TUPELO – Tupelo High School’s teachers have been discussing diverse challenges their students face and strategies for helping them.
All of the school’s 135 educators are participating in a four-month book study on Ruby Payne’s “Under-Resourced Learners: 8 strategies to Boost Student Achievement.” The book not only looks at the circumstances of students in poverty, but also addresses various mental, emotional, physical and spiritual resources students from all economic classes may lack.
“This book helps us connect with our students better,” said THS English teacher April Friar. “No two students are exactly alike. One student could be lacking emotionally, and this book helps us to approach those students to help them be successful, not only in the classroom, but also in the world.”
The book was chosen by the school’s professional development committee, a 10- to 12-member group of which Friar is a member. Several years ago under former principal Mac Curlee, the staff had done a book study on another Ruby Payne book, “Understanding Poverty.” This effort builds upon that.
“It is a way to reinforce when the demographics of Tupelo change, we as educators have to change with them,” said THS Principal Jason Harris. “It reinforces what Mr. Curlee started. Even though we are an “A” school, education changes every day, and if you are not on top of that, you will be left behind.”
The teachers have divided into six smaller groups and meet for an hour each month to discuss the book. Within those groups, each teacher will present to his or her colleagues one of the eight chapters.
On Wednesday, they talked about teaching approaches and procedures and ways to keep track of every student’s learning. They’ve also discussed topics like hidden rules of various economic classes and the importance of not assuming vocabulary with students.
“This [book] gives you strategies,” said THS science teacher Teresa Ware, who is on the professional development committee and also is a Ruby Payne-certified trainer. “It helps with how will you build relationships and what will you do to boost achievement in that under-resourced learner. It is practical to our every-day lives.”
Another benefit, teachers said, is they’ve gotten to share ideas and learn from each other. They were placed in cross-departmental groups, forcing them to interact with educators they don’t work with regularly.
“I believe it brings the staff together, and it creates a culture of learning,” Harris said. “It is about student achievement.”