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Jump, Jive and Wail!

Picture of a Keys' Director and a Student praticing swing dance steps.

A Model Alternative School

Volume 10 - Page 1


Picture of a Keys' Director and a Student praticing swing dance steps.




She wanted to dance, but then she changed her mind. Fear of failing in front of peers is a powerful force. Slowly, the desire to learn something new overcame the fear and she agreed to try. The music started pumping. The instructor took her hand and guided her through the basic steps of swing dancing. The whole class came alive. The music and movement fascinated everyone. It never dawned on any of the students that they were actually learning. They were just enjoying themselves.

The reader may have jumped ahead and assumed that this story is about the GT (gifted and talented) class at one of our high schools. You are almost right. This scene was played out at the 
Elm Street Center in Rogers, Arkansas.
  The alternative learning environment for the Rogers School District. The swing dance lesson was presented by Mike Nelson, Director of Keys To Safer Schools. He was visiting the Elm Street Center on matters more closely related to his profession of mental health therapist and writer of behavior modification programs for alternative schools. But his other skills were pressed into service by this resourceful staff and the pleading of the students. This type of activity is far more common in the GT classes, whereas the alternative classes are usually seen as a place where kids learn to sit down, shut up and pay attention. At the Elm Street Center, at risk students are offered a variety of experiences that reward positive behavior and hold their attention.



Freddie Jones, the Principal at Elm Street, uses the BASIC to reach his kids. 

B is for boundaries. Student are given strong and consistent boundaries, often for the first time in their lives. A stable, orderly learning environment is gained through strict adherence to school policies regarding dress, language and classroom behavior.

A is for attendance. Not only is being in school rigidly enforced, being punctual is stressed, expected and given.

S is for social skills. These students are provided the opportunity to learn skills for life. Far more than dancing lessons, they learn the arts of communication, problem solving, conflict resolution and decision making.

I is for intervention. Every student has access to a licensed counselor and a master's level social worker. These trained professionals also reach out to the parents and link school, home, community agencies and the courts to insure that no student falls through the cracks.

C is for community service. Involvement in the community is an integral part of the Elm Street experience. As the students invest themselves into the community, they develop a sense of ownership. They can volunteer or apply for community service credit. 
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