IT TAKES OUR ENTIRE COMMUNITY "TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN WELL"
R.H. Conwell Community Education Center (UNITED STATES)
Recently educators are showing increased attention to the research of social emotional learning and how evidence from this approach is associated with higher academic achievement, improved teacher- student interactions and higher quality instruction in math and reading. My study, focusing on the benefits of social emotional learning in a small rural elementary school community, concurs with much of this recent research. My study suggests several conclusions. First, that social emotional learning (SEL) can ultimately help a school create a strong learning community composed of equally invested students, teachers, staff, parents , and community members. Second, that SEL, is one of the pedagogies that shape the R.H. Conwell Community Education Center’s academic success (Elias,1997 Hromek,2009, Merrell, 2010, Kaufman S.R, 2014). One of the strengthening features of the R.H. Conwell’s community based learning is found in integrating Responsive Classroom practices, a particular SEL approach, within their multiage classroom (Woods, 1999,Charney,1991,Kriete, 1999). This SEL approach suggests practical strategies for bringing together social and academic learning through-out the school day.
The R.H. Conwell Community Education Center (R.H.C.C.E.C.) is an affordable and accessible private school located in the Northeast U.S. where teachers, staff members, parents, and the community shape curriculum according to the needs and interests of individual children, preK-sixth grade. In 2010, the R.H. Conwell Elementary Public School was closed due to lack of funds by the local regional school district. It was at this time that the Worthington community came together to try to work out a way to keep their school open. Their solution was to open the school as a private school under a new name but continue to work with the state and local government to reopen the school at some time in the future as a public school. The school renamed itself the R.H.C.C.E.C. and remained true to its roots as a community based school. In Sept.2015 the R.H.Conwell Elementary School is scheduled to re-open as a public school as the Worthington House Bill #3574 was passed by the House of Representatives and the State Senate, respectively, allowing the R.H.Conwell School to exit from the local regional school district and become a “free standing school”, which means, not a regionalized school.
Presently the private school continues to be a hub of activity where volunteers and community members are visiting the school daily. Multiple fund raisers are held by the CSO, a parent group who raise money for the school, offering great products to families and community to purchase at nominal prices and interesting educational events.. All of these donations are used to help fund the teachers and staff salaries, purchase curriculum materials and supplies, including computers.
This study also suggests that academic success in a small rural school is augmented when combined with a multiage classroom structure (Goodlad & Anderson,1987,Stone, S, 1997, Piaget, 1976) and students who exhibit different zones of proximal development (Vygotsky,1978, Gredler, 2009) while helping another student extend their learning. Lastly,the R.H.C. C.E.C. promotes a caring relationship established with each and every student and family in the school, exhibiting the basic philosophy of the school putting the “whole child” and the “family first.”