fa2At Freedom Acres this year, on our very first Professional Development Day, our staff did some amazing brainstorming and reflecting. They reflected on what they could do each day to make our school great. When we boiled it all down, we found three guiding principles that we chose to embrace for the 2015-2016 school year: Communication, Joy, and Full Potential.

By focusing on Communication, Joy, and Full Potential, our school is making steady gains with the decisions we make each and every day, that are consistent with our guiding principles. We strive for increased communication among staff, with students, and with families. People are remembering to share with colleagues when their schedule changes or they share information through the morning announcements. Staff are taking extra time to help students communicate their needs when running an errand in the building. At Freedom Acres, we recognize that everyone is a “teacher” to our students including our HCAs, secretary, food service provider, and volunteers. The students are growing and learning new ways to communicate their wants and needs. It takes all of us to make these small choices each day to increase our communication.

fa4When we focus on “Joy” exciting things happen! Early in the year, we had a student search for “positive” quotes to print and hang around the building. Jane Horrocks’ classroom has organized a few school wide events to bring “Joy” and collaboration to our building. These events included things like a “puppet show,” and a “pajama party!” We continue to share Joy with activities that bring our students together, from the different programs. We have “walking buddies” where students in the Upper SEI classroom assist students in the Middle School SCI classroom on a morning stroll. We have “reading buddies” where our students in the Younger SEI classroom read to peers from the SCI classrooms. Leigh Chick’s classroom has been providing random sweets to the staff such as “Chocolate Chick Cookies” or “Chick’s Chex Mix.” Recently, a mystery staff person made copies of a fun cartoon with an encouraging quote and placed them randomly throughout the building. When people are joyful and positive, it builds better relationships, which leads to better outcomes.

Helping each student reach their individual level of full potential is our goal for all the students. The focus on making small choices each day is paying off with student growth. For example, in our Younger SEI classroom four students are doing grade level work on Edgenuity this year and are making progress. A student in the Elementary SCI classroom has begun tolerating the gait trainer this year and is independently moving down the SCI hallway. In addition, two students in the Middle School SCI classroom have been able to complete jobs independently throughout the building, while staff maintain a distance as they work. The Transition SCI classroom has created many opportunities for students to learn independence with their “Caffeine Acres” Coffee Shop micro enterprise. In addition, they have picked up jobs around the building, such as, recycling and cleaning doorknobs with a peer helper from the Independent Living Center. Recently, the Upper SEI classroom had two students who made great progress both behaviorally and academically and were successfully transitioned back to their resident district. As you can see, our staff are intentional in bringing each student to their full potential.

fa3At Freedom Acres, we have discovered the power of reflection, focus, and taking small steps every day in the right direction. I hope we have inspired you to go forth and spread Joy, increase communication, and reach your full potential.