Melanie A. Harris

Hibbett Intermediate School
Florence, Alabama

Best Practices

1) I believe communication is the key to success and one of my best I continually think about the phrase “Perception is reality.” We must communicate to ensure our perception is similar to our reality. Showcasing the learning, fun, and daily events of the school on social media creates attention for the school. We use social media to communicate with our parents and community by posting a weekly newsletter containing school wide important information. Student success is highlighted each week by taking pictures of our “Star Students” and posting them. Each nine weeks, we recognize honor roll, behavior bash, and accelerated reading (AR) students. Student organizations such as Student Council, Math Team and Robotics are pictured with information from events. To promote and enhance school spirit, pictures of homecoming and dress up days are posted. A parent once told me, “We, the parents, appreciate the pictures! Seeing my child smiling or learning really eases my mind and helps me to know they are doing okay in the transition.”

When arriving at Hibbert, I saw a need to enhance communication from teacher to parent. This year we have become a Class DoJo school. Class DoJo is set up similarly to Facebook, allowing parents to see and comment on a class story which could be a picture, link, or announcement. Parents and teachers can easily direct messages to each other, with the option to print the conversations. Class Dojo is used as a part of our student behavior accountability. Students are able to receive positive points for great behavior and receive class rewards. Adversely, students receive negative points for misbehavior. When points are taken or awarded, the parents are directly notified. Along with using Class DoJo, I have asked teachers to contact at least four parents per week: two parents of students needing help and two parents of students being praised for their academics and/or behavior. The teachers provide me their four students each week along with a brief description of each. I use the teachers’ notes to provide encouragement to those students in need of help. I write notes to each of the successful students praising them for their good work.

Staff communication methods include e-mail, Group Me, Hibbett Hub, and open door policy. The Hibbert Hub has truly simplified communication for the staff by providing important details and information. When I created Group Me, it was primarily to quickly inform teachers in the event of an emergency. In addition, we use it to “text” small messages and reminders to check the Hub or their email for more details, or to get a final RSVP for events or meetings.

Good and clear communication takes time, self-awareness, reflection, listening, and planning. It must be diversified for teachers and staff, students, parents and community members. By modeling productive communication as a daily practice, all stakeholders begin to see the importance of clear communication and involvement.

2) Learning, building, and nurturing relationships with staff and students is a daily practice I deem extremely valuable for It is vital that administrators model what they expect from teachers. I strive daily to build relationships with every teacher by being present and letting them know I care, I appreciate them, and I am available. My focus on creating a positive school climate, modeling, coaching, and caring has greatly improved staff morale, achievement, and the students’ understanding of their expectations.

I often ask a teacher when they come into my office or find me in the hall, “Are you needing me to just listen, help you solve something, or coach you?” I have found this helps both the teacher and me feel successful if we have an outcome for our conversation, and it lays the foundation for future coaching in the classroom. I want to model a healthy relationship so they in turn will have that with their students.

Implementing procedures to celebrate staff through birthday recognition, happies, and the shout out board has increased staff morale. Monthly, staff are celebrated with a “happy” or small item to remind them they are appreciated and provided an “order out” food option, which is free to them during their birthday month. I have created a staff shout out board for staff members to recognize others, and those names are placed into a drawing for an Amazon gift card, which are sponsored by PTO. I partnered with local businesses to provide teachers the opportunity to order tea bombs and iced coffees that are delivered to the school. I set up monthly staff events outside of school hours to encourage teachers to get to know each other and their families. It has been great to see teachers become leaders and offer to take over the tea bomb and coffee orders and the planning of monthly events.

Building relationships with all 600 students seems impossible; however, I want each student to know me and my expectations and to see my support. I have found the best way to build that relationship is to be present and to create videos. Being present in the classrooms and hallway creates stronger relationships between both the student and the teacher. Each morning, I try to visit at least half of the classrooms to greet the students and encourage them to have a great day. This provides a way for me to get to know all students, not just those coming to my office for discipline purposes. The videos I create allow me to speak to all 600 students and provide me the opportunity to teach them about different procedures, remind them of expectations, and teach them character qualities. The phrase I often quote to students is, “You are responsible for you! Your words, your thoughts and your actions.” I want students to accept responsibility, learn and grow through each of their actions, whether good or bad and the best way to communicate these expectations is through my videos.