Earlier this week I had the opportunity to “sub” for a Para-Educator at Saline High School. It was part of a raffle where staff who donated to the “Kids Against Hunger” program had their names in a drawing to have me do their job for a day.
The day began with supervision duties at 7:30am, followed by swimming activities (no I did not get in the pool) for first hour, academic support for second hour, individual academic support for third & fourth hour, and supporting students in the Culinary Arts program during fifth hour. I quickly remembered there is very little down time when you are working directly with students!
The best part of the day was getting the chance to meet exceptional students who are working to learn the skills necessary to be successful as they enter adulthood. It was inspiring to see the students I was working with, many of whom had significant challenges, striving to learn and doing it with great enthusiasm.
It was also a great chance to see how the staff – teachers, para-educators, administrators and support staff all work together to support our students. I was very impressed by the professionalism, dedication and sincere interest in meeting the needs the students that was displayed in each of their classrooms.
Thank you to the students and staff for putting up with me for the day!
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” - Marianne Williamson
Last night the Foundation for Saline Area Schools presented Saline Area Schools with a check for $75,000. This investment will allow us to implement a Spanish language instruction for all kindergarten to 3rd grade students next year. I continue to be amazed by the generosity and support we receive from the Saline community.
The elementary language program is a key component of our Strategic Framework Goal #2 “All students will acquire and apply essential skills to be continuous learners and productive citizens in an ever-changing 21st Century global society.”
Thank you to the Foundation for Saline Area Schools and all of the staff and community members that helped make their goal a reality.
The Strategic Framework for Saline Area Schools will be presented to the Board of Education this Tuesday. As you look at Goal #2, “All students will acquire and apply essential skills to be continuous learners and productive citizens in an ever-changing 21st Century global society.” – and the action steps to achieve this goal you will see a theme around the desire for our students exhibit their creativity. One of the struggles around the issue of student creativity is – how do you assess it?
In the February issue of Educational Leadership, author Susan Brookhart looks at the issue of assessing creativity. She notes,
“Myriad opportunities for fostering creativity are right under our noses in school because learning is a generative act. However, what’s missing in many classrooms is deliberately noticing and naming opportunities for creativity when they occur, giving feedback on the creative process, and teaching students that creativity is a valued quality.”
Ms. Brookhart presents a rubric for creativity based on students’ use of these key characteristics:
Variety of ideas and contexts – Recognizing the importance of deep knowledge and continually working to learn new things; open to new ideas and actively seeking them out.
Variety of sources – Looking for material from a wide range of media, people, and events.
Combining ideas – Organizing and reorganizing ideas into different categories or combinations and then evaluating whether the results are interesting, new, or helpful.
Communicating something new – Making an original contribution.
In addition, it’s important to be flexible and adaptive, using trial and error when unsure how to proceed, and viewing failure as an opportunity to learn.
Moving forward, we need to look at the mindset and assessment structure needed that allow us highlight and embrace the creativity in our students.
In an effort to be fully prepared as the Strategic Framework revision process comes to a close, our Central Office team has begun reading The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling. The book talks about how the ability of organizations to execute is the difference between mediocre and excellent. I have talked about the importance of execution before - here.
We are early in the process of reading and discussing the book. In the beginning of the book it talks about the real enemy of execution – the whirlwind.
The real enemy of execution is your day job. We call it the whirlwind. It’s the massive amount of energy that’s necessary just to keep your operation going on a day-to-day basis; and, ironically, it’s also the thing that makes it so hard to execute anything new. The whirlwind robs from you the focus required to move your team forward.
I am looking forward to learning about strategies that can help manage the whirlwind.
Over the past 6+ months a group of 50 community members have been working to revise our Strategic Framework. This important work has focused on the “action steps” associated with our 5 Strategic Framework goals. The goals are broad:
- All students will meet or exceed the Common Core State Standards in reading, writing, and mathematics by the end of grade 3 in order to acquire the essential skills necessary to apply their knowledge.
- All students will acquire and apply essential skills to be continuous learners and productive citizens in an ever-changing 21st Century global society.
- Strengthen family-school relationships and continue to expand civic, business, higher education, and community partnerships that support improved student achievement.
- Enhance a positive school environment that promotes student and staff well-being, satisfaction, and positive morale.
- District shall establish short-term financial stability and long-term solvency.
They require more definition and this is where the goal area groups have spent time exploring and developing the action steps necessary for us to achieve our goals. As the process has moved along I have had several conversations with committee members about the idea of “alignment” as it relates to how our goals fit together. The definition of alignment is, “the act of adjusting or aligning the parts of a device in relation to each other.” Basically, our plan needed a “front end” alignment. In our case, this has meant looking at each goal and how it relates to the other goals, as well as, our overall mission and vision.
This has led to important discussions about the priorities of the district and the challenges we face. The process cannot be overlooked if we want to achieve our goals. It is exciting to think about the future with a well defined plan in place for all of us to follow.
Over the last week I have been in a variety of settings with educators and other superintendents from across the country. Everyone was using a mobile/wireless device as part of their learning, sharing and communicating. There is little doubt that society has hit the tipping point. There will soon be more mobile devices than desktops and laptops combined. Ironically, at a couple of the meetings where we were all on our own devices we discussed school policies that prohibited their use by students. One school leader boasted that they “solved” their cell phone issue by taking them away over a weekend, and no “kid” would risk being without their phone over a weekend.
I am not saying there are easy answers to the policy and infrastructure issues that are presented when everyone (students & adults) is using their mobile device in school. What I am saying is that trying to find ways to keep them out is just not worth the time and effort – and in my mind in most cases it is counterproductive to learning too.
Now, there is a time and place for use and as educators it is up to us to thoughtfully determine when and how we should be using these tools for learning. Instead of putting them away, we need to continue to find ways to leverage them to our advantage.