Friday, May 20, 2016

A LEAP of Faith

Sivon Matthews
8th Grade LEAP Student
Hand Middle School
Mrs. Odom’s 7th period

The transition from one school to another is not easy. For some it is even harder than others. It’s a struggle adjusting to new rules, new authority, new people, and just a new place period. I had a shaky start coming to a new school but now I think I fit in pretty well. I have adjusted to everything. It wasn’t easy but I think everyone has a little trouble in the transition going to a new school.

I came from Crayton Middle School. They did things pretty different than they do at Hand. The teaching staff was different, the rules are different, and just the way things are set up is different. I adjusted in a regular manor of time in my opinion. It took me a while to get set up with the rules and what I could and could not do. Getting used to the teachers also took a while.

While learning everything I was taught a lot about what my teachers expected of me. I learned that they’re going to push me as hard as I need to meet those expectations and do whatever it takes to help me achieve my goals. By the time I finally adjusted to the rules and regulations everything was moving pretty smoothly. My teachers adjusted to the way I acted and I adjusted to the way they do things in their classrooms like what they do and do not allow. Once I got used to everything, everything was cool my teachers are nice my principal is nice and they all keep me motivated.

Now I think everything is flowing smoothly. I have settled in and I like it. I’m doing really well in most of my classes. I really like my new teaching staff. They are nice, caring, and motivational. Hand Middle School is a lot different from Crayton but during this transition I really think that a change of scenery was necessary. I really enjoy being at Hand Middle School. It’s a very nice place with a great vibe. I had a rocky beginning to my transition due to the changes in just about everything. Although I will miss everything I had to leave behind, I’m very glad that I got to move on with my life and further my education in the LEAP program. 

Ms. Odom was very good teacher for the time that I did have her. She was very nice and kind but at the same time she was strict and always on my back but the motivation kept me going which lead to me do very well in her class. She taught me a lot and a life lesson, the main one being “you’re never going to make it giving up over a little problem so whether you like it not I’m going to stay on your back and make sure you succeed.” She was a major part to me putting in effort so to her I say thank you for not giving up on me and helping me strive for success. I appreciate you.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Courtroom to Classroom

Robert Lominack
Latin Teacher at Dreher High 
Co-Founder, Achieve Columbia

Contact Mr. Lominack:
Twitter: @RobertLominack

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ~Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss

There's a reason I am a teacher. I spent almost 15 years investigating and trying to tell the stories of men on death row. In each case, I learned every imaginable detail about their families and their childhoods. The trauma that they endured was not always extreme or unique. In fact, it was the type of trauma that many of our students face. But the consequences were extreme and debilitating. Of course, I had the advantage of being able to look back and trace the story from the beginning to the tragic end. I quit being a lawyer, because I wanted to be a part of the story before it had been written, when there was still time to help change the trajectory of their lives.

Interestingly, attorneys who represent death row inmates have to be very knowledgeable about childhood trauma and mental health issues. In fact, our clients' childhoods were the most important part of their story, because this part of their life set the stage for what was to come. Therefore, in addition to being trained in mental health issues, in every case we worked with a full team of mental health folks (psychologist, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, and social worker at a minimum). I am worried that we are not providing teachers the knowledge, training, and support to work with students who suffer from childhood trauma and mental illness. So we often miss opportunities to help, we are impatient when we need to be more understanding, and we give up because we just don't know what to do. 

By the time many kids reach middle school they have absorbed years of trauma. It takes patience - months, not days - to work with these kids and get them back on track. Until schools focus on this aspect of teaching, we will continue to do a mediocre job at working with the children who need us the most. Nobody should be content with that. But we will not be able to change our results until we have changed our practices.

I am hopeful that we can begin to do that.

 Achieve Columbia
Click to view website

Article on the Paper Tigers Documentary


As principal of Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington, Jim Sporleder is credited with helping change the culture of the alternative school. Lincoln has gained national attention as a “trauma-informed” school.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pay It Forward

Martha Shaffer 
Elizabeth Thomson

8th Grade Pay It Forward Leaders

Community service is something that has been important to the two of us since we were young, but this year, it took a special turn for us. In October, the flood devastated the Midlands. We finally understood what it was like to experience something so tragic in our communities. We also noticed the support we received from across the country. People drove to South Carolina from different states to bring supplies. LSU donated a truckload of water bottles. We were there alongside our friends and neighbors to repair and recover from what had happened. We finally knew what it meant to be proud to be a South Carolinian.

One day, in English, we had a class-wide discussion about the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the question of whether or not it was a genocide. We were both extremely passionate about the issue. The day went by, but the two of us were still just as intrigued about what was happening in Flint as we had been that day. We wanted to do something.

We discovered exactly what we wanted to do when we had a meeting with our English teacher, Ms. Odom, and our 8th grade Administrator,  Dr. Coletrain. We created a plan to partner with a school in Flint and collect the supplies they needed. We were so excited that we were actually getting to do something for Flint. We brainstormed the logistics of the drive, and we were ready to begin.

Ever since we hit the ground running, we have been busy at work on this project. We made posters, digital flyers, powerpoints, and letters to prepare. We went on the morning announcements to announce the collection. We passed out boxes to every first period class in the school. We made phone calls to numerous stores, churches, and other businesses in the community.

We continue to create ideas about ways to improve the outcome of our drive. We have to problem solve, adapt to change, work with different people, and manage the project on a daily basis. We keep ourselves updated and research the Flint crisis extensively. We have become better citizens because of the work we do.

Running this drive has been extremely hard work, but it has all been worth it, because we know we are helping others who desperately need it. We hope that all the students as well as the teachers understand how important it is to help others. We believe we all can grow from a project like this when we learn the importance of paying it forward.

The students and teachers of Flint Southwestern Classical Academy need us. Together, we can Pay It Forward.