I had the privilege of sharing an ignite presentation on the Evolution of a Culture of Mindset, Growth and Connectedness. The intersection of this highly structured format and the topic which is a passion of mine was an exciting learning experience for me. Over the course of 2 posts, I am going to “un-ignite” this topic, so that I can expand on each slide and the process our community is taking to daily grow for the betterment of ourselves, our students, and our community.
In this section I will share the growth of Ed Rounds; our work on examining and cultivating a growth focused culture; and our initiatives to expand our learning and sharing from insular to connected.
Ed-Rounds have become an integral part of our faculty culture and growth, largely stemming from an intersection of our peer coaching and a push to look more closely at both vertical and horizontal alignment, expectations, and future growth. All teachers are now required to observe 3-5 other teachers solely for their own personal growth. There is purposefully no expectation for the observer to share feedback with the teacher being observed as the observer is there as a learner, not an evaluator. The goal is to observe colleagues with strengths in areas where teachers want to enhance or improve so as to find ideas and inspiration to replicate in their own classroom. After completion of the rounds, teachers meet with me to reflect on the process and their takeaways, but by design this is meant to be about their own growth not what they did or did not see inside of a colleague’s classroom.
As our professional growth community became increasingly robust it was incumbent on us to make sure that we were actively engaged in assessing, nurturing, and discussing our culture. As such, we were privileged to have John D’Auria, presidents of Teachers 21 and former principal and superintendent from the Boston area, come work with our Admin team and entire faculty on topics of non-discussables, difficult conversations, and Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset.
Every organization has their non-discussables, but we realized that if we wanted to continue the transformation to a truly learning environment, we had to break down the fear and anxiety that surrounded these areas and foster true dialogue. As such we asked all members of the faculty to make a “non-discussable” pledge which asked that issues be brought to the people for which the original situation existed. Furthermore, it informed colleagues that if they were approached by a colleague who wanted to vent that there responsibility was to help coach the colleague to either addressing the issue with the colleague in question or in bringing the issue to me.
The second big takeaway from our work with John was the amazing research done by Carol Dweck. The idea of a growth mindset resonated with our teachers and helped us flip our thinking to not only be more accepting of the idea of failing, but in embracing this as an opportunity for true learning. John shared a great story in which he told all new hires that they would not receive a contract the following year unless the showed up in his office a minimum of 3 times in the year with a problem that they did not know how to resolve. Flipping the paradigm to show that requesting help, admitting your vulnerability, and aspiring to learn are signs of immense strength as opposed to weakness; this shift further strengthened our learning culture.
The shifts in PD structure and our culture were impactful, but one of our greatest shifts was the decision at the beginning of 2013-14 school year to actively expand our learning for ourselves, our students and our community from insular to connected. This year we realized that all the amazing learning we had done was not enough. We needed to connect ourselves, our students, and our school with the world.
The Davis Twitter Initiative has done just that. Teachers are using grade level hashtags to document and share the excitement of the learning. This enables parents, grandparents, and loved ones to share in the joy and feel a part of the journey. This has opened the door for students to learning from and with students in states all across the US and in countries all over the globe. Teachers are now connecting with other educators to collaborate both in planning and in implementation, and our parents are not only connected and seeing the communication, but they are engaging with their kids and teachers to further enhance the learning.
We now have kindergarten students and teachers learning math with classes in New Zealand, 3rd grade students sharing poetry with students in Manitoba, and 8th graders students reciprocally evaluating each other’s work for historical accuracy between classes in Nebraska and Georgia. Moreover, our teachers are engaged in sharing ideas, asking for assistance, and reflecting not only within our school but with a broader educational network, and then bringing this learning back to our faculty team and our students.
While we have consciously expanded our learning community to extend beyond the classroom, city, state and country, we have also refocused on sharing our learning with other stakeholders in our community. This year in addition to parent led learning via our counselors on social and emotional stages of growth, parents were invited in to participate in a parent-hour of code, a parent work shop on twitter, and a grandparent workshop on the role of social media in the lives and learning of our students.
I often say and truly believe that “the students are always watching. The implicit curriculum of how the adults in a building engage one another and engage in their own learning, has equal if not greater impact than that of the explicit curricula of math and language arts.” It is with this in mind that we are already hard at work on our 2014-15 PD slate, making revisions and enhancements to our ed-rounds with a new feedback protocol, and diving deeper into a “year of presenting dangerously” which will encourage our educators to share their knowledge and skill with the large educational field through presentations and articles.
While I began post 1 with a bit of light sarcasm about the amazing place where I am fortunate enough to have spent the past 14 years as an educator, administrator, uncle, and parent, I recognize the true blessing of the dynamicity of the culture and team we have. It is based on this culture and community that we individually and collectively continue to strive to grow for the betterment of ourselves, our students, and our community.