Who We Are
A Strong and Caring School Culture
We don’t just talk about our core values of Efficacy, Care, and Wonder-- we live them. Ask any student, teacher, staff member or parent and they will tell you: what makes VOICE special is the unusually high level of care and trust that pervades our community and drives hard work.
Students know that teachers care about them and do everything in their power to help them learn. So students feel safe, work harder, and keep wondering. With support from administration and peers, teachers are constantly improving their own practices, sharing techniques, learning and collaborating more deeply.
Walk into any classroom at VOICE and it most likely won’t be silent. It will probably be filled with the noise of students learning from one another. You will see students who are happy to be where they are despite the challenge of their tasks. You will see multiple forms of collaboration: a lesson taught from a curriculum written by the grade team and aligned with the grade teams above and below; co-teachers and assistants guiding small student groups; students working out problems in teams, preparing to share their findings with the rest of the class; intervention teachers focusing with a small group to target a specific skill that the data department identified as lagging. Or you could look into a classroom where the students have left for lunch, music, or PE, giving a group of teachers time and space to coordinate music content with math; brainstorm about extending critical thinking in social studies, or meet with parents to discuss a student’s progress. Or you could see (and hear) a choir classroom-- a metaphor for all of this-- where alto and soprano sections syncopate and harmonize under the guidance of a conductor’s baton.
Collaboration enables us to work harder and smarter. We support and inspire one another to go further. Behind the rigor of our work, however intense it might be, is joy and love.
At VOICE students cultivate powerful voices, both individually and collectively. They also learn to listen. As students grow they are given greater opportunities to undertake more ambitious projects, pursue their passions, take ownership of their decisions, assume leadership roles and care for their peers-- because these are the behaviors of young people who grow into responsible, happy, lifelong-learning adults.
Social and Emotional Development
Dedicated to supporting the hearts and minds of our students, our Social Work team plays an unusually active role in VOICE school culture from grades K through 8. In addition to providing traditional counseling, short- and long-term crisis work, the Social Work team delivers trainings and workshops for VOICE staff and parents on various themes. They design and teach “Mind, Body, Heart,” a social-emotional learning curriculum that exposes students to the vocabulary and practices of socially healthy behavior: Students learn to identify and express their feelings, problem-solve and cope with difficult situations in healthy ways, and prevent bullying in and out of school, among other topics. In middle school grades the SW team leads sex education classes.
Students know that the VOICE Social Work team is there for them, for any problem and at any time. The SW team also leads special events and programs aimed at student needs, from social events to peer support and mentoring programs.
Working in concert with our Social Work team’s programs, our approach to discipline is focused on preventative and proactive measures. We draw on various resources such as Love & Logic, Tribes Learning Communities, and the work of Barbara Coloroso and Dr. Ross Greene to provide students and teachers with a framework for addressing behavior problems and lagging skills. As we believe that all students do well if they can, we treat behavior as one of several areas where children must be supported-- and not ostracized-- when they make mistakes. We avoid rewards and punishments because they reinforce external influences on behavior rather than teaching students the inherent value of doing good. We do, however, require students to take responsibility for their behavior, repairing any damage they might have done to themselves and others. As our school culture thrives on openness and honesty, we find that discussing the problems and the feelings behind them is critical in working towards solutions. Discipline at VOICE, through our process of restorative justice, not only empowers students to learn from and fix their mistakes, but to restore their standing in the community.
Inclusive and Responsive
At VOICE, we believe that every student can learn. While we believe that every student can learn, we know that every student learns differently, and that is what makes every student unique. We meet students where they are, and as a team we help students build the knowledge and skills they need to perform on or above grade level. We do so in a way that includes English Language Learners and students with disabilities and IEPs in the General Education class. Students remain together because we believe that everyone in our community belongs.
Every grade level in elementary school has an Integrated Co-Taught classroom (ICT) with a General Education teacher and Special Education teacher. The Special Education teacher on each team collaborates with the General Education teacher to develop lessons that work for each individual student’s learning style. Students also receive related services such as Occupational Therapy, Speech, Physical Therapy, Counseling, and Hearing Services.
VOICE’s Intervention and Special Education teachers provide services for individual and groups of students as well as support for the special education teachers on the ICT teams. The Intervention and Special Education Team works closely with administration and the Social Work team to ensure that all teachers at the school are working together to best support our students.