The first day of school is coming for students all across America. If you live in Texas the first day of school for public schools is August 22. Teachers all across the state have been preparing for students to return for the last several days to weeks. Professional development sessions, faculty meetings, department meetings, grade level meetings, and hopefully teachers have had some time to work in their rooms. Anxiety is often high for teachers because they want everything to be in order and perfect for that first day. What about the students?
Yesterday, Saturday August 20, was my first day of school. On August 20 I embarked on a learning journey that will take me several years to complete and yesterday was my first step. Along with fifteen other working professionals in my cohort I completed my first class at Texas A&M University in pursuit of a doctoral degree in school administration. Was I nervous? You bet I was nervous. And anxious. And excited.
I have had many first days of schools in my life. Obviously I had the first days of school as a child going through public school in Monahans, Texas. Each first day was exciting, nerve wracking, and even a bit scary for me because I was not sure of what to expect. All I had to do was show up but when you are a child showing up to a new school with a new teacher and new classmates can seem very daunting. Of course the first day of school process became easier as I grew older and more familiar with the process but I was still nervous.
Yesterday was also "Aggie Move In Day" at Texas A&M so there were Aggies all over the place along with their parents moving into the dorms. This sparked a discussion between my wife and I about our first day of college and we had two different experiences. Her parents were able to go with her and help her get settled in the dorm. For me, it was a good bye when I left town, a collect call home to say I made it with a “I will see you at Thanksgiving” in response. What difference in support do your students have on their first day? Have you accounted for those differences?
Since becoming a student again yesterday I am reminded of the importance of remembering back to what it was like to that critical first day of school. Even for middle school students the first day can be a little scary and certainly full of anxiety. As you are preparing for your first day think about this:
Remember back to what it was like when you were attending your first days of school. What will you do to help reduce the anxiety and nervousness? Will your actions ease that anxiety or will they increase it? How will you account for the different levels of support given to your students from their families? Students know they need to make a good first impression but as the educators, we need to do the same as well.
I do wish you a wonderful first day of school when your day does arrive!
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
I am very proud of my faculty and staff of A&M Consolidated Middle School because they have been embracing the challenge of growing as professionals issued just last Thursday. The structure of our staff development has been designed to place the teachers in situations of stretch and vulnerability through conversations around change. We grow when we allow ourselves to become uncomfortable.
Today we scheduled our teachers professional learning around sessions of choice centered around best practices in teaching. All of the sessions were geared toward engagement of students, experiential learning, cultural relevant teaching, and creativity. I lead the sessions over creativity in schools and used Sir Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED talk. Although this talk is now 10 years old there were many of my teachers and staff that have never viewed or even heard of Sir Ken Robinson.
If you have viewed the talk you know just how critically important the message is to the conversation of the role of education today. If you have not viewed the talk I encourage you to do just that, it is worth the 18 minutes of your time I promise.
The conversations that came out of today were so exciting and encouraging for me as a school leader because my teachers were sharing their thinking about what we currently do in schools and why. We recognize that we are challenging the status quo of a system that has been created to produce one expected outcome for students, a one size fits all mentality of schools. I am proud of my faculty and staff for vocalizing their thoughts, concerns, fears, ideas, and hopes for making changes for students. What I hope my staff has taken away from today is there are others in their school building that think the way they think and want the same things they want. There were many great conversations and thoughts worth building upon. For me the power of the learning today is centered around making connections through common thoughts, hopes, fears, concerns, and ideas.
It does not matter if you are a teacher, administrator, board member, or a parent, I encourage you to watch the video and start up a conversation about what should education do for students and does the current education system support what you think it should do. After this type of a conversation the question becomes what will you do next? So, what will you do next?
I would love to hear your thoughts and start a dialogue. Please leave comments below!
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
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!
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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