Beginning with an Impact

Principal Sandra Squire discusses what’s in store for this school year

The 2016-17 school year has finally begun, and our administrators are ready to implement a number of changes around Ben Davis. Principal Sandra Squire, who will be entering her fifth year as our principal, was eager to discuss several of these changes and the goals that she has in mind for each of them.

What was just once a rumor is now becoming a reality for our students; the IMPACT period will be making its debut for students 10th-12th grade. Being a pass/fail credit-bearing class, the 25 minute IMPACT period will push our school’s schedule to an 11 period day. It will occur just before lunches start and will become the new third period.

“It’s going to give our students a time to take a breath in the middle of the day and get organized,” Squire said.

The major focus for the IMPACT period will be teaching the Wayne Township Habits of Success. Those entering their sophomore year have had some experience with these concepts since 7th-9th graders piloted the program last year, but a majority of the incoming senior class has been left uninformed and therefore dubbed the newest addition to our school as yet another homeroom.

“We want to do some fun, community type of activity at the beginning that hopefully will drastically look different than homeroom,” Squire said. “We’re also going to have different type of competitions throughout the year. We may do some hallway decorating where the classes are competing against each other.”

The Habits of Success built into the IMPACT period have been taken from the 16 Habits of Mind discussed in Arthur Costa and Bena Killick’s book, Habits of Mind.

“In the books and all of their programs, they talk about these 16 habits of mind that employers, professors and adults say are the things that are missing when students and employees come to them,” Squire said. “It’s kind of the soft skills that we used to teach in school a little bit more, like citizenship.”

Squire believes that through the IMPACT period, these essential skills can be assessed.

“At the secondary level, we’ve really moved into standards, and we’ve moved into content,” Squire said. “In physics, we teach these standards. In calc, we teach these standards. In doing so, some of these skills are kind of embedded, but there are certain skills that we need to be intentional in teaching.”

Although the IMPACT period will look different for sophomores, juniors and seniors, Squire believes that perseverance is one Habit of Success that each class should focus on.

“Persisting is one of the majors ones because we know that people who persist when they have a problem are much more likely to succeed long term.” Squire said.

When students first heard of the IMPACT period, most believed it was going to be another homeroom. Unfortunately for many students, the word homeroom has a negative connotation associated with it.

With every staff member and student working together, Squire is hopeful in overcoming this stigma as students realize the IMPACT period’s true purpose: to create a community within a small classroom setting where students can build a strong, positive relationship with a teacher.

“If a teacher is teaching English, they need to be teaching English,” Squire said. “A lot of times they build great relationships with students, but they have to teach English. This allows our teachers to step back and build a relationship with a student and help them succeed setting goals, learning the Habits of Success, getting everything ready for college and helping them plan for post-graduation.”

Squire believes this type of one-on-one relationship can be beneficial for students as she looks back on the teachers who inspired her.

“When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who definitely inspired me to become an English teacher in the way that she taught,” Squire said. “It was really at college that I had that relationship with somebody who saw the potential in me academically and who helped gear me towards where I wanted to go in life. I had some great high school teachers, no doubt, but it was in college where I first had that person who really believed in me.”

As a high school student, Squire was able to experience a program similar to the IMPACT period.

“This is where we say our kids at Ben Davis deserve this,” Squire said. “I had those opportunities for people to sit down and work with me on those Habits of Success and talk about what my plans were for after high school and after college.”

A crucial aspect that Squire wants students to know is that they are the ones who have ownership of the success of the IMPACT period.

“If students and teachers treat it like it’s a homeroom or another study hall, it can fail,” Squire said. “What our staff and students put into IMPACT will equal what they get out of IMPACT. The more invested they are in the process and the curriculum that’s being taught, the more they’re going to get out of it.”

Squire has two long term goals for the IMPACT period, one of them being skills that students are eager to learn as they head off into adulthood: learning financial literacy, balancing a checkbook, and paying bills. Squire would like to see the IMPACT period teach these important, small cultural ideas that we sometimes forget to teach in our rapidly progressing culture.

“I think my greatest long term goal with IMPACT is to see increased attendance,” Squire said. “This will be where students are engaged in school, they want to be in school, they want to be in class, and they want to be plugged in. I think that’s our greatest benefit that we will see come out of the IMPACT.”

Besides the IMPACT period, Ben Davis will be continuing to work on their redesign by broadening the CAPSTONE project and the use of Naviance at a higher level.  

“The whole intention is to make sure that there is no wasted time in high school and that the 8th semester is where you’re bridging to college, to a career, to what you’re going to be doing next,” Squire said.

As for her personal goals, Squire wants to continue on the road of improvement and not lose sight of the strides that we’ve made as a school.
“There’s no doubt we’ve done some great work,” Squire said. “Our one data piece that’s still lagging is our standardized testing. Our math Decision Making for Results team has done some amazing things and have seen some great results in our Algebra ECA pass rate. I want us to continue as a school to focus on that. I just want to have the best 16-17 school year that we can possibly have. I want every student crossing the stage. I want every student to have a good plan once they cross the stage.”