D300 makes Quantum leap in priorities this school year
LAKE IN THE HILLS — The fifth-graders in Jamie Soprych’s classroom at Lincoln Prairie Elementary School already have learned about fairy tales, folk tales and tall tales.
Last week, the students learned about mythology, writing stories and drawing pictures of their own gods and goddesses. Sitting back-to-back on the floor, they read their stories to their partners, trying to guess the other’s god or goddess.
When they finished, they pushed their backs into their partner’s, trying to rise to their feet as Soprych clapped and cheered on students Sofia Nichols and Sarah Tenuta: “Push! Push! Push!”
They lined up, calling out a word that described their god or goddess and peeling off to a different part of the room as the teacher passed, then huddling up in the middle of the classroom for a cheer. Finally, they pushed their desks back to the center of the classroom for a pop quiz.
“If you were to come in as a stranger, you’d be like, ‘What are you doing? It’s so chaotic!’ But it’s not,” Soprych said.
There’s a method to the teacher’s madness.
“It’s kinesthetic, visual and auditory. When you hit all those types, you hit all learners,” she explained.
That method is called Quantum Learning, and it’s one of Community Unit School District 300’s top priorities this school year.
Those priorities — announced by members of the superintendent’s new Teaching and Learning Leadership Team at the District 300 Staff Rally at the start of the school year — include the district’s restructured special education program.
They also include RtI and PBIS, which are intervention programs for students struggling with learning or behavior; and aligning curriculum and testing with the Common Core Standards adopted last year by the state of Illinois.
Quantum Learning is a five-part teaching and learning methodology that addresses all learning styles.
District 300 first offered a five-day summer training in the methodology about 12 years ago, according to Audrey Lakin, the district’s facilitator for the implementation of Quantum Learning.
Then came a different district administration, financial difficulties and a priority shift, Lakin said. The Carpentersville-area school district “never lost contact with” Quantum Learning, she said; it just outsourced its training to National Louis University, on that school’s Elgin campus.
Between 1999 and 2010, about 350 District 300 employees were trained in Quantum Learning, Lakin said.
This summer alone, the district trained more than 100, including staff from every school, she said.
That’s because, the facilitator said, when Superintendent Michael Bregy took charge of the district this school year, he announced another shift in the district’s top priority — back to core teaching and learning.
That included the creation of the Teaching and Learning Leadership Team. It also included a new goal for Quantum Learning.
“Over the next five years, we would train everybody — that’s not just our teachers, but our administrators and our support staff,” Lakin said.
“What we’re trying to do now is implement Quantum Learning so it’s not an intimidating thing. It’s part of the way we do things. It’s not an add-on. It’s a part of the way we do business.”
Putting in practice
The five tenets of Quantum Learning are: “Everything speaks,” “Everything is on purpose,” “Experience before label,” “Acknowledge every effort” and “If it’s worth learning, it’s worth celebrating.”
Those are on display in Lakin’s office, in Bregy’s office, in the front office at Lincoln Prairie and in every classroom at the school.
The Lake in the Hills school has integrated those tenets into its PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program, which teaches and encourages the behaviors the school expects of its students, according to Principal Trent Halpin. That’s two district priorities in one.
“It’s using strategies to create a culture of learning for all students,” Halpin said.
Each tenet is backed up by a number of strategies summed up in easy-to-remember sayings, such as “Where are you living?” That refers to an illustration of behaviors above and below a line indicating what’s expected of students. And that’s the first strategy District 300 rolled out to all its schools this year.
Staff who attended this summer’s training chose seven strategies to roll out this school year before it started. Every other month, those building teams introduce a new one.
So far, they have included “Where are you living?”; the five tenets; 10-24-7 (repeating what’s been learned 10 minutes, 24 hours and seven days later); and call backs (repeating instructions back to the teacher).
“This is a way to give teachers tools,” Lakin said. “It doesn’t tell them how to teach. It doesn’t tell them what to teach. What it is are ways to help us be more purposeful and — I hate to say ‘better’ — maybe more efficient, as well as effective.”
Fourth-grade teacher Michelle Grossmayer, who attended a Quantum Learning Training 10 years ago and again over the summer, said those tools re-energize her as a teacher. And, she said, they make a “difference in the kids right away.”
“It’s so much positive,” Grossmayer said. “Right now, education is hard. There’s a bit of backlash from people. It just reiterates for me the reason why I’m here and why I love what I do. I’m here for my kids.”