‘Meet the students where they are at’

Aug 24, 2022, 12:00 PM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 3:38 pm
utah student achievement COVID-19...
FILE: SLC school district reports mask exemption numbers for students. Kindergartner Isaac Nshuti wears a mask as he does an assignment at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City schools are taking a newer approach to make sure students feel welcome and prepared to come to school. The efforts in motion involve school officials meeting students within their own communities. Something Meadowlark Elementary School Principal, Maggie Cummings calls, “meeting students where they’re at.”

A practice that was initially for delivering computers and food to students during the pandemic, proved to be beneficial for students’ education.

“We learned that the more connection we had with kids in their home life and their parents, and the more we understood about that, the more effective we were in the classroom,” said Cummings. 

The purpose of the visits is to get better acquainted with the student and their personal data which helps decipher their growth within the provided curriculum. As a result, guardians of the student can get a better understanding of what their child will be learning in school and help them accomplish personal goals. 

Additionally, immersing the school into the community has allowed supplies to be granted from community members. Things like pencils, paper, glues sticks and other art materials have been donated to the school for children to use. 

“A lot of our students don’t really have a place of their own, like their own desk or their own area,” said Cummings. “So we provide them like with a plastic container where they can keep their stuff kind of safe in their home.”

Learning from the pandemic 

When students were obligated to adjust to the online learning style, school officials found that it actually created more permanent tools where children can continue learning outside the classroom, in their own home or wherever they are. 

Consequently, reading and math programs are always an arms length away for students.  With provided school computers in the home, especially for English Second Language (ESL) students, having these programs expedites their learning.

 Two-thirds of Meadowlark students are English learners who can now more easily practice their speaking. 

“They like doing it at home,” said Cummings. “The reason why that’s better is they don’t have to wear headphones or anything, they can just do it out loud at home and then their parents can hear it too.” 

The importance of changing learning models can be observed by the success at Meadowlark. For students at Meadowlark, learning experience is enhanced now that school officials know their needs and can provide them with things such as food and shoes. 

At the very least, Cummings says, “we can connect them to other services around the city to help them make it through.”

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‘Meet the students where they are at’