KILGORE, TX (KLTV) -
Educators are always looking for new ways to engage their students, and Kilgore ISD thinks they have just the thing to motivate the whole district.
Students are being randomly assigned into groups or “houses," kind of like the school in Harry Potter.
When they entered the Chandler Elementary gym, they were just a bunch of second and third graders, but that changed. Instructional specialist Dana Presley attended the Ron Clark Academy over the summer, which teaches that unity in groups or “Houses” keeps kids motivated.
“We have second and third grade on our campus, and they are going to be in a family together in a house. We have four houses,” Presley said.
The kids go down a large inflatable slide alone, but emerge as part of a team according to KISD Assistant Superintendent Richard Nash.
“The real purpose of it is a sense of belonging to teach those kids that it’s more than about me,” Nash stated.
And the kids had no problem joining their new family houses with inspirational names like “Svava” which is Dutch for rise above all problems. Administrators think the kids will learn:
“What I do on my individual basis affects my classmates. What I can do not only helps myself but helps others,” Nash explained.
And although Chandler Elementary is just starting the program, it’s been going on for a semester on other KISD campuses.
“We are seeing differences right now. The academic part is just coming up, but our discipline numbers are already way lower than they have been in the previous two years,” Nash revealed.
Nash said the camaraderie has spread off campus. He said students that have only seen him in hallways see him at football games and shout:
“Optimista! You know it’s their house name, and they’ll have these. Because they’re so proud of who they are and what they’re doing, and so that is the stuff that makes a difference,” Nash said.
“There’s a lot of things that go on beyond our control outside of the school, but when they come here we want them to have that spirit. We want them to walk in the door and feel it,” Presley added.
So whether the students are on campus or off, administration feels this is a big step towards responsibility and putting others first.
A point system will also be established with winners receiving rewards like parties. Administrators say the houses are working so well that older students have expressed an interest in meeting the younger ones.