It’s June and I’m really not sure what happened to this year. The ten months prior have whizzed by and here we are again. I wanted to take this moment to share some reflections of the year and try to put things into perspective.
Our Writers Workshop folks grappled with ideas related not only to what it means to be a writer but also what it means to be a writer on digital spaces. Perhaps this arena requires a different set of skills, a different strategy to communication. Thank you to those who took the steps to question and ponder, to test the waters with our Google Apps for Education and to discover how this online environment allows for flexibility, choice, and deeper dialogue. We all grew from the journey.
This year we saw more teachers and administrators enter the realm of blogging or some kind of web presence. Some started with a desire to share exciting events and learning in the school, others took up the challenge of using the space for their students to create their digital voice and footprint on the world. Class accounts provided opportunities for these voices to grow in crafting their communication to wider audiences. How exciting for us to watch this growth over the year. Digital footprint portfolios!
What happens if we offered a dedicated laptop and projector to a teacher to develop an inquiry idea? I can say that wonderful sparks happened. In one class I observed such engagement and “shining eyes” (Benjamin Zander’s words) that I was blown away by the focused level of dialogue as students discussed their work. Thank you for showing determination, persistence and purposeful actions to deepen practices.
What if you asked a group of secondary teachers to reach high and envision big! You get an inquiry team regardless of subject, who dreams big, reaches big and actions big. This small group from across multiple schools dove into strategies like standards-based assessment or flip classroom or refining questioning, all through seamless use of technologies. Little did I know that excitement from this group meant that they were driven to share not only in their schools but to share their discoveries by rotating meetups at most of the secondaries where everyone was invited to drop in. What I took away from each of these added sessions was the power of collaborative conversation; conversation that started with honest sharing experiences (with all its bumps) and circled with audiences asking questions and challenging the notions. Back and forth until clarity was reached and what we thought we knew to be true of these strategies and environments was worked and reworked. What I learned was the courage it took for these teachers to “risk big” not only privately but publicly in front of their colleagues. In doing so, they shared the greatest gift, the gift of possibility.
Our Fast ForWord teams saw a boost and challenge in the delivery of this Tier 3 intervention program. The move to an online environment meant that more schools were added, more students were included. Teaching teams were challenged with a new approach in supporting reading achievement and student motivation each time we met as a group and during site visits. It was yet another humbling experience to watch the dedication and intense energy of this group of educators as they supported their students. One student stated “all I ever want is to learn to read”. He came extra early to school to make sure he could get in his session. After years of struggle, he is well on his way. But more than anything it was the connection of a teacher who believed he could.
These are only a small number of the projects we were so privileged to be a part of the learning. I truly believe that what we lived was an experience in how we view the world, to live into the possibility, and grow beyond what we imagined. We found champions who were there in our corners to bounce ideas, to challenge our thinking and to help us “dare greatly“. As another year comes to a close, I leave you with Rita Pierson who spoke at TED – “Every Kid Needs a Champion”.
THANK YOU for being the champions of our students.