I believe that it's important to look towards the future with an attitude of positive change, yet it's equally important to recognize what's currently working.
Hence, this is my 2011 gratitude list for all the programs, people, tools and initiatives that have benefitted so many students in 2011.
- Terrific Tech: Our school system continues to support a flexible, fast and reliable tech infrastructure. We also have incredible tech tools at our finger tips. Students in my fourth grade have one-to-one accessibility at a minimum of 50% a day. We have tremendous tech support as well.
- Enhanced PLC (professional learning community): This year our system embarked on an enhanced model of PLC that began with a wonderful summer professional development program, and continues with more time for PLC meetings and focused leadership and goals. This has resulted in enhanced student-centered learning.
- Innovation and Exploration of Professional Development Models: Our system continues to explore innovative professional development models such as summer institutes, teacher book groups and one-to-one tech days. This year we hosted three inspirational educators, Ellin Oliver Keene, Greg Tang and Austin Buffum, whose presentations served to inspire and improve our work with children. The addition of of talented curriculum leaders and dedicated coaches is also serving to deepen and broaden our work for best effect. Also, our system regularly supports teachers' attendance at professional development conferences and workshops.
- Differentiation: An attitude pervades our system that neither students or teachers fit a "one-size-fits-all" agenda thus promoting recognition and acceptance of many styles, gifts, strengths and challenges. While we promote common research-based goals for students and teachers, it is recognized that there is not one path to attaining those goals.
- Kindness Matters: The leadership in my school puts "kindness matters" first and students know it. This has been an integral step to creating a kind and caring school community.
- Community Support: I work in a community that supports education with volunteer time, extra funding, fair teacher salaries and a positive attitude towards innovation and change.
- Wonderful Playgrounds: Our students have the chance to play in beautiful, grassy playgrounds each and every day.
- Dedicated Teachers: There is little teacher turnover in our district due to the fair working conditions, salaries and support. Hence our system attracts teachers who are dedicated and committed to life long learning and growth.
- Innovative Community and After School Programs: The leadership has made a concerted effort to support innovative, enriching before and after school programming.
- The Arts: Our school system continues to celebrate and support the arts. Students have the chance to participate in the visual arts, chorus, instrumental programs and theater. The PTO supports regular cultural enrichment events that further students' understanding and enjoyment of the arts. Students at all levels share their artistic talents with the community regularly through many public events.
- Facilities: Our system will open a new high school this year. This is the result of countless hours of volunteer and professional time. This is an exciting moment for our school system.
I'm sure that I'll return to this list in the days to come to add more categories. I'm fortunate to work in an optimal school system, one in which I am free to use my voice to advocate for growth, question decisions and share ideas. I'm grateful that I have the tools at my fingertips to carry out an optimal student-centered, responsive 21st century program for learning and growth. It has taken the thoughtful leadership of students, teachers, administrators and community members now and in the past to make our school system what it is, and after 26 years in the same system, I remain grateful and proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization.