Thursday, September 28, 2017

New growth and vision for the 2017 MCH Praise Team

As a way to have more youth involvement with the spiritual programming at Methodist Children’s Home (MCH), the Spiritual Development team recently held auditions for the MCH Praise Team. More than 35 students auditioned for the roles, the most MCH has had in more than 13 years. 

Open positions included instrumentals, tech, spoken word/rap/poetry, dramatic scripture reading, vocals, dance, and worship choir. The wealth of talent at MCH is so great that some students auditioned for more than one role.

Auditioning students had to interview and be prepared to answer why they wanted to be a part of praise team and what they hoped praise team would add to MCH chapel worship.

Additionally, instrumentalists needed to be prepared to play one of two specified songs, vocalists and Worship Choir needed to be prepared to perform one of two specified songs while rap/spoken word/poetry needed to be prepared with a short poem or verse about any aspect of prayer that was real and meaningful to them. For dance auditions, praise dancers were taught a short dance and performed two given options.

“I knew we had talented students so I was not surprised by the auditions,” said Kimberly Clark, director of spiritual development. “However, I was blown away by the interviews! We have some students who are raw, honest and rich in faith. We made a point this year to look for students that were really interested in growing in faith; students who understood the purpose of worship and who were willing to take on leadership inside and outside of worship.”

Clark, along with the other three members of the Spiritual Development team, said that they had to make some very tough decisions this year.

“We did not accept many talented students because they were not ready spiritually,” she said. “It is not about being seen and heard but pointing the congregation to the ONE who knows and loves them.”

Overall, Clark said the Spiritual Development team is excited about cultivating a group of leaders that want to effect a positive change in the MCH community.

“Students want to do what is right and we think we are working toward creating a peer culture that encourages good choices instead of drama and judgement,” said Clark, speaking on behalf of the Spiritual Development team. “We are also excited to see students participate that we never imagined would want to be part of Praise Team.”

Rehearsals for each element of the Praise Team started in September and will soon be integrated into Sunday worship services.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MCH students and charter school teachers welcome new initiatives and programs this school year.

The charter school on the Waco campus of Methodist Children’s Home, operating in partnership with the University of Texas – University Charter School system, started its 14th year on August 15. In June 2017, the school graduated its 300th student and is continuing to implement a new initiative and new programs in hopes of hitting more milestones.

This year the charter school is focusing on Restorative Discipline. According to Michelle Arocha, assistant principal, “Restorative Discipline is a whole school approach to building school climate and addressing student behavior.”

Every day teachers are allotted an extra 15 minutes in their class period for a proactive circle program.

“This is a place for teachers to check in with students, to see what they have learned in class during the week and to see if they have questions about course content,” Arocha said. “Every student in the circle has the opportunity to have their voice heard and know that their opinion is valued.”

When it comes to conflict, restorative discipline also uses the circle program to foster accountability rather than punishment.  

In the event of conflict, “parties have to meet in a restorative circle and discuss what happened,” Arocha explained. “All parties then come to an agreement for how they need to treat each other and what needs to happen moving forward. There is some kind of agreed upon restitution to the party that was harmed and then the facilitator of the circles check in on the parties in the following weeks to make sure the agreement in being kept.”

Echoing the restorative discipline initiative of fostering a healthy school climate, the charter school has been given the theme of Super HEROES (Helping Everyone Reach their Own Educational Success) to use this school year.

Further, the school was tasked to come up with their own campus super heroes. The charter school decided on two heroes, Diamond Diggers, as they are always looking for ‘diamonds’ in their faculty, students and staff, and Data Divas, who make sure that the school helps everyone become successful.

Additionally, the school has introduced another program to foster a positive environment for the students called “Write Your Principal.” This is a way for students to directly and anonymously contact the principals and administration by writing questions and comments on a piece of paper and dropping them off in a locked mailbox that is read daily, Arocha explained.

The final program taking place this year focuses on teachers and staff. All charter school leadership is participating in a book study on The Fundamental 5 which presents the best teaching practices.

As the charter school implements and embraces new initiatives this year, Arocha said it is their goal that 100 percent of teachers daily utilize proactive circles, empowering and correcting techniques and the practices learned from The Fundamental 5.

“I am most excited for our new faculty and staff to embrace our initiatives this year,” said Arocha. “I think that utilizing all of these programs will increase student achievement, create a positive climate and will support our entire community.”

MCH wishes the students and teachers much success as they journey through this new school year. Go Bulldogs!