A Community of Caring
Our goals for our graduates extend beyond intellectual and artistic development. In preparing our students for the future, we aim to support their social development, self-awareness, community awareness, and dedication to social justice. These goals are more fully described in our Portrait of a Graduate. To support these goals, CACS implements a variety of programs throughout the school.
In some schools, classroom management and discipline are often thought of as ways to control students; they may be predominantly punitive. At Creative Arts, we are dedicated to using discipline practices that are educative, helping students to develop skills that we summarize by the acronym CARES representing: Cooperation, Assertion, Respect, Empathy, and Self-Control. Our goal as educators is to promote students learning through effective and equitable means, recognizing students’ individual needs while maintaining high expectations for all.
After careful research regarding effective strategies, CACS adopted the Responsive Classroom approach. The Responsive Classroom model combines daily morning meetings, designed to foster respect for individuals and for the group, with a strong component of academic choice and democratic classroom management. The approach also emphasizes shared decision-making with students and examination of the values staff and students must uphold to create a strong community. Meaningful academic choice allows students to plan, execute, and reflect upon their own assessments and demonstration of knowledge.
As part of our Responsive Classroom program, CACS teaches students what it means to be a student, a community member, and a leader. Through community meetings, one-on-one discussions, and group activities, CACS uses CARES as a framework to guide student development of their social skills. Parents receive regular assessments of these skills appear alongside academic evaluations in our semester report cards, and students complete reflections on these skills at regular intervals.
Creative Arts is dedicated to promoting a school community that engages students and staff in positive productive conflict resolution and works to eliminate bullying from our community. As part of our instructional program, we have implemented the Peaceful Schools program. Through work with teachers and our counseling staff, students learn about preventing bullying, how to be an ally to advocate for others, and how to respond when bullying might occur.
Who is that fifth grader that your kindergartner is waving to? Possibly her book buddy! At CACS, we team up older and younger grades as book buddy classes. These classes meet together weekly to read together and occasionally collaborate on projects. Older students model for the younger ones, sharing their love of reading, their passion for math, their love of art, and more. Younger students give older students opportunities for leadership. And both classes often present their work to the other, providing authentic and appreciative audiences for presentations on history, science, and more. Best of all, cross-grade friendships extend beyond the classroom, as students share hugs, waves, and smiles on the yard, or give a special cheer to one another during community meetings.
A long-standing tradition at CACS is our All School Community Meetings on Fridays, where students and teachers take turns highlighting the learning taking place their classrooms and celebrating the CACS community. We usually have three community meetings per month on Friday, starting at 8:45 and lasting for about 20-30 minutes. On the third Friday of each month, we have Buddy Class time where 2-3 eighth graders spend time in their assigned buddy class. (This may explain why you might see a first grader running over to excitedly greet an eighth grader out on the school yard.)
What does a community meeting look like? Classroom teachers rotate leading our meetings according to a set schedule. Meetings follow the Responsive Classroom® Morning Meeting protocol, and include a greeting, a share-out, a group activity, and announcements, all run by students. We also take time to celebrate birthdays since the last meeting. Community meetings of the past have featured dance and music performances, dramatic re-enactments, poetry slams, news reports, reader’s theater, and more. One week seventh graders will re-enact an ancient Greek myth they have been studying; the next might feature kindergartners sharing a song they have been working on.
Community Meetings are a reflection of what we value in our students and what we continuously seek to create in a school. We see students proudly standing together, in front of a microphone, taking a chance, sharing what they’ve learned. We see a captive audience being appreciative, learning from their peers. And in the end, we take time to hope for peace in our school, in our city, and in our world, with the understanding that we are just a small part of many larger communities.
Led by our Learning Support Professional and Counselor, our Counseling Team includes three Counseling Interns who are finishing their degrees at California State University, San Francisco Sate, and St. Mary’s. Under supervision, our interns facilitate counseling groups and meet one-on-one with students to emphasize our Peaceful School culture, as well as our community values described by the acronym CARES: Cooperation Assertion, Respect Empathy and Self-Control. At CACS, we believe all students can benefit from social and emotional support, explicit teaching about coping strategies, and practice on being an ally to their peers. Our goal this year is for every student at Creative Arts Charter School to be a part of at least one counseling group providing tools for self- awareness, social development, and social justice. While each grade level is different based on developmental needs, counseling groups include discussion, role plays, and games to help students develop their social and emotional skills.
Last year marked the beginning of Creative Arts’ first student government, designed to give middle school students leadership opportunities in the community and younger students opportunities to participate in the democratic process. Seventh and eighth graders participated in learning about candidates and campaigning for students as part of studying government and representative democracy, with fifth grade students helping to run campaigns. Prior to November 6, talk of the Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow parties permeated the halls, as younger students debated what makes a good candidate, and all students participated in the voting process.
All middle school students at CACS participate in service learning. This program provides volunteer power for community needs and helps our students become engaged citizens, build adult relationships, and prepare for college and careers. Community service begins at school; all 8th-graders serve as “buddies” working with a lower grade classroom throughout the year, and all 6th – to 8th – grade students are responsible for school site cleaning and maintenance. Service projects in the surrounding community include assisting seniors, cleaning up local parks, San Francisco Bay clean-up, supporting the local food bank, community gardening, work at Glide and the Hamilton Family Shelter, providing peer and cross-grade tutoring, and more.