In Naomi Damron's first grade room at Majestic School in Jordan District, it's all there on the walls.
William lost three teeth in one month according to the tooth chart marching across the front of the room. Ben is the "Sweet Treat" of the week and gets to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, run errands and be in the spotlight.Several children have already read enough books at home to make it to the top of the exciting Candyland chart, earning a crown, a certificate and a personal visit from their principal, James M. Madsen.
And one little fellow who shall go unnamed had his citizenship card temporarily removed from the Majestic Monarch Club.
But that isn't all bad. Identifying the child's uncharacteristic behavior problems helped Damron zero in on a temporary problem in his home (a sick mother). So he gets an extra dose of attention and an opportunity to reinstate his membership by swapping good behavior for bad.
Everything in Damron's bright and colorful room says, "This is a place where kids are cared about and can learn."
"If I have any outstanding attribute as a teacher, it is that I really love and enjoy being with children," said Damron.
First-graders are a perfect foil for her educational philosophies, matching enthusiasm for enthusiasm and excitement for excitement, Damron said. The challenge of reading that magical key to all the rest of education is worth doing carefully. In her classes, that means a solid base of phonics and then slow introduction of individual words that can be sounded out.
Even reading, however, takes second place to Damron's first priority making her students feel good about themselves.
"At the beginning of the year, we concentrate on self-esteem and healthy mental attitudes. These kids need to know how wonderful they are. When they feel positive about themselves, the academics just naturally take off."
Sending positive notes home to parents, making phone calls to compliment instead of complain and rewarding children as they achieve preset goals is part of her program to "treat every child the same and let them know I love them equally."
Setting class rules at the beginning of the year is a joint project. Once the rules are set, "They know I'm not going to let them get away with anything. And I allow them to see me making mistakes too."
Regular class meetings provide an opportunity for children to work out problems that can't be resolved between the parties. If a student has been guilty of a rules infraction, his peers decide how he needs to rectify the error.
"Sometimes they're tougher than I'd be, sometimes more lenient," Damron said. Either way, they learn to look at problems and deal with them rationally.
She recognizes education as a great career but isn't blind to its blemishes.
"My biggest concern is class size. I get frustrated trying to meet the all their needs. We need more opportunity to interact," she said. Twila Van Leer