As a principal I constantly push my teachers to challenge the status quo of education. We talk about what could be and what should be in education and in classrooms. I have the expectation of teachers challenging what “we have always done” in our school and keep the focus on student learning and growth.
Two years ago I was given an opportunity to learn more about the Texas Public Education Visioning Institute as a principal through my attendance and participation in the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute. As a part of the institute I was challenged and stretched based off the mindset and work of the superintendents that wrote the Visioning Document. This document outline the current issues in public education and the areas of needed change to make schools be what we need them to be instead of what they had become in the world of high stakes testing.
After seeing what is possible through the visioning institute I began conversations at my intermediate campus about what we believe education should be about and what we could do in our school now to make those changes. The conversations were energizing and exciting. Teachers were excited to have a leader willing to have these types of conversations and actually act upon what was being discussed. The following school year I was promoted to the middle school from intermediate school. It did not take long before I began these conversations in my new school. The teachers that participated were very excited and energized as well.
I plan on continuing these conversations and making needed changes based off the conversations this year but I also felt that we need to have this conversation on a larger scale. District wide. I spoke with my superintendent about what I would like to do and he did not hesitate to give me a green light. I was not surprised; after all he did just tell our entire school district that we will not be defined by a rating given by the state on high stakes accountability testing. Our focus as a district is about the daily teaching and learning, not a one shot test. I am proud to be a part of an education system that values daily work over a high stakes accountability system.
Last week out district hosted our annual district learning “You Matter” conference where over 1,100 district educators and employees come together for a day of learning from each other. To start this district wide conversation I hosted a session along with a fellow administrator that was titled, “A conversation to shape the future.” The purpose of this session was to start a conversation with anyone from across the district that was interested in changing the current look of education. There was one session held as an “early bird session” at 7:30 am and a second session at 2:30 pm in the final sessions of the day offerings.
Both of the sessions were highly successful. Passionate and caring educators from elementary and secondary classrooms and schools came to the sessions wanting to be a part of this type of a conversation. We only had 45 minutes in the sessions but in those 45 minutes it became apparent that our own educators feel like the current structure of schools need to change.
The conversations were structured in an EdCamp style of conversation that was loosely moderated. The results of the conversations revealed that there are many changes and adjustments that could be made within the current system of education if we are willing to ask why we are doing what we are doing and what can we change.
Perhaps a more impactful result of the conversation was those teachers were able to see that they are not alone in the types of changes they want to make in their own classrooms and as a district. Of course this is just a starting point as a district but what a great place to start, showing teachers there are others out there that realize there is a better way to “do school” in 2016.
If you are a campus or district leader, I encourage you to start this type of a conversation with your campus or within your district. You will ignite a spark with your educators that will start a flame. That flame will turn into a fire and once you have that fire burning bright you will see your passionate educators change education for the better.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, please comment below!
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