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Friday, July 08, 2016

Working for Positive Change in Schools

There is ample room for positive change in schools.

That change begins with our own work. First, we must do our work well to promote positivity and a good education for every child. Our good work depends on the way we treat each other, students-teachers-family members-administrators, with respect and care. Our good work depends on our ability to speak up when we see room for positive change and growth. Our good work depends on our preparation, knowledge, quality time on task, inclusive teaching, and giving students voice and choice.

Process matters too when it comes to good work in schools. Are the processes we use efficient, inclusive, and well directed? How can we better our use of process to teach well?

Structure and roles matter too? Do our school structures and roles contribute to the best possible education for every child? Where is there room for change here?

As we think about the year ahead, we need to think about where we will shore up our own work to teach better, and we need to also think about how we'll work in solidarity with our colleagues to create better structure, process, and roles to establish strong school communities--ones that support every child in positive ways.

As I think about this, I have clearly identified many areas for personal growth and contribution in multiple posts. I'll continue to work on those areas to teach well--areas related to teaching every child with care, apt learning design, student voice/choice, and attention to the learning team: students, families, colleagues, administrators, and community members.

As I think about ways that I'll work with colleagues to better what we can do, I'll be looking for ways to do the following:
  • ensuring that roles are reasonable, positive, and effective. If an educator has a role that's not reasonable, he/she will be unable to do the work possible. Similarly if roles are outdated, they may no longer be positive or effective. Roles need continual updating as education evolves. As educators prepare for system negotiations, this will be a focus. 
  • providing avenues for educator choice and voice. When educators are unable to speak up and make choices about the work they do, their work is diminished. I'll continue to look for ways to elevate educator voice and choice. Understanding and advocating for the elements of the new ESSA act is a step in this direction, and our work with the negotiations team will support this too. 
  • responsible efforts. It's the responsibility for every educator to stay abreast of new research, current events, and the needs, desires, and values of the students and community they serve. I will take that responsibility seriously and look for ways to create better systems of idea share, professional collaboration, and effective process in this regard. The building principal has contributed to this effort by creating a crowd-share weekly newsletter where all educators in the building are invited to add relevant information, opportunities, and updates.
  • fair and just systems. Sometimes schools use system that are unfair and unjust. I will speak up when that occurs and seek fair and just processes and systems to support our best efforts to teach children well. I will be on the lookout for this in my own work and the work of organizations I serve--listening well to those we serve helps to unearth and change unjust and unfair activities, decision, and mindsets.
  • financial accountability. It's important that dollars spent result in good work. I'll be mindful of this in my own work and the work of systems and organizations I serve. Good work is typically full-circle, well communicated, thoughtful effort that keeps student service center stage. Too often efforts don't go full circle, are under-communicated, and may not serve students well.  I'll advocate for more inclusive systems of communication, student service, and full-circle efforts.
  • honest, powerful education. It's imperative that we don't sugarcoat facts, figures, and stories--we need to teach with truth, and we need to teach students about the world they live and who they are with honesty, inclusion, and openness. We also have to make sure that our curriculum is powerful--we have to teach the best skills, concepts, and knowledge--the kind of education that will empower our students to live well and do what is right for themselves and others. 
  • thoughtful, respectful language. Our good work begins with our language. Too often I've attended professional events where I've heard language that is disrespectful to individuals or groups--as educators we have to use respect with all of our words and ways of describing our students, families, colleagues, administrators, and community members. It is easy to fall into the trap of using disrespectful, outdated language, but we have to mindful of the words we use and update our language accordingly.
We have great potential in schools to help every child have a positive start in life, the kind of positivity that results in good "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." If we do our jobs well, we have the opportunity to contribute to a better America. As "nation builders," educators have the potential to affect positive, proactive change. What will you continue to do or do new or better in this regard?