Changing a School With Just One Word
By Rocketship Public Schools
Something is happening at Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary. It’s difficult to describe, but easy to feel. Heads are held high and smiles stretch wide. It’s contagious, and it’s making an impact.
It’s love. ????
So what place does love have in an elementary school? In a classroom? According to Principal Jermaine Gassaway and the Rocketship Nashville Northeast team, love is the most important gift a school can give to its students, teachers and community.
Love is Our Foundation
“As educators, this is more than just a job. It‘s emotional, and it’s what we believe in. When our students and parents feel that, it builds trust, confidence, and a sense of community.”
Principal Jermaine Gassaway has dedicated his life to eliminating the achievement gap in low-income communities. When he came to Rocketship Nashville Northeast late last year, he knew that love was going to have a big role to play in shaping the school culture.
“The sad fact is many of children in our education system have fallen through the cracks and become victims of the school-to-prison pipeline. Many children that act out are desperately longing for care, guidance, and support from an authoritative figure that they can relate to. Someone who believes in them. This is why love is so important on our campus. This is why we choose it as our fifth core value,” said Principal Gassaway.
The Value of a Lifetime Love of Learning
What is a fifth core value, and why is it important? Core values are a major component of the Rocketship model. They prepare students to thrive in school and into the future by equipping them with critical character skills. All Rocketship schools share four universal core values: respect, responsibility, persistence, and empathy. In addition, each school chooses a fifth core value that represents their unique vision, community, and culture.
“One of the most important reasons we choose love as our core value, is because when a child learns to love learning , they will take that with them into middle school, high school, college, and beyond.” Principal Gassaway adds, “To do that, we need a strong partnership with parents. We want our students to love to read at home, to be excited about school in the morning, and to demonstrate compassion to their peers.”
Love for the Whole Child
At Rocketship Nashville Northeast, LOVE also means seeing every child as a whole person with individual needs and challenges. By partnering with behavioral health organizations like Centerstone and the Vanderbilt program for parent and student support, as well as offering on-site school psychologists, physical therapy, and speech therapy, all students get the love and attention they deserve.
It’s easy to name love as a core value. But how has Rocketship Nashville Northeast gotten their school to really live love in the classroom, at home, and in the community?
One way was through a school-wide social media challenge. “We told parents that if they read with their Rocketeer for 30 minutes every night, got to school every day on time, and demonstrated a love to their peers, they would be entered in a drawing to win a bicycle,” said the school coordinator, Ms. Campos.
The results were unexpected. “Our parents went crazy posting pictures and videos in our Facebook group. All of a sudden, the entire community wanted to show love to each other. Families were showing up for school on time, and teachers were excited too,” said Ms. Campos.
Principal Gassaway and Ms. Campos announce the challenge winners!
Watching the Love Spread
When the challenge was over, and the winners drawn, the love didn’t stop there.
“Our parents are involved now more than ever. It’s been like a snowball effect. The more parents walk through our doors to volunteer, to participate in Launch, or join our events – the more it inspires other parents to do the same.” Chardonnay also adds that it’s not just current parents who are engaging with the school. “At our Back to school BBQ we had alumni and members of the community stop by to wish our Rocketeers well. They see that we are trying to make our school a welcoming, safe place in this community.”
It has truly been amazing to watch love spread through the halls, hearts, and minds of the students, teachers, and parents at Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary. With growth, confidence, and LOVE off the charts, it’s going to be a great year!
Published on September 19, 2018