Monday, February 19, 2018
Education

Field games bring character lessons at Paul R. Smith Middle School

HOLIDAY

At a glance, the activity on the Paul R. Smith Middle School campus might have looked like a typical field day event, with hundreds of kids taking turns playing dodgeball in the gym, capture the flag on the field and scaling a rock wall on the basketball court.

No doubt there was some good athletic fun for kids such as Freddy Hamilton, 11, who was the first of his group to pull himself to the top of the wall and push the bright red button signaling success.

"I finally made it," he said after rappelling his way down. "It felt awesome to do that."

High-fives all around for meeting a personal best, but the activity was more about building character than stamina.

Freddy had help getting there, after all. A buddy helped him secure his harness and helmet before he started; a teacher gave him direction telling him to adjust his footing when he was about two-thirds of the way up, thinking out loud that he couldn't make it; and his classmates and Florida National Guard Staff Sgt. Jorge Garcia boosted his spirits, chanting "Go, Freddy, go!" as he closed in on the summit.

The rock wall climbing activity was just one facet of a Youth Values Leader Training program presented over three days to Paul R. Smith Middle students by members of the Florida National Guard Civil Operations Program.

The program, which was booked for the school by Cpl. Jeremy Colhouer, who served as resource officer last year, was the right fit for the Holiday school named for Sgt. Paul R. Smith, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Iraq, said principal Christopher Dunning.

"We're always trying to do things to recognize who this school is named for," Dunning said. "This instills the same characteristics and values that we're trying to teach here at school."

The leadership program has reached about 151,000 students throughout the state and blends some typical school yard games and athletics with lessons on drug awareness and the seven core values of the Army: loyalty, duty, respect, self sacrifice, honor, integrity and personal courage.

But those games come with some different Army rules. For instance, dodgeball isn't just about pelting others or getting out of the way of a flying ball. The primary mission in Army dodgeball is to protect your "medic," a student who can bring a player "back to life" with a simple touch to a felled teammate's shoulder.

"Our purpose is to change some of the social norms and give them an idea of what those core values are," Garcia said. "All the games are based on those values."

After playing, students gather in a circle to discuss just how they used some of those values, and how they might be applied in everyday life.

Tapping into your own personal courage might be needed to scale that wall, particularly for someone who is afraid of heights, Garcia said. "But it's also important when it comes to saying no to drugs or standing up to a school bully. Personal integrity might mean taking your place on the sideline even if no one saw you get hit by that ball, or passing on the opportunity to take a peek at the upcoming test left in plain sight on your teacher's desk when she steps out for a minute."

"This is such a great experience for all of us," said sixth-grade language arts teacher Lynn Albert. "I'll be taking this back to the classroom and we'll be writing about it. The message is so important: to know about things like honor, respect and integrity. It's a great time to get the whole sixth-grade together to put into practice these leadership skills."

To that end, Garcia and other Guard members spend some time ferreting out students who readily display those seven tenets without much thought.

Eighth-grade student Mikaela O'Donnell, who arrived ahead of her classmates for the program's initial assembly in the gymnasium, was rewarded with a special dog tag and a shout-out in front of her peers for simply asking Garcia, "What can I do to help?"

"I wasn't expecting that," said Mikaela, 13, who ended up directing students to their seats. "I was just doing what my parents always tell me to do."

"That's an example of the kind of character traits we want to see," Garcia said. "If everybody in the community did a little bit to help without being asked, this would be a much better world."

Comments
ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

PARKLAND, Fla. — The sound of gunfire still ringing in his ears after his mad half-mile sprint, Jack Ciaramello was standing with friends in a grocery store parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy approached. He asked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High se...
Updated: 12 hours ago
From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

Some teachers left goodbye messages to their students on classroom blackboards. Others cleared their desks.It was Feb. 16, 1968, a Friday, and a sign of what was coming that Monday in Florida: the nation’s first statewide teachers strike.When schools...
Published: 02/18/18
Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Ty Thompson exuded deep emotion and a positive view forward in his first public comments since Wednesday’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.In the two-minute video posted on the school’s website and YouTube,...
Published: 02/18/18
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18
17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

PARKLAND — An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a South Florida high school after police say an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding 15 more in the worst school shooting ...
Published: 02/14/18