Enhancing Learning and Life

by Michael Porter
Students in 5th and 6th grades develop "soft skills" in a dynamic class at JCDS.
“At JCDS we realize that a student's education must be well-rounded and thorough,” said Head of School Pat Walker. “Learning how to learn takes on greater importance as students transition to more independence.” 
Ms. Walker believed the students needed a class that taught "soft" skills — those skills that relate to how you learn best, study effectively, and how you interact with other people. Knowing that 5th and 6th-grade teacher Teresa Gore has an extensive background as a “soft skills” trainer in the corporate world, she was confident that Ms. Gore would be the perfect person to spearhead the project. 
Thus, the 5th and 6th-grade Enhancement class was created.
“I was beyond thrilled to accept this rewarding opportunity,” Ms. Gore said. 

Along with input from our administration, Ms. Gore created a basic “road map” of what content to include in the class. From there, she took the reins and fleshed the curriculum out, combining inspiration, research, creativity, and planning, planning, planning!
The resulting variety of materials provides a foundation for students to become adaptive and positive in dealing with the demands of everyday life. Core academic skill sets include organization, study strategies, communication, and time management. The students delve into the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (those teen years will be here soon)! They develop proficiency in interpersonal relationships, empathy, creative thinking, and identifying personality types.
As the 5th graders move up to 6th grade, the students work on SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.) Math enrichment is offered once per cycle to reinforce lessons taught by Math Teacher Todd Link, and Ms. Gore incorporates practice sessions for the CTP5 and ISEE tests.

School Counselor Liz McNairy drops in once per cycle to work on social/emotional awareness, mindfulness, and weekly reflections. "In the Zone is a portion of our Enhancement class where we focus on increasing our students' mental health,” said Ms. McNairy. “During this time the students first practice their own coping skills to manage their emotions.”
The students are graded on their organizational skills (planners, binders, and lockers), a positive growth mindset, participation in class, and effective communication and presentation skills. 
“I’m very passionate about the success and happiness of our students,” Ms. Gore said. “It brings me joy to motivate and inspire our students in believing in themselves, building their confidence, and embracing a positive, 'can-do' growth mindset.”

Indeed, judging from the feedback from former students, Ms. Gore is meeting and exceeding her goals:
“Study strategies helped me get better grades.” - Anonymous
“In the Zone helped me a lot when I would stress about tests. It helped me cope with it better.” - Holly W.
“What really helped me this year was presenting in front of a group and learning to understand body language.” - Audrey S.
“Enhancement class has been such a terrific addition to school, and the skills I’ve learned in your class are ones that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life!” - Will M.
If a student achieves competence, proficiency, and self-confidence — and can use that knowledge for a lifetime — the teacher has certainly done her job effectively.