Goodman After School
By August Halbach and Amie Hoag, Eastside News
How do you sum up a Goodman elementary teacher? Someone who knows how to meet every kid where they are, wherever they are, every day. As soon as each kid steps food on the bus that will take them to Goodman, they've entered their GCC family space.
For the kindergarteners in Maddie Fagerland's Orange House, they know they'll soon be giggling, drawing and begging to see Ms. Maddi's collection of Pokémon cards. In Red Room, Nicole Wetzel and Deng Kuot set positive intentions with their kiddos before they step foot in the door. And in Teal, Emily Heimlich and her students embrace opportunities for empathy.
“Everything is child dependent. The more a child can advocate for themselves and regulate their own behavior or just breathe, the safer they'll feel.”
Of course, it isn't just the kids who grow from the respect-based practices of the classroom families. Part of Conscious Discipline, the philosophy Goodman teachers follow, involves the teachers themselves practicing self-regulation.
Wetzel shared that each day she is learning too. "Every day is going to be different, and I have to think and reevaluate and become a better person." Every part of these classroom relationships is reciprocal — the teachers and students all work together to build community.
Teachers really listen
Goodman teachers take time to get to know each of their students while they’re at Goodman, but they also take time to visit students in their schools as well. The school-Goodman-home triangle is a key component of the after-school experience. Goodman teachers work to bridge the gap between home and school in their support of students.
Old + young together
This year, GCC after-school rooms have mixed ages. There are challenges to having first through fifth graders in one room, but there are benefits as well. Older kids get a chance to be role models, and younger kids get a chance to learn from their peers. It kind of feels like a family.
Rockin' field trips
Throughout the school year and especially in the summer, elementary students get to take advantage of gems throughout Madison and beyond. There are walks to local parks or Olbrich Gardens, bike trips, excursions to state parks and of course, a Goodman favorite: Troy Gardens on the city’s north side.
If anyone knows how to turn a so-so day into a great time, it’s a Goodman elementary kid and their classroom family. Even when the kids may have a tough day at school or are sorting through some pretty big emotions, their teachers always fi nd a way to make sure every day includes a laugh and at least a couple smiles.
Getting to Goodman
Every day, about 50 kids climb onto a big yellow bus that takes them to Goodman after school. GCC teachers are on the bus to greet them. For teacher Nicole Wetzel, it’s valuable time to ask each kid about their day so their time at Goodman gets o to a good start. So it’s a pretty happy scene as they run into Goodman.
What’s that sound coming from the Orange House? It’s students honing their drumming skills! Mr. Mandjou leads an exuberant drumming and African dance. Partnerships like this enrich students’ afterschool experience with coding, cartooning, financial literacy, bicycle maintenance, cooking and so. much. more.
Food, glorious food!
At Goodman, after-school “snack” is more than Goldfish crackers and applesauce – way more. At 3:30 p.m. each day, kids are served a family-style meal during snack time. Menu favorites include chicken, spaghetti and chili. Why such a robust meal? For some of our kids, dinner at home may need to be lighter because a parent works or the family may be struggling to make meals. No one goes home with an empty stomach.
Outside + active
It’s a winning combination. Whether it’s time on the playground or in the gym, riding scooters or playing dodgeball, hiking or swimming in a pool or lake — it’s as important as it is fun.
Empathy can take a lot of work to master, especially for kids. That’s why Ms. Emily created a #Mood board where kids share their feelings on a scale of “need a hug” to “feeling happy.” So, when Colin was upset and needed a hug, he moved his name to the “need a hug” section. And after Ms. Emily gave him a big hug, he moved his tag up to “happy.”
All that empathy talk? It’s working. On a sunny Thursday, Chris had a hard time on the bus and the transition to Goodman and made some choices that weren’t so great. His friend Amayah noticed and asked him what was going on — could she help? By the time he got down the hallway to the Teal Room, his mood had totally shifted.
Drawing on advocacy
On a rainy Tuesday in Red Room, Wetzel shared with her kids the following day would be a no-Goodman day. Why? The teachers were heading to the Capitol to advocate for Child Care Counts (read more here). Being curious minded, her class asked questions and voiced their opinions about topics like racism and why voting matters for everyone. After the discussion was over, some students designed signs that Wetzel took with her to the Capitol the next day.
Every day, teachers hold a class meeting. That way, kids know they’ll have a chance to share their opinions — and what’s on their mind. It leads to interesting conversations!
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