State of School Thoughts

These were some of my written thoughts to staff to open the year. I didn't know if any or all of it was worth sharing, but trapped ideas and thoughts do none of us any good, so I side with maximize transparency. 

I'm incredibly excited to start this school year. Now more than ever, we have the energy and know-how to do something great for kids. It isn't everywhere where teachers are growing all summer long to prepare for the marathon of the new school year. I'm proud to be a part of this awesome team. 

The work that we did in late May and early June as a team was incredible. The new mission statement, cornerstones with overarching EUs and EQs, and building norms are incredible pieces of working that will take time to truly soak into the culture. 

Two years ago, I challenged us as a team to seek out educators in your field that do your job better than you and learn from them. So many of us have taken that challenge and have seen the power of connecting with educators from through the country about best and next practices. Last year, I mentioned that we are in a time and space where we can no longer just be satisfied with helping our school and students to be excellent, but we must reach across school boundaries to support education as a whole. I hope that we continue to hold this close to our mission. This year, I'm asking that we continue to be creative and innovative in how we find success for all students. Also, that we unleash the creativity and innovation in all of our students. 

We have been looking at five areas of best practice that hold the some of the greatest leverage to our system for growth and excellence, and this year, there is no change to that focus. Some of these we worked at length to develop, and some simmered on the side, but each of these are very important elements of our work. 

1. Producing Excellent Student Work for an Authentic Audience 
2. Daily Lesson Targets 
3. Cooperative Learning . 
4. Excellent Grading Practices 
5. High-level Technology Integration 

Looking ahead, I wanted to update on some work that we have started or talked about starting as we roll into the new year. 

Last year, we talked about the need to push our grading practices to a new level, so that grading could be a way to motivate learning as opposed to create barriers for kids to learn longer. We started on this journey talking about grading that were fair and accurate, and we realized that we needed a new report cards to truly support our work as teachers to grade learning instead of behavior. The district responded positively to our request, and this year, we will be working on a new document that will support our philosophical realization that grading, when done well, can buoying learning in the classroom. I look forward to working with each of you to make your grading practices as optimal as possible. 

Last year, we introduced all of our students to the electronic portfolio. Each of the students in the district should have their own e-portfolio that can be used as a showplace for the learning in the classroom. We were able to help students begin to learn how to add items into the e-portfolio last year as well as begin the conversation about the purpose of the e-portfolio. This year, we will want students to begin having a complete e-portfolio at the end of the year which is added to throughout the the year and used for student-led conferences along with other tools to show learning and understanding. Please begin early with having students place excellent work as well as reflections into this document. Students can add attachment as well as images of their work to make this a robust place for reflection and celebration. 

Two years ago, we made the shift to student-led conference as folks believed in the positive impact this could have on the system. I think that it has been helpful in many ways, and I hope that we continue to support this structure. In addition, many of us talked with Ron Berger about the possibility of creating a capstone to student learning either at the end of the 8th grade year or at the end of the 7th grade and 8th grade years that would be a Presentation of Learning. This would be an opportunity for each student to talk about how they have grown during the school year. It would be 10 or so minutes, and it would be in front of a panel (possibly a teacher, a community member, and a high school student). Successfully completing these presentations would be an essential element for students to obtain promotion to the next level. I hope that many of you are as excited about this concept as I continue to be. I look forward to talking in more depth about this in the future. 

We will be faced with a number of new opportunities and potential partnerships this year. It is the natural extension of working at a place that is innovative and willing to try new things. It is important that we communicate about each of these opportunities in terms of balance, opportunity, and missional focus. Please continue to bring me these fresh ideas for kids. It is essential that we provide our kids with experiences and opportunities to help them level the playing field with those with many more of these things during the hours when they aren't at school. This is one of the reasons that I have always loved the work of our school as expedition, and I'm excited about the voyage ahead.