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In “renewal,” Granite Quarry Elementary helps students manage emotions

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY – Emotions are messy, especially the emotions of young kids.

Granite Quarry Elementary School began implementing Capturing Kids’ Hearts at the beginning of this school year to help kids manage their emotions and improve their education as a result. There are other schools in the district that use the program, but addressing social and emotional issues is a major part of Granite Quarry’s renewal plan, which has given schools in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools district charter-like freedom.

The teachers in a group that meets to discuss the program agreed social and emotional issues with students have been increasing in recent years.

“Our students just have a difficult time being able to manage frustrational emotions or knowing how to respond when they get into frustrational moments,” said Principal April Spry.

It starts with the youngest kids, as Granite Quarry does not just serve K-5 students. There are also preschoolers, and the program is for them as well.

“A lot of the students that I see come into my classroom, they have all of these emotions but they don’t know how to label them appropriately,” said pre-school teacher Kaitlyn Smith. “And so that’s the first step, is really labeling your emotions and knowing what you’re feeling.”

Once students learn to label what they are feeling, they learn about how to express those emotions appropriately. While no emotion is bad, Smith said, students learn how to manage them in a way that will not get them in trouble.

When students come into preschool, the structure and number of transitions can be challenging for students who do not have those skills, she said.

“One of the lessons I do is actually helping them create a calm down kit,” Smith said. “We talk about different things that might help you calm down. It takes some work. It takes a couple weeks to figure out what is comfortable for the child, because what may work for one child doesn’t work for another child, and they kind of have to do some soul searching and be ready for that too.”

Fifth grade teacher Stephanie Sides said everything starts on a “positive note” with the renewal objective.

“We start really getting to know our kids so we know what’s going on outside of school and so we know what they’re coming in with,” Sides said.

Older students are able to talk to each other more outside of school, resulting in more drama brought back to the classroom, she said. So, fifth graders have journals and talk about what the words mean. That includes talking about what it means to have friendships and get along.

The school also is one of six in the district using the program Capturing Kids’ Hearts, which is a program of Flippen Group, a company that uses “research-based tools and processes combined with expert coaching and training.” The organization’s namesake is founder Flip Flippen. 

Spry said the program focuses on building quality relationships with students and creates classroom communities where students can trust one another and adults.

Every group in the school, including teachers, now have social contracts. Each class, club and group of teachers creates one and has to sign it. Even people coming into classrooms, like administrators, have to sign the contracts.

Spry said the administration works with parents who need support in the home to help children deal with frustration at home.

“They might not know how to respond appropriately to their own child so they’re seeking support services through us at school,” Spry said. “We have a strong counseling base right here at Granite Quarry. We partner with many people in the community to provide on-site counseling for students here but also in-home interventions as well. There are lots of different reasons that students are struggling. It’s hard to pinpoint just one.”

Spry added the trouble does not involve a lack of parenting abilities. Instead, it’s outside factors that affect students in the home, she said.

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