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Oct 3, 2016

As I work in the schools in Wenatchee, I notice lots of things about the school culture. Each school here has its own mascot. Foothills Middle School, for example, has the Falcons. Any child who represents the school in any way, whether in sports, mathematics, art or anything else, is called a Falcon. Other mascots in the area are: The Wenatchee High School Panthers, the Eastmont Wild Cats, and the Pioneer Middle School Bears. Mascots help to create a sense of belonging to a group in each school. Another thing that helps children feel like they belong to a school is a set of guidelines, or rules. Recently, the school district has adopted(1) a framework of positive ideas about behavior at school. Each school uses this framework to make up its own expectations in the form of a mnemonic. An example from Foothills is:

S - solve problems

O - opt for excellence

A - always make good decisions

R - respect self, others, and environment

 So, I suppose, you could say that each school tries to establish the expectations of attitude. Then, in each classroom, guidelines of noise levels and steps in learning are also put on the walls and talked about. 'Restaurant voice' and 'spy talk' were two volume levels I saw the other day. The teacher uses these to describe how loudly the children can talk in a given situation. So while they are busy writing, they might have to use 'spy talk' or whisper, whereas(2), when they are working in groups they could use a 'restaurant voice'. These expectations are described and practiced at the beginning of the school year, and then referred to whenever necessary. I thought it was a very creative way of guiding the students to control the noise. Another element of this system of behavior management is capturing the imagination of the students by rewarding them for positive behavior. If a student has been particularly helpful, caring, or a good example in a class, the teacher can give him a blue note called a 'soar' ticket. The word 'soar' relates to the Falcon mascot. Two tickets can be traded in for a cookie which is handed out by the vice principal at lunchtime. Education has certainly changed since I was young. We had rules and expectations, but, as far as I can remember(3), there was no creativity involved, and certainly no cookies.

1. 'To adopt' is used in this podcast to mean 'to take on' when speaking about the 'framework'. So, ideas can be adopted, philosophies, behaviors, and, of course, people and animals.

a. The behavior management of schools used to be based on punishment. Now a more positive approach has been adopted.

b. We went to the animal shelter just to have a look. Of course, we ended up adopting two cats.

2. 'Whereas' is used in a similar way to 'but' to show contrast.

a. You would use this shoe in tap dance, whereas in jazz a completely different shoe must be worn.

b. The color black absorbs heat, whereas white reflects it. (borrowed from useinasentence.com).

3. 'As far as I can remember' is a wonderful way to inject some personality into a statement about remembering something. It can be used with short or long-term memories.

a. Did you put the hammer back in the toolbox?

    As far as I can remember, yes.

b. He was an honest man, as far as I can remember.

italki for practice with native English teachers!