Thursday, August 31, 2017

Change that Matters is Challenging Work

Years ago it occurred to me that orientations at public schools are often not nearly as good or inclusive as orientations college students attend. I wondered why we didn't put more time into orienting students and their families to the school year since a good orientation lays the foundation for strong relationships and a successful year.

Then last year our team wrote a grant to the local grant organization to fund a special event to help us build stronger relationships with students and families. We received funding and had a terrific day at the Boston Children's Museum. Later in the year, we had another special event with students that continued to strengthen relationships.

Building on that effort, we wrote a summer grant to support our efforts to develop a better orientation at our school to foster school readiness, enthusiasm, and relationships. We received the funding and planned a number of great orientation events, events based on research we've done in relation to elevating cultural proficiency and student achievement. The grade-level team and principal were very enthusiastic. We also received an enthusiastic response and support from some administrators. Today was the first event which was partly successful. The success-part was the plan we made--students enthusiastically attended the event and enjoyed being here. It was the ice-breaker, introduction, and relationship-builder we were hoping for. The unsuccessful part was the fact that there was a bus snafu, not enough lead time for some families, and missing information that prevented us from contacting one family.

We'll move forward with the next steps, and as we do, I'll continue to chart what works and what does not work so we can rightly build this effort. For years now, on my own and with others, I've been researching and trying out new ways to better schools for all students. The research is clear about relationship building, culturally proficient teaching, time, and attention. Yet to make these changes is ever so difficult. There's so much red tape, and so many unwilling to support change, think about the research, and commit to betterment. So many seem satisfied with doing things as they've always been done, yet observation, assessment, and response in school and beyond tells us that we have to make change.

What are the next steps in this effort?

First, I am grateful for my grade-level colleagues who are willing to support this effort. This means extra work for them, and they are willing to go the extra mile for the students.

I'm also excited about all the researchers, writers, and educators out there who are encouraging educators, administrators, school boards, and government leaders to advocate for positive change. Chris Emdin's book, For White Folks. . ., is rich with ideas for bettering the work we do with and for children, and so many of our ideas came from his work. Jose Vilson is another rich resource for this work. And there are countless articles, books, and other resources that point us in the direction of betterment.

It seems like many are not willing to reach deep and use good process to make change that matters. The "quick fix" or "frosting solutions" often seem to trump really good work. To adopt these kinds of processes over rich process means that there is no significant and meaningful change. This worries me. I will continue to think about how I  might better advocate for good process and meaningful change.

In the meantime, we'll continue down the list of orientation efforts assessing along the way to determine what makes a positive change and what does not. Onward.