Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the Road to AWESOME

Mrs. Steck, Dr. Catoe, Mrs. Germann, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Jamison (guidance counselor), and I had the opportunity to recently attend the back to school administrative inservice.  Dr. Hamm and others shared the four top priorities for Richland Two this coming school year.  The theme for the year is "On the Road to Awesome."

If you remember, last year we created a video of "Awesome" explaining why NSE is an awesome place to work and learn.  The video was shown at the first RDII board meeting which was held at NSE.  The common theme that rang throughout our video was that the people of NSE make it an awesome place.

The four areas of focus for this coming school year for the district are Learning, Character, Community, and JOY.  We were asked as a team to come up with the two most important things that we can do this coming year to make it an awesome year.  We came up with three:

1. "Teach" great character through "The Cricket Way." - We want to continue to emphasize good character and doing things the Cricket Way when it comes to NSE.  We want our students to go home talking about the Cricket Way.  The only way for this to happen is for us to believe in the Cricket Way, model the Cricket Way, target talk the Cricket Way, and to continue to improve the Cricket Way.  Mrs. Germann has set up a "CARE" committee which will look at ways for us to not only recognize and celebrate student successes, but to recognize and celebrate employee successes as well.

2. Value what every child brings to the classroom. - One of our beliefs at NSE is that every child comes to school with experiences that build a foundation for their learning.  It is our job to learn what those experiences are and design lessons that are going to meet the needs and interests of all our children.  We also need to value every child's work and effort.  If we focus on designing work that is meaningful and authentic for our students and then celebrate and publicize their work in meaningful ways, we will see a great increase in student and parent engagement in school.

3. Find out what brings each other JOY. - We want to provide more opportunities for the faculty and staff to get to know each other better.  We want to find out what makes each one of us tick and celebrate each other's successes in and out of school.  The CARE team will have a role in making this happen, but you will only get as much out of it as you put into it.  Joy comes from within!

Rita Pierson - Every Kid Needs a Champion
We also watched the TED Talk given by Rita Pierson, a retired public school teacher.  I encourage you to watch this video and think about the things that she says about her role (our role) as public school educators.  Once again, I was encouraged by her plus 2 concept with the young man who missed 18 out of 20 on a quiz.  In many cases the teacher would have written a minus 18 and a big fat "F" on his paper and recorded it in the grade book. However, she said, " got two right and I know you will do better the next time, right?"  He responded, "I sure will."  The emphasis on this may seem repetitive to some of you, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to build trusting and safe relationships with all of your students.

This week's professional development with the district leadership was motivating, informational, and a lot of fun.  EnJOY everyday!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Planting New Ideas

The authors of A New Culture of Learning, do a beautiful job of explaining how people tend to solve problems using each other and technology combined.  The authors state the following on page 31:

The people in these stories (pages 17-31) learned much more than facts, figures, and data.  They shared their interests, developed their passions, and engaged in a play of imagination.  They learned to participate and experiment.  In that sense, something larger was always being addressed, built, created, and cultivated.  Each of these stories is about a bridge between two worlds-one that is largely public and information-based (software and Internet) and another that is intensely personal and structured (classroom and colleagues).

My wife and I recently went through a very similar learning process.  As I recall, we were recently faced with the problem of coming up with something to do with some scrap lattice work.  My wife loves to garden and I like to build things.  Over a period of time, we had several conversations and tossed around several ideas.  I used my cell phone and or iPad to see what others were doing (Pintrest, Google Images, YouTube).  My wife spoke to a few people who were experts (Woodleys and Home Depot) and did a lot of observing spaces and places.  After gathering a few ideas, we decided to put one into action.  I built three vertical planter boxes using the lattice work and she planted away.  Unfortunately, rain and gravity over time threw a wrench in our little idea and we were back to problem solving.

The boxes actually sat empty for a few months while we looked at them over and over again.  Finally, we came up with a new idea and have experimentally implemented it as you can see here.  I am sure that at some point in time, our planter boxes will be a blooming success and we will be satisfied with our efforts.  It has been a long process that has had no time-constraints.  We have allowed ourselves to try and fail in order to create something that we enjoy.  We are waiting to see how the "Creeping Jennie" plants do before we fill in the bottom portion.      

I wonder if we gave our students the same freedom and time to research, collaborate, observe, discuss, try, fail, and do it all over again (with more ideas) if they would learn as deeply as my wife and I did building our vertical planters with recycled material?