Sunday, May 28, 2017

Responsibility, Innovation, Voice and Choice

It must be daunting to be in charge of a large group of independent educators when it comes to putting trust in their decisions, craft, and result. It must be comforting to create tight protocols to ensure that everyone is doing what they are told and meeting the expectations set. Yet, it must also be disconcerting when those parameters are questioned and new ideas raised. This is where good teamwork, analysis, and responsible risk come in--to grow systems and efforts well we have to be both responsible and innovative.

I woke up this morning after a nightmare. I was in charge of a large group of children in the dream, and one got lost. I woke up as I was looking for the lost child in the dream. Thankfully it was only a dream, a dream that reawakened me to the responsibility we have as educators to make sure the plans we make and ideas we forward are responsible and do result in good care of students. I imagine that teacher leaders sometimes wake up at night with these nightmares--afraid that a child or two will get lost in terms of good teaching, service, and care.

Yet teaching and learning is always changing, and we have to be willing to take responsible risk in order to develop and grow our programs. This is where good collaboration comes in. For example, one problem we are tending with as a system is how to help students who are one to two years behind with regard to standards' expectations, make good progress. These students represent a myriad of backgrounds, academic profiles, and educational histories, and we have had success with helping everyone of these children make gains. The challenge is how to use our time and resources well to help everyone of those children make substantial gains with confidence and a love of learning.

I can see many ways to do this including the following:
  • re-thinking the sequence of our standards-based curriculum. I believe a different order will help to promote better success. I believe we can start the year with more engaging foundational units and then lead up to the units that rely on that foundation for better success.
  • re-thinking our extra support program. Currently I believe the curriculum used for that program could be better and more effective.
  • re-thinking the way we use tech supports. I think we have some very good tech supports with regard to teaching and learning, and I think we can use those supports even better. I also think we can add some more tech supports to enrich the learning of all.
  • looking deeply at how we staff curriculum support. This year I was fortunate to have substantial talented academic support professionals in the classroom. This was terrific, and we can even grow this effort more.
  • Look deeply at how we use hands-on exploration to develop learning competency. We do a lot of this and it is very good. I believe we can deepen this explorations with greater floor-to-ceiling investigations and greater analysis of the connection between these explorations and students learning/growth.
  • Continued efforts to develop a growth mindset and positivity with every learner. One learner, in particular this year, took this teaching to heart and grew beyond what we imagined possible. Every day this learner went home and tenaciously used online supports to boost her abilities thus making terrific progress. 
While it can be frightening to take risk and innovate, that fear factor is greatly reduced when we're willing to work with one another, analyze our efforts deeply, and take some responsible risk to make things better.

As I think about the scary dream I had, the message was essentially that we have to think deeply about the learning/teaching settings we promote, and then keep our eyes focused on our learners as we work in those settings so no child gets lost. This is key to the good work we can do for each and every child.