AHS named Capturing Kids’ Hearts showcase school

Program improved campus culture, classroom environment by strengthening relationships between teachers, students

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Arlington High has become one of a select group of schools to be recognized as a 2018-2019 Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School after presenting the necessary qualities to become awarded.

The Capturing Kid’s Hearts program was first implemented two years ago as a way to help students feel more connected to their classroom environment, and calls for teachers to take part in various activities that create a bond with their students in order to improve their school experience.

“Part of my job is greeting students at the door when they come in, and we discuss good things to get them to talk about themselves so that they can relate,” Alan Austin, history teacher, said. “We also have a ‘launch’ at the end of class to give them something to think about. I try to give them something interesting like a little known fact or a ‘this day in history’ fact. It peaks their interests and helps them be involved.”

The school was chosen to be a 2018-2019 Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School after being nominated by a Capturing Kids’ Hearts director and being able to prove that the program had positive effects on the school.

“After we were nominated, I had to give a survey to all the teachers and about 200 students, along with providing attendance status and discipline data to show what we’ve done, which has shown we’ve significantly decreased the number of referrals in two years,” Dr. Dhalla, principal,  said. “Then they came out and did a campus walkthrough and spoke with me, a group of teachers, and a group of students. Then they just walked around the campus, and we made it. There’s (not a lot) of schools in the nation that were awarded, so it’s a pretty big deal.”

In order to become nominated for the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School award, the school first required teachers to spend a period of time training in order to properly administer the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program into the school.

“There is a two day training where teachers work through some of the strategies used in the class together,” Dr. Dhalla said. “There are a lot of different activities that they do to work through it, like building social contracts or sharing something personal with the group. If you’ve ever sat in those circles when they’re sharing, it’s like a bond building, and it illustrates how building those relationships are important, and how understanding the viewpoint of someone else really helps.”

The ultimate goal is to help students’ attitudes towards school improve, and to help them be more motivated to participate and behave in school by having a good relationship with their teachers.

“I think the school’s changed quite a bit, and I think because of the fact that we’ve developed relationships with students, they’re more likely to comply to rules and expectations and things like that,” Austin said.

The program allows for students to not only open up to their teachers and bond with them, but lets students have a little more classroom entertainment.

“I think that this has really improved the teacher-student relationship,” Sierra Harrold, senior, said. “For me personally, it helped me open up more to my teachers. I feel like it has changed up the atmosphere here at school. The teachers are a lot more friendly, and the days are a lot more fun when you start out saying ‘hello’ instead of just ‘work, work, work.’”

Allowing teachers time to show their students empathy helps create an enriching program at school, and teaches the importance of compassion, as well.

“I had somebody tell me, ‘Wow, this program really makes teachers empathetic,’ but I don’t think this makes teachers anything that they aren’t,” Dr. Dhalla said. “I think all teachers are empathetic, but Capturing Kids’ Hearts gives them the strategies to show their empathy. I think this was a shot in the arm that we needed for the culture on our campus.”