IES takes character program ‘to the nth degree’

NORTH SHELBY – In the second year of implementing a school-wide character program, Inverness Elementary School is challenging students and faculty members to be “Everyday GREAT to the nth degree.”

All faculty members contributed ideas at the beginning of the school year about how to take the “GREAT” characteristics of grit, respect, empathy, adventure and teamwork “to the nth degree,” Assistant Principal Jeff Norris said.

“We reflected on ways students showcased these skills in our classrooms and hallways, and even had reports from parents and visitors from the community,” Norris said. “Teachers also created a hallway display full of motivational quotes and letters with the heading, ‘We believe in you.’”

All students participated in a kick-off pep rally at the beginning of the school year and refreshed themselves on the five characteristics by playing games, watching video clips and seeing real-life examples of each of the five traits, Norris said.

Everyday GREAT will continue to be taught through classroom guidance, but it will also be expanded with a read-aloud book each month that relates to GREAT.

Quotes of the week will be included on the announcements and posted around the school, and Inverness’ CREW program, which partners each student with an adult in the buildings, will be expanded.

Jan Renfro, a kindergarten teacher in her 20th year in education, called Everyday GREAT the best implemented character expectation she has experienced.

“I think Everyday GREAT works at IES (Inverness Elementary School) because our leadership believes in it, they demonstrate it, they encourage it, they assist with it and they expect it,” Renfro said. “IES is a family and the Everyday GREAT characteristics are a good snapshot of what I hope every student, family, teacher, support staff, administrator, and community sponsor experiences when they enter the doors here at IES.”

Renfro gave examples of how she has seen each GREAT characteristic carried out:

  • Grit: “I see this modeled every day from the administration and just today (Aug. 16), one of my students wrote his entire name for the first time!”
  • Respect: “It’s the way we treat each other and again it’s mutual and we expect everyone to treat others the way they want to be treated.”
  • Empathy: “You overhear when students talk to each other about their feelings and you see it when other children from another class stop to help a friend who has fallen and gotten hurt.”
  • Adventure: “Every day at IES is an adventure, especially in kindergarten. Some adventures are fun and others lead you straight back to the ‘G’ for grit.”
  • Teamwork: “We set goals as a class and celebrate when new learning is accomplished. Sure, individual children set goals and we celebrate those together, but I have learned that as a class grows as a team then both individual and team accomplishments are celebrated by the whole team!”

Renfro said her “rookies” came up with their team rules: “try my best and not give up, treat others with respect, have self control, follow directions, work hard and celebrate learning, and have fun.”

“It was teacher led, but students made the decisions about what to include, how to say it, specific wording, and then they all signed it when they were ready to agree to be a part of our team,” Renfro said.