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State education head visits Mashburn Elementary
Richard Woods highlights importance of social emotional learning
StateSupe Mashburn 1
State School Superintendent Richard Woods visited Mashburn Elementary on Thursday with Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden and Board of Education members Ann Crow, Kristin Morrissey and Nancy Roche. - photo by Micah Green Forsyth County News

In a gym in an elementary school in east Forsyth, fourth- and fifth-graders sat grouped in bright, color-coordinated groups. They were not learning about math or science or writing, but their lessons were vital.

Students attending the role model assembly at Mashburn Elementary School on Thursday discussed what a role model is, looks like and how they, as the oldest students at the campus on Samples Road, are role models for their younger peers.

State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods visited the school Thursday with Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden and Board of Education members Ann Crow, Kristin Morrissey and Nancy Roche.

“We divided them into six houses, and they meet once a month where we talk about the seven mindsets,” said Tracey Smith, principal at Mashburn.

The houses, each designated by a color, a name, a cheer and a mindset, are chosen at the beginning of kindergarten or the start of the year in which new students enroll.

“We have a magic box and they close their eyes and put their hand in and out pops a bracelet, and I have on my blue “jabari” house bracelet,” said Smith as she pointed to the Livestrong-style plastic band on her wrist. “So the house picks them. So it’s very magical. And they’re in their houses their entire time at Mashburn.”

Teaching the seven mindsets — titled under phrases like everything is possible, attitude of gratitude, the time is now, embrace your mistakes — is part of the school’s social and emotional learning program, which adheres to the school system’s Learner Profile and state standards.

“It instills values in our students where when they come to an obstacle, they can look at it and move past it,” Smith said.
Non-academic learning helps build a whole person, she said, not just a smart person.

“It’s flipping the switch in their mind of not good enough and how will I get there to how I will get there,” she said.

Mashburn teaches students goal-setting, like saying, “I’m going to learn these next 10 sight words,” Smith said, or understanding, “my passion is basketball. I may not be a famous basketball player, but I want to coach or something else related to basketball and see where it takes me.”

“I hope they can see that school can be fun and that we can teach the social emotional learning skills to our kids as part of their learning every day,” Smith said, “and we have a choice as school leaders and school administration to be a really big difference with our kids and that we can save one child at a time and have a ridiculously amazing time doing it”

Woods said Mashburn’s mindset houses fall “right in line with what we’re trying to promote across the state.”

“What we know about learning and achievement, definitely before you start with academics is you have to be ready to learn. And starting with those mindsets, giving each child the ability to start the day off right,” Woods said.

He said in talking with the students in the gym it was evident they “know the language” and that the teachers are living out “what they’re teaching and is a good role model for each and every child and for this community.”

Woods, in his first school visit of the year, does not typically go to campuses unless the state is recognizing the school for an award orachievement.

“We want to recognize that there are, perhaps, more ways you can honor and recognize a school based on something other than academics, and I think we are looking to see what we can do for an entire child,” Woods said, “and I think here today we are seeing some great examples of that – we’re going to address the needs of every child and support them in ways that we may not traditionally think of in education.”

So the students cheered for each other without putting other groups down. They talked and discussed and offered ideas.
“I chose ‘care for everyone’ because sometimes not just your friends need help, but other people also need help,” said Olivia Swaim, a fifth-grader.

Their T-shirts and groups were not the only brightness in the room. Light shined, too, from their smiles, their minds and their future, which is bright.