Spring is a beautiful time of year and doubly so in the hallowed halls of Van Allen. Driving to work each morning is a lovely experience, especially in spring. Blossoms begin to turn the orchards pink and white, green cover crops brightening the fallow fields, puddles glistening on the side of the road in the morning sun, and mist rising off the canals. Thin wisps of clouds, and heavy cumulus drifting in the middle distance against a beautiful azure expanse. It’s enough to set the heart at ease and open the mind to hopeful thoughts for the future, and this is my mindset each spring morning when I arrive at Van Allen and begin my day.
Many seeds were planted early this school year; we are beginning to harvest the fruit of our collective labor as spring gets underway. We started our flipped lunch initiative which has impacted our school culture very positively, and in ways, we would have never expected. Of course, food waste is down because students are eating and drinking more heartily after playing. Of course, behaviors are easier to manage, with our staggered schedule and fewer bodies on the yard at any given time. Of course, students are cooled down and ready to learn, when they head back to class after lunch. But who would have expected that students would be talking to each other more after lunch and having actual conversations? Who could have anticipated that students who had been on the verge of an argument would work out their differences while “breaking bread” at the lunch table? We have even had newcomer students who spoke no English, putting together sentences and practicing their English in casual conversations during lunch.
A new addition to our Van Allen family is the weekly presence of a local Master Gardener, Debbie Moore, and the Escalon Farmington Garden Club. Together with Jennifer Nelson and Joe Coelho, they have developed a gardening program for the students of Van Allen that covers the seed cycle, insects, pollination, row crops, weeding, composting, worms, soil testing, and cultivating fruit and vegetables for our farmers market. Classrooms rotate through learning essential gardening skills each Tuesday, planting love and reaping dedication to the agricultural spirit of our wonderful Van Allen community.
The most significant development this year has been the introduction of the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model to our school. Van Allen has always had a very competent and compassionate staff of high achievers whose only focus is students. PLCs have only strengthened and clarified how teachers work together to help students learn. The most precise and concise description I have heard of what PLCs are, I heard from Dr. Luis Cruz at an institute I attended with my staff in Salt Lake City earlier this school year. “PLCs are an ongoing process whereby educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of inquiry, figuring out why students are not learning, to determine how to respond, so they can take action to increase learning for all students.” Although we are only in the initial stages of this excellent initiative, the positive impact on staff and students has been palpable.
As the weather warms, and students continue to grow and learn, we here at Van Allen wish you all a spring season of vitality, growth, cooperation, and learning.
Principally Speaking is a monthly article, contributed by principals from Escalon Unified School District sites, throughout the school year. It is designed to update the community on school events and activities.