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Classroom Culture

A safe place
to succeed
and fail.

We focus on building a strong classroom community, an environment where every child is known. And has what they need to flourish.

We create a safe environment where every child can take risks, learn from mistakes, and rejoice when making discoveries and reaching new depths of understanding. Mustard Seed School is a community of learners who care for one another, support each other, and grow intellectually together — every step of the way.

Social-emotional learning goes hand-in-hand with academics.

We know your child’s social skills affect how they learn in the classroom. How they work with their peers. And who they grow up to be. That’s why our program emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe learning community. Mustard Seed School teachers are trained in evidence-based methodologies including the Responsive Classroom Approach and Developmental Designs. Informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers, these approaches are used throughout the school, providing consistency from one grade to the next.

Habits of the heart, mind, learning, and work.

There are certain habits of thought and work that are centrally important to learning, working, and living. As part of our whole-child approach, Mustard Seed School teachers use the habits of heart, mind, learning, and work as a lens to know and challenge students. These habits include skills like listening. Responding. Connecting and synthesizing. Persisting. Engaging fully. In fact, we’ve identified 20 habits we encourage in our students. Using this lens, teachers can be more precise in analyzing a student’s strengths and weaknesses that spread across academics and the arts.

A home for many kinds of learners.

Our community is enriched by a wide spectrum of learners. Here, every child is fully known. Loved. And supported to be successful. We provide advanced opportunities for students who excel in an academic area. And extra help for those who struggle in particular areas.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade may qualify for special services through the Hoboken Board of Education, many of which can be provided at Mustard Seed School. Speech and occupational therapists, paraprofessionals, and a special education teacher provide instruction and support that is individualized and in group settings. Our expert learning specialists communicate with this team, as well as with teachers and parents, to make sure all students have a cohesive, supportive community.

Academic Teams (6-8th grade)

As our students grow from late childhood to early adulthood, they learn in situations that combine meaningful relationships with interdisciplinary learning. In each academic team, students engage new points of view, take on leadership roles, and communicate with new audiences. The experiments, research, creativity, and empathy they engage in prepares them not only for high school academics, but for all aspects of life. Students also join an advisory group led by a staff advisor. They meet together to engage in book talks as part of a high volume reading program. On a regular basis, they check in, support, and challenge one another.

Multi-grade Learning

Multi-grade learning enables students to be grouped by need, ability, or interest, not just by age. For older children, this builds leadership and responsibility as they gain experience teaching and working with younger children. In turn, younger children receive stimulation learning from and working with older children. Students have a broader social experience with increased opportunities to lead, follow, collaborate, and foster peer relationships — in an environment where they are known and loved.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Responsive Classroom Approach?

The Responsive Classroom Approach to elementary teaching is an evidence-based approach. It emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. Seven principles, informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers, guide the Responsive Classroom approach:

  • The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  • How children learn is as important as what they learn: process and content go hand in hand.
  • The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  • To be successful academically and socially, children need a set of social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  • Knowing the children we teach-individually, culturally, and developmentally, is as important as knowing the content we teach.
  • Knowing the families of the children we teach and working with them as partners is essential to children’s education.
  • How the adults at school (parents, teachers, and administrators) work together is as important as their individual competence: lasting change begins with the adult community.

Mustard Seed School teachers receive training and professional development in the Responsive Classroom Approach and it is used throughout the grade levels at school.

What is Developmental Designs?

Like the Responsive Classroom Approach, Developmental Designs is an approach to academic and social-emotional learning. Our teachers receive training in Developmental Designs, particularly in the Middle School. Designed to meet adolescent needs, Developmental Designs addresses key factors to student success. These include good relationships, social skills, and engagement with learning.

Principles of Developmental Designs include the following:

  • Meet middle level students’ needs.
  • Use developmentally appropriate practices and content
  • Build social-emotional skills
  • Rigorously respond to rule-breaking
  • Motivate students to achieve academically
  • Intervene with struggling students
  • Create inclusive learning communities
  • Build a strong, healthy adult community
  • Read more
What are your expectations for behavior?

All children, who are created in the image of God, are recognized and respected by adults and peers. Each one is seen as a child of God. Children also have important physical, social, emotional, and spiritual dimensions, as well as a cognitive dimension. Children must be involved in healthy, productive pursuits that deeply matter to them and to others. They must participate in respectful, caring relationships with other individuals, families, and communities. They must take responsibility for personal actions and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

With this in mind, the goal for classroom behavior and all social interactions (including park time, sporting events, after-school events, field trips, class trips, etc.) is to establish an environment that is:

  • Safe for each student, teacher, and assistant teacher, both physically and emotionally.
  • Characterized by integrity, mutuality, respect, tolerance of differing opinions, and above all, the virtue of Christian hospitality.
  • Orderly, controlled, and conducive to the best possible learning and teaching.
What is a class covenant and why does each classroom have one?

Every year each class creates a covenant, a promise to each other about how each member of the class will behave with another throughout the school year. It is part of building a safe, strong, and beautiful classroom environment where it’s okay to take risks, fail, and succeed. Building the covenant is a collaborative process that happens over time during the first six weeks of school. By working together on the covenant, teachers and students foster a sense of ownership of the rules, establish guidelines and expectations for responsible behavior, create a sense of order and safety (both physical and psychological), and learn the purpose of rules in a democratic society.

What is the process for creating a class covenant?

There’s a very specific process for creating a class covenant. It begins with articulating hopes and dreams. Students and teachers share their goals for the year. Next, they work together to generate rules that will allow everyone to realize their hopes and dreams. Then, they work to state the rules in positive statements. For example, instead of saying “no stealing,” a class might say, “respect everyone’s belongings.” Finally, the class condenses the list down to a few global rules. These are written up as a covenant, a promise, that everyone in the class signs. When there are infractions, the class can return to the covenant and remind one another of their agreement.

How do you celebrate each child?

We love to celebrate each person in our community as a unique child of God, complete with the many gifts that God has bestowed upon them. We recognize each child’s birthday during worship. At this time, a book is given to the school library in honor of the student. Each student is also recognized during worship (preschool students) or at Commencement (K-8) for a character quality that they have brought to their classroom community during the year. By the time a student graduates, they have a collection of words (mathematician, word-lover, writer, scientist, thoughtful, friend, welcoming, efficient) that describe the many gifts that they have brought to our community.

And of course, we celebrate students throughout the year in the classroom for their work, perseverance, and the ways that they contribute to the learning community.

What habits do students develop?

Mustard Seed has developed 20 habits of heart and mind, learning and work. These are the habits that teachers encourage and guide each child to develop as they move through each grade, from preschool to eighth grade. We believe that these habits develop life-long learners and whole persons, ready to thrive and become agents for change in their communities.

Experience
Mustard Seed School.

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