School is underway. The first few days are so critical in establishing norms, setting the culture of the building for learning, ensuring safety, and developing a routine for the rest of the school year. These ideas are nothing short of new, but as we move into our second week of school I realized that we are off to one of the best starts to the school year yet. I had to stop and ask, “Why?”
Here is what I came up with as the reasons for a great start which permeates to a culture of deeper learning and a place students want to be. I am proud to say that our building has the components to make these ideas happen.
1. Losing the fear of failure – As we move to a project based learning model of learning as it fits into the scope of deeper learning we have learned that we have to overcome our fear of mistakes and failure. Many of us will tell others that we are not afraid of failing, but then we never venture too far out of our comfort zones.
Last year many teachers took the plunge to try new things. Some worked and some failed. Some made small mistakes while others made big mistakes. In the end you could feel the pulse of the building change. Learning looked different. Learning was more integrated, more immersive, and more powerful. We still had teachers not make much change, but that is to be expected. When change happens, not everyone is going to embrace it with loving arms. It takes time and we have to keep working to move beyond our comfort zones.
This year we have more teachers really revving their engines. We spent a great amount of in service developing high quality projects. Teachers were collaborating, modifying ideas, critiquing in a good way their ideas, really working hard to develop a learning opportunity that would be both meaningful and impactful. I felt that despite the usual pre school year jitters more teachers than ever before were ready to rock and roll and let things take their course.
This mindset leads to the second key point of
2. Leaving your ego behind – As educators we have to do things we sometimes don’t want to do. There is the paperwork, meetings, and all the other jargon that comes with the job. But, there is another element that I want to address. It is doing things that make us uncomfortable……. in a good way.
This summer we had some teachers really step up to the plate and organize a great kickoff to our school year. They organized a flash mob dance routine to be done by our staff during our all school(1100 kids) assembly where we cover rules for the building. Instead of drilling them forever on rules and expectations we cut it short and a few minutes into the assembly the music pumped through the speakers and most of the staff headed to the dance floor to dance. We had to embarrass ourselves. Some were grooving. People like me tried their best, but smiled and enjoyed the moment. It was a good visual for kids to realize that we have to go for it. We have to try new things. We have to once again move outside of our comfort zones. Instead of threats we started the year off with some fun. Teachers were giving up free time to laugh together, learn how to do the dance and in the end make a fool of themselves. What was more important than the actual dance moves was the amount of staff who danced. It was a powerful visual to students that we are all in this together.
From there we had teachers dressing up in costume and doing a variety of kick off activities to emphasize teamwork, respect, treating others fairly, and developing the pride in what we do all day every day. It was awesome! It was so good to see a great start to the year and done in a way to let students know what we are about how learning will take place this year.
This whole idea leads me to my third point
3. Teacher Need to Be Leaders – The most important element to a successful staff and school are teacher leaders. I am not talking about appointed positions. I am not talking about those one or two people who take on so many leadership roles. I am talking about all teachers stepping up to be leaders when it is their time to shine.
What I want to refer to is the whole staff. This year we have already witnessed new faces step up and lead in their own capacities. Schools and staff need more of this. Every single educator has the skills and abilities to lead when it is their turn to go. Often we just wait for one or two people to step up. Don’t wait. Make things happen. Schools need more educators to step up and lead. I firmly believe that once more educators step up to lead then it is just a trickle down effect and next thing you know it is okay and the norm to step up and take control from time to time. I love how teachers stepped up and organized the flash mob. They made it happen. I love it how another teacher dressed up as a pirate to kick things off. What will happen next? I don’t know, but I cannot wait to see who the next person is to rise to the occasion.
It is not about being better than someone else, but being different and ourselves so that the school has a culture of learning and the freedom to explore paths to discover who we are and what we want to be. We have to lead by examples and strive to challenge ourselves so we are not stuck in a rut.
I hope your school year is off to a great start as well.