefore can better reach and teach them.
VANESSA RUIZ: Looking at focused students being able to identify trends and be able to apply very clear, specific change ideas is what I believe that our school and our teacher community needed to continue to grow.
TORAZZI HAYSLETT: So we took the time to meet with our teachers, and we had them design lesson plans for the first two weeks of school that focused on community building and relationship building. We were very deliberate in making sure they didn’t hit content right away and to check in with our students’ social-emotional needs. Are they engaging? Are they engaging for that student’s culture? Are they tapping into the children’s prior knowledge and just taking everything that the child has to offer and embedding it in the class?
VANESSA RUIZ: The students really thrive off of being able to connect with one another, and the welcoming routines really make them feel seen and heard and kind of gives that buy-in prior to jumping into content. And so we’ve noticed a big improvement in terms of how our students are able to access the content, because they’re able to do those personal check-ins and those welcoming routines that guide into the work that they’re going to do.
TORAZZI HAYSLETT: We’re having conversations. We’re connecting. I know I do a brief check in with some of our priority students. How are you feeling today? Do you need anything? And so that has made the transition back to being on campus a little bit smoother, and it’s also giving us an opportunity to learn ways to deeply support each student because we’ve had that time to build relationships.