October 18, 2023
By MEALAND RAGLAND-HUDGINS
Rutherford County Schools
Rock Springs Middle is the second school within Rutherford County Schools to be recognized by a national organization for helping students and teachers be mindful of their digital habits.
RSMS was recently named a Common Sense School by Common Sense Education, a group founded in 2003 with the mission of helping families navigate media and technology while keeping themselves safe.
Rock Springs Middle Principal Stephen Wayne initially heard about the program last year when Stewarts Creek Elementary earned the same honor.
“The general idea is making kids aware of safety, so when I first read about it, I knew it was something I wanted to do,” Wayne said.
Common Sense provides the training and curriculum at no charge.
April Smith, the school’s instructional coach, took the lead in helping train teachers, who then trained students.
“Students are aware of so much, but there is still a digital gap. We as teachers have a gap sometimes, too, but when you hear (a student’s) perspective and see the world they live in through their eyes, it’s eye-opening,” Smith said.
The student training took place in mid-August and covered topics such as media balance and well-being, privacy and security, cyberbullying and digital drama. Topics are broken down by age and grade, which allows for all students to be focused on the same information simultaneously.
As part of the Common Sense endorsement, available for grades K-12, schools are required to provide parent training, which Wayne and Smith led during new student orientation and grade-level parent nights.
“Once we shared all the information with the kids, we sent it home to parents to extend and continue that message,” Wayne said. “I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from parents who are so grateful that the message at school and the message at home are consistent and they’re starting to see the change.”
Other schools, such as Stewarts Creek Middle and Thurman Francis Arts Academy have expressed interest in bringing the programs to their campuses, Wayne said.
“I want to thank Mr. Wayne and Ms. Smith for taking this initiative. Hopefully, other schools will be encouraged to promote digital citizenship in their schools, and RCS can be on its way to becoming a Common Sense District,” said Jeannie Williams, the district’s instructional technology coordinator.