Langley preschool and kindergarten students interact with Coach Pedro during an after school soccer class.
What a delight it has been to watch Team Langley implement Conscious Discipline. The composure strategies, safe space to calm down, and encouragement of others are just the first of seven skills taught to students through Conscious Discipline. For the second half of the school year, Langley has introduced the skill of Assertiveness, which promotes respect for self and others, healthy boundaries, and conflict resolution. At a recent assembly, students practiced being appropriately assertive: “I didn’t like it when you took my ball. Next time, please ask for a turn.”
I’m thrilled that my daughter is practicing how to assert her voice - we’re working on it at home as well, with the materials the school sends home. A healthy school culture is so much more than being orderly and following directions. Through Conscious Discipline students learn to act with respect and integrity, and to assert themselves to resolve disagreements, defuse bullying, and stand up for what’s right. Next steps for our students are Playworks for leadership and conflict resolution, and our Fifth Grade Girls Empowerment Group to help our young women prepare for the academic and personal challenges that await them in middle school.
Q. What is your role at Langley?
A. I teach Kindergarten here at Langley!
Q. How did you become a teacher?
A. I have known I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. My mom was a teacher and a big influence on me growing up. All of my jobs when I was younger included working with kids. I was a camp counselor for years, I taught private swim lessons and also became the coach of a swim team in my home town. When I went to college, I worked hard to get into the teaching program at UCONN. I graduated with an undergrad in elementary education and a masters in educational curriculum and instruction. My first three years out of college, I taught 3rd grade in Connecticut. Then, I came down to DC and began teaching kindergarten at DC Prep, which is a charter school around the corner from here. I taught kindergarten there for four years and really was looking for a chance to find a school that truly supported the whole child and not just academics. That is how I wound up teaching kindergarten here in my 8th year of teaching and I couldn't be happier!
"Ms. Jennings loves me, and Ms. Better does too," proclaimed my 5-year-old.
"Yup - I read it on the front door!"
It's true. Throughout Langley's halls, there are signs reading, "In this place you are loved," and this school really means it. School leadership personally greets students each day, and classrooms are a place of calm, respect, and connection. Missing a day of school? They love you anyway, with a cute routine of "wishing well" their absent classmates.
This is because children learn best when they feel safe and connected to their teacher, classmates, and school community. Discipline isn't something we do to children-- it's something we cultivate in children by teaching skills, modeling behaviors, and showing love to each one, every day.
So a very happy Valentine's Day to you. Thanks so much for coming to our Open House. We wish you well!
By Mona Lewandoski
Aravind's son, Nathan, waits with classmates before seeing a Step Afrika performance in Langley Elementary's auditorium.
I wanted to share some thoughts on our family's experience at Langley Elementary School. I am the parent of a student in Pre-K-3 at Langley, so this was our first experience with DCPS. Everyone at Langley has been incredibly open and welcoming, which confirmed that our decision to send our son to Langley was the right one for us. That welcoming attitude starts from the top down; Principal Drumm is just in her second year at Langley, but it is clear that she has worked hard to create a real sense of community. Principal Drumm and Assistant Principal Jennings are out in front of the school each day to greet students as they enter, whether by fist-bump, high-five, or hug. But it seems like all the staff are excited to see our child every day, and he'll run up to give them hugs as well. And since Langley is our neighborhood school, we see the other parents at pick-up and drop off, but also at the farmer's market, local restaurants, and just walking around Bloomingdale and Eckington. Our son's teachers have been great - willing to give feedback before or after school and even scheduling a one-on-one appointment within two days after we asked for a meeting. Langley has made such good progress in creating a positive culture that DCPS is using Langley as a showcase for its social-emotional learning program, bringing in outside teachers and administrators to observe and take the lessons learned back to their own schools.
Preschool teacher Karen Better teaches socio emotional skills to her Pre-K 4 class during a recent schoolday.
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I am a native Washingtonian.
Q. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
A. I originally started in the medical field as a nurse and declared a pre-med major. I took a class, "Intro to Teaching," which incorporated lab time. Lab time consisted of going to an elementary school twice a week and taking over a second grade class for the morning session. I taught the curriculum and planned special projects with the students. As a result of this experience, I became interested in teaching and eventually developed a love for children and education. Due to my outstanding performance in the class I was offered a job in the school's Pre-K class and worked throughout my college career as a paraprofessional in that center, thus starting my more than 30 years of experience working with early learners.
Q. What is your favorite thing about teaching this age group?
A. My favorite part of teaching Pre-K is their eagerness to learn. I equate them to sponges. They absorb information so quickly and you can actually see the lights in their eyes and the big smiles on their faces proclaiming "I GOT It" once they have finally learned a new concept or skill.
Step Afrika! entertained and inspired Langley Elementary students on Tuesday, Jan. 30, in the school's auditorium.
By Dawn Madura
School lottery time is upon us again! And what a stressful time it can be, visiting all those Open Houses, comparing locations and curricula and culture, and trying to figure out what makes one play-based preschool different from another play-based preschool just a few blocks away. With just several more weeks before the lottery closes, here are some tips to help families sort through the options.
I love when one solution knocks off multiple problems.
Here’s an example:
It’s a hot summer night and the kids are having a post-supper energy spike. I’m too exhausted to give them an evening bath, even if I did manage to corral them into the bathroom. And the neighbors are annoying me with their wasteful ways – their front yard sprinkler is mostly watering the sidewalk.
Run through the sprinklers!
Bam. It’s magical.
In kindergarten, the most basic reading level is learning about books. Our biggest focus is on learning how books work. We talk about the front cover, the back cover, and where we start reading in a book. We then practice touching each word as we read. That looks like the teacher (or parent) reading the story while the student is touching each word. Having that one-to-one matching is an important building block for reading!
As students progress, we begin working on being able to read books that have strong patterns in them. The books may sound something like, “I run in the forest. I run in the park. I run in the sand.” Students should then be able to follow that pattern and begin to recognize some of those sight words (I, the, and, in, etc...).
From there, we start to push basic word solving skills. In my room, we call them "Beanie baby reading strategies.” The first strategy we use is called “Lips the Fish.” We get our lips ready to read the first sound in words. So if the word is ball, the students will read /b/ and think about what would make sense. When they consistently read the first sound, we then use our "Peekin' Poodle Strategy.” This strategy is when the students initially read the first sound in the word, then they check the picture to see what would make sense that starts with that sound. So for the "ball" example, the student would say /b/ and then there would be a ball in the picture to help them solve the word.
As students improve, we start reading books that have less of a pattern. We focus on learning lots of sight words. All sight words are great. You can looks for a dolch word list and start there! We also work on "Chunky Monkey,” where we look for chunks in the word we know (such as sight words or word families). The other strategies are “Stretchy Snake” (stretch out the sounds in the word), “Flippy Dolphin” (flip the short vowel sound to try out the long instead), and “Skippy Frog” (skip the word, get clues from the sentence, then go back to solve the word).