By Guest Blogger, Cindy Johnson
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, kids went to their home school. In other words, where you lived determined where you went to school. There were few, if any, charter schools, IB schools, magnet schools, etc. Fast forward to now and my, how things have changed! The options are infinite. Now, as parents, we have to make that decision too (because we don’t already have enough responsibility on our shoulders, right?) Thanks to the abundance of options, it is practically a full-time job to research the various schools in our area. Who has time for that, though? (Insert subtle reminder of the copious amounts of responsibility we have). Worry no more, though, because I have you covered (at least a little bit). I did some of the legwork for you on one of the best new school options in the Davidson/Lake Norman area: Coddle Creek Elementary School (CCE). Full disclaimer: I have a son in 4th grade at CCE and am ridiculously in love with the administration, teachers, staff, and the philosophy of the school. Let me illustrate why…
Coddle Creek Elementary (CCE) is on its way to making history in the Iredell-Statesville School District by becoming the first International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP).* According to the International Baccalaureate website, “PYP students learn how to take control of their learning, teachers collaborate to deepen student- learning and increase their confidence and self-motivation. The whole school community, including parents, are viewed as partners in learning, and actively contribute to a holistic educational experience.”
To elaborate on these concepts, I interviewed Coddle Creek Elementary Principal, Susan Fail. As an administrator of CCE, it has always been her philosophy to develop the whole child. Given the opportunity to become an IB School has allowed her, the teachers, and the staff to do just that. As an IB school, they focus each month on a different Learner Profile (see image attachment below). According to Principal Fail, “This allows us to make better humans. We are celebrating humans.” With that being said, can you think of any argument where creating “better humans,” especially in our world today, could be a bad thing? I know I sure can’t!
Principal Fail went on to recount numerous stories of what it means to create better humans throughout our interview. One, in particular, that stood out to me, was the story of a group of students who had gotten in trouble that day because they were not so nice to another student at lunch. She said that when she spoke to the group of students about their behavior, it was apparent that they could see the disappointment on her face. Later that day, the same group of students wrote her an apology letter that admitted their awareness of how they hurt the other student and understood their mistakes. Principal Fail believes these students’ realization is a direct result of the IB programming that has been implemented at CCE. “We have seen less instances overall,” she said. “I see more kids who are willing to stick up for someone else or sit next to someone that perhaps wouldn’t normally have someone to sit next to.”
CCE is instilling kindness in students each and every day. For example, on the daily announcements, the principal asks the students if the words that they are saying to one another are kind and helpful. She tells them “if not, then don’t say them.” This type of focus on character education isn’t always common in mainstream programs, which is why the IB program appealed to her and her staff. “For me,” she said, “I want these kids to leave this building knowing that they had people who cared about them. That no matter what happens in life, that they can look back at this school and know that they had a huge cheering section for them, and that we gave them the authority and power to do something great.”
While focusing on character and IB Learner Profile traits is a top priority at CCE, you can rest assured that academics will not take a back seat. Principal Fail envisions the IB program as a circle. “Half of it is the framework, the academic side,” she said. “Whereas, the other half is building a better human.” What this means at CCE is that the students have more of a say in the direction of their learning than perhaps they would in a mainstream school. CCE teaches the common core state standards just like other schools, but where it differs, though, is that the kids have a chance to inquire about those standards. The amazing teachers at CCE achieve this by implementing a flipped classroom model. When a teacher is introducing a new concept to the classroom, a typical classroom model might look something like this: the teacher does it, the teacher and the students do it together, then the student does it independently. In a flipped classroom model, however, it is more like this: The student does it, the teacher and students do it together, then the teacher will model it (if needed). Principal Fail says that this approach helps build students’ confidence to tackle the learning gaps themselves. This is yet another example of the “building better humans” side of the circle mentioned above.
As a parent, I can tell you first-hand that everyone who works at CCE, whether it’s the principal, the teachers, the office staff, or the custodians, is an advocate for my child. Principal Fail mentioned that the foundation of their hiring standards is based on a simple question: “Are you an advocate for kids?” She emphasized that the rest can be taught. “You can teach a teacher how to teach math, how to teach reading, but you can’t teach them to be caring or compassionate. Those have to be from within, it’s intrinsic.” A recent school survey only adds credibility to the CCE and IB philosophy. Of those that took the survey, an overwhelming majority of students said that they feel like they have adults at CCE who care about them. In addition, 96% of parents said they would recommend CCE to someone else. You can absolutely count me in that percentage! I encourage you to learn more about CCE and the IB program. Feel free to contact the school to set up a tour and see first-hand how this school is making a difference in the Davidson/Lake Norman community.
For more information on Coddle Creek Elementary:
Kindergarten registration is March 29, 2018. CCE is an open enrollment school and is currently accepting students in all grade-levels. Please note that if you live outside of the Iredell-Statesville school district, you will need to submit an Out-of-District application. To learn more, visit: https://www.iss.k12.nc.us/coddlecreek or call (704) 439-4077.
*CCE is currently an IB candidate school. As of the writing of this post, the school had recently completed the last phase of the IB process which verifies CCE’s implementation of 73 IB standards and practices. School and district officials will be notified of the final status of their application within the next few months. Upon approval, CCE will be the first IB PYP program in the district.