Monday, May 29, 2006

High Expectations and Caring Support

In Closing the Achievement Gap 2nd Edition, a collection of essays highlight beliefs and practices that are making a difference with the most challenging students. Bonnie Benard writes about Turnaround Teachers and Schools and when asked what quality teaching looks like students say:
a caring teacher who accepts "no excuses" and who refuses to let them fail.

What I like about this is its perfect balance. Imagine the caring teacher who is not concerned with achievement. This person just wants students to feel good about themselves, but isn't concerned about real achievement or improvement. Clearly this type of teacher is doing no service to his students. But the other extreme is just as bad. The teacher who has unyielding expectations, but no emotional consideration for her students has just as negative an impact on her students. Students are sure to be exasperated by the intense pressure unaccompanied by gentle support and encouragement.

Therefore, we all need to strike that balance to show students that we truly care for them and at the same time we are not content to leave them as they are. We need to hold them accountable to reach their highest achievement, coming alongside to support them every inch of the way. May all of us at Halecrest aspire to be those caring and challenging educators that make a difference in the lives of children and leave an impression that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Not to early to start thinking about the SAT

This tidbit from Joanne Jacobs should encourage us continue to turn every Halecrest student into an avid reader. Just think, next year's kindergarteners are about 11 years away from their first SAT exam. :)

All for one and one for all

Here's another nugget from Andy Hargreaves by way of Margaret Scherer around the ideea of shared leadership:
High-performing schools are communities of grownups whose members have real input into conversations about reform.

Believe me the door is open for everyone to have a say. There is no blueprint for success because I don't know what it looks like. We need to create this school together and unless every one of us takes ownership for our direction we cannot succeed. It reminds me of Doug Smith, Principal of Helix High who said, "It's not OK to be here and expect someone else to make decisions".

Slow Schools Movement

The latest edition of Educational Leadership has a collection of articles on Challenging the Status Quo. Editor Margaret Scherer begins by citing Andy Hargreaves who articulated the seven characteristics of sustainable change for schools. The first characteristic is depth. Scherer explains:
...schools that undertook reform slowly and persistently produced greater lasting effects on student achievement than did those trying to get immediate returns. Teaching to the test, reducing learning to scripts and pacing guides, or concentrating primarily on lifting up only those students who are just below the proficiency line are short-term strategies. Instead, schools should join the "slow schools movement," he urged, and that means "concentrating on teaching for understanding and connecting to all students."

Although as a leader I feel like I have bounced back in forth from long-term to short-term solutions, I wholeheartedly want to see us engage in the type of slow school reform that leads to lasting change. That's why I'm optimistic that our renewed instructional focus, partnership with Debra Crouch, and our collaboration time will be the vehicles to help gain new insights into teaching for understanding that are developed and spread from teachers learning together as opposed to a principal or district office mandate. The former type of program has all the benefits of buy in and durability! Looking forward to the adventure with this amazing Halecrest staff.