Plainview Primary classrooms had a special visitor Tuesday, as ReGina Farquhar, the school's Great Expectations mentor observed lessons.
The primary is looking to earn its 10th year as a G.E. Model School, meaning that teachers have adapted the classroom practices.
Mentors regularly visit schools to observe the implementation of Great Expectations 17 Classroom Practices.
"I'm looking for effectiveness," Farquhar said. "Teachers who have increased the rigor in their classrooms, because the outcome of education is academic excellence."
Teachers attend trainings on the practices. The mentor visits allow them to evaluate how they are doing in adopting the practices.
"Teachers want to improve. They are never satisfied with where they are," said Principal Lisa Moore. "We're observing and always continue to grow."
Classroom observations usually lasts about 30 minutes. Then Farquhar meets with the teacher to discuss the practices.
"We sit down and talk about effectiveness strategies and how they might improve," Farquhar said.
When Farquhar visits a classroom, she has a checklist of ways the practices show themselves during a lesson.
One practice is "Critical thinking skills are taught."
Ways to see that happening in a classroom include using Socratic questioning, using student groups for problem-solving and gives students the opportunity to create visual representations of concepts.
"I'm looking for evidence of these things. If I don't see it, I will talk to the teacher about how to do this," Farquhar said.
For example, a teacher asked her students, "How do you know this shape is a triangle?"
A student replied with three complete sentences: "It has four equal sides. It has four equal angles. It is a special kind of rectangle."
"It's all about how we can ask a question so the student does the learning," Farquhar said.
After 10 years, teachers are not only used to Farquhar's visits, they gladly anticipate them.
"We have a very good mentor with a very down-to-earth approach," said Second-grade Teacher Rosa Knight. "When she comes, she's easy to talk to and get ideas from."
Teachers are very relaxed when teaching lessons in front of the mentor.
"We don't change anything for the visits. If we are giving our best to our students, we are giving our best to the observer," said second-grade teacher Connie Boatright.
The Great Expectations practices, which also include Eight Expectations for Living and Life Principles that are taught to students throughout the year, provide consistency in and guidance for behavior management throughout the school.
For example, if a child misbehaves at recess, any teacher that responds is going to ask if the student thought about the Wheel of Choice and the Magic Triad, which are visual tools that help students remember proper ways to behave.
Page 2 of 2 - "We don't have to spend as much time on behavioral management. There are certain things we all do," said second-grade teacher Kelley Simmons.
The system also aligns well with the new Common Core Curriculum Standards and the new Teacher Evaluation System.
"Since we've implemented G.E., the Common Core won't be as big a transition," said second-grade teacher Cathy Bartgis.
Overall, the visits and the Great Expectations program have helped the school improve.
"We have a plethora of information that speaks to our success as well," Moore said. "Great Expectations helped us get our children on grade level and above."