By: Bryan K. Blankenship
I think everyone understands the meaning of Southern Hospitality. So, when thinking of Invitational Education, all one has to do is keep this southern expression in the back of their mind. Invitational Education (IE) in its truest sense is the positive caring feeling you get when you enter a school. It is the atmosphere and climate you get from the people in the building. It should only take a few moments to feel it upon entering. Schools either have or they don’t – you can’t fake it. This inviting aura is found not only in the physical characteristic, but also and more importantly from the actions of its staff. At Southern Elementary, we believe in creating and sustaining that kind of “Southern Hospitality”.
Students should be greeted daily with a smile as they walk through the door. Students need to know that they are cared and loved each day. Our teachers do a great job in making each student feel as though they are the teacher’s favorite. Building self-esteem is crucial in the Inviting Classroom. Creating a classroom of mutual respect and one that is team oriented is a vital component of IB. Everyone should be made to feel that they are an important part of the team and that their contributions are important and expected. To invite students to learn in a safe and loving atmosphere is the core of IE and the very best gift a teacher can give to their students.
A lot of schools underestimate the importance of the parent (guardian) in the child’s educational journey. Granted the classroom teacher is no doubt the single-most important factor in student growth. But, the involvement of the parent has an enormous potential to produce positive academic result with the children. Schools should not overlook this potential. Therefore, invitations to parents should be the norm and not the exception. Invitations to parents should be given to volunteer, to attend field trips, to join PTA, join in assemblies, committee work, Christmas musicals, parent conferences and many other events should be a regular part of the inviting school philosophy.
This philosophy should involve open invitations to all aspects of our community. Every community has a wealth of community resources just waiting to be tapped into. Scott County is certainly no exception to this rule when it comes to community resources. Our community has a lot to offer our schools. We should welcome our community into our schools with open arms and warm hearts and thank them dearly for their efforts. Invitational learning is about working together in helping children reach dreams.
If you show me a school where a staff truly cares about and respects one another, then I will show you a successful school. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a staff working together to meet student needs. One of the most important aspects of IB is the ability of the school’s staff of form a bond of friendship. There should be a family atmosphere among the staff in which taking care of each other is commonplace. Taking care of one another in times of need is a trademark of our school. It warms my heart to work with such a giving group of educators. Our walls are filled with many uplifting stories of heartfelt giving toward staff members. This translates into a happier, cohesive and inspired staff, which in turn results in quality work toward students.
IE says “everyone counts” and that it doesn’t matter who you are. It says that everyone’s ideas are important and respected. We spend a lot of time collaborating, meeting, discussing, brainstorming and sharing ideas to help our school improve. Plans are developed with our student’s best interest in mind and with respect and understanding. “ It’s a great place to work” are words that are often spoken by Southern Elementary staff.
The passage above is how I view my school. What I have written is what we believe. What you have read is what we are at Southern Elementary. Granted- they are only words. So, my “invitation” to you is to come and let us show you our “Southern Hospitality”. Surely you will see the essence of Invitational Learning and why Southern Elementary is a special place.