1. Is failure a real and regularly option and experience for kids at your school?
I believe that in our school failure is not regularly an option. I would contribute some of these findings to be true, in part because according to research, students’ academic success is directly influenced by the parents’ involvement, level of education and the students’ socio-economic status. In our school we no longer have Chapter I students and approximately 85% of our students come from families whose parents have at least some college education. In addition, our parents are very actively involved in their children’s education. However, we still contemplate the possibility of our students experiencing failure at some degree, due that our schools are still using benchmark assessments that are expected to meet the school, District, and State standards. However, I believe that there are going to be some critical changes in this matter, once we fully implement Common Core standards and an evaluation system that is aligned to it.
2. If so, what impact do you believe that is creating in a culture of your school? If not, what structures have been put into place to accomplish these alternatives, those wonderful results?
· Our school offers many opportunities for parent involvement ranging from school spirit activities, to fund raising,
· Parent volunteer academic support committees such as “Rolling Readers”.
· Student Success Team SST early intervention meetings for students that are struggling academically.
· RSP services are available for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities to help them succeed.
· Thriving for realistic academic competencies rather than standard driven goals.
· Teachers provide opportunities for cooperative learning activities.
· In some instances, teachers use portfolio type of assessments that promote student’s self evaluation such as AR reading tests.
· Before and after school tutoring provided by teachers.
3. What conditions exist that make it too late to learn and reach competency in your school? Can you give an example?
Smarter Balanced Assessment is an example of a “too late to learn” experience for students. Not only the test has no relevance for some students, but it also causes a stressful situation for students knowing that they have to pass the test. After students are finished with their test, it automatically gives a score that is nothing but discouraging for students. It does not reflect the actual academic performance of the students and it does not promote “is never too late to learn culture in schools”.
4. What would you do, if anything, to introduce/enhance “never too late to learn” structures in you school if you were the school leader?
Part of being successful is the ability to work smarter, not harder. Having tried different ways to promote a culture of “never too late to learn in my school” it makes more sense to start with the same practices that we have in our school now. In additions I would provide more opportunities for stakeholders to provide input for decision-making. Revisiting the curriculum to minimize the gap between students and their academic goals. Ensure that students with academic challenges have a differentiated learning plan in place.
5. What can you do in your present position to create “never to late to learn” structures into your current practice and those of your peers? Are those things in your sphere of influence?
· Have a clear focus on the academic goals for all subjects.
· Include different learning styles in lessons.
· Use innovative teaching practices.
· Provide opportunities for collaborative learning.
· Structure the classroom environment to maximize learning.
· Differentiate and ensure that all students have what they need to learn.
· Collaborate regularly with peers to raise students achievement.
· Sharing teaching materials and lessons.
· Finding extra time to collaborate i.e. lunch meetings.
· Sharing responsibilities.
6. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a increase learning opportunities:
· Make sure to start (or continue) the paper trend to appropriately diagnose a student with academic needs.
· Take advantage of the different programs that are already in place to help students i.e. before and after, tutoring sessions.
· Modify and adjust teaching strategies and assessments to better fit the learning styles of students.
· Create a safe learning environment.
· Collaborate with my colleagues and share better teaching practices.
What role does school play in building students’ agency and identity?
One of our school’s visions is to create future leaders. Our school provides many opportunities for our students to practice leadership based on their strengths and abilities. At least once a week, we host Leadership Symposiums for each grade level where students learn about leadership and self initiative skills needed for the 21st century. Just today, our principal paid a visit to our classroom to inform my students that they have been selected to take different leadership roles and to model positive behaviors to all second graders. Building agency is the human capacity to make choices. In this case, my students will get to choose a leadership position and lead the rest of the second graders to promote positive behaviors and good habits in school. They will be helping and guiding other second graders make good choices to build a stronger community. My students and I are really excited to take the lead in this new project and to see positive outcomes
How aware are you and your colleagues of the impact our choice of words have on developing students’ agency and identity? Can you give examples?
Developing agency and a sense of identity is not something that can be imposed in a child; it has to come from within. However, teachers could play an important role in helping students by creating a safe environment. Choice of words can help crate an environment that fosters self-confidence and positivism. It could also help create a sense of belonging and create a safe zone for students to learn. Choice of words can provide positive feedback and make students feel good about their work and performance in school. Teachers can choose words to cultivate: encouragement, pride, accomplishment, respect, motivation, and more.
What would you do, if anything, to make using choice words a more conscious and accountable school wide practice if you were the school leader?
Teachers influence significantly in the life of their students. They are often role models and good examples of social interaction. If I were a school leader, I would integrate choice of words as part of the school mission and vision. I would focus on creating a choice of words environment and culture in my school. I would focus on bringing my staff on board and bringing awareness on this subject by providing direct teaching about the power of words and how they can make a positive impact in students. From that, I would ask staff to apply and teach students as well. Once that is in place, I would probably reach out to make connections at home by training parents and ask them to practice word choice at home.
4. What could you do, if anything, to make the use of choice words a more conscious and accountable personal practice as well as one embraced by others on your site? Are those things within your sphere of influence?
I could make choice of words an integral part of my lessons at work and my life and interaction with people around me. Plugging in positive words into my lessons such that students start getting familiar with them. Eventually, students could make good word choice part of their routine and use positive, encouraging words when interacting with their peers. Practicing choice of words is certainly within my sphere of influence and I am fully in control. It is my choice to use them.
5. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school choose words wisely?
1. Invite parents to use more encouraging words to foster a growth mindset environment.
2. Use Seven Habits strategies and terminology to help students create their own growth mindset
3. Consciously and consistently use words to help students find their identity and build agency.
4.Embedding social skills within the lessons such as: self-assessment, growing from mistakes, working collaboratively.
5. Provide opportunities for students to practice choice of words through the day.
When it comes to the concept of Do No Harm, I believe that it is important to have consistency throughout the school. Teachers and students need to embrace the Do not Harm culture in order to see positive and fast results. Teaching students to take control of their actions would prove to be a more effective and long lasting social skill.
Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in discipline policies and practices?
I would have students and teachers actively participating on the creation of our school’s Do No Harm culture. I would ensure that our behavior approach is self-regulating as well as preventative in such way that we will take priority on preventing harm to others by focusing on the three dimensions for being respectful with themselves, with each other and with our school.
How would my beliefs be reflected in program practices and initiatives?
I will keep in mind the basic goals of restorative practices. I will be empathetic of the impact that results of less effective behaviors. Also, I will look for proactive ways to minimize the harm done and focus on the needs of the victims.
How would my beliefs be reflected in our professional development as a community of learners?
I liked the idea of creating a behavior chart that will display important information that can be analyzed to try to find patterns that would help understand the origin of the problems as well as figuring out how to avoid certain situations to avoid situations that could result in conflicts among students. I also liked the idea of creating self-contracts to make students accountable for their actions. It is also important to show students what are the outcomes and the consequences caused by their actions.
Is the concept of teaching students to “first do no harm” integrated into the culture of your school (or workplace)?
I do not believe it is explicitly and clearly stated in our school policy. However, I could see the principles of Do No Harm embedded in our behavior policies. All the rules are made around being safe, respecting themselves, their peers, and the school.
How does your answer to the previous prompt sit with you?
I am not sure about the effectiveness of the behavior plans in our schools. I believe that we could add more components to what it is already in place right now. One thing that could be improved is getting all teachers on board and making sure there is consistency throughout campus including not only teachers, but noon duty staff as well.
Committing to 5 things that I am willing to do this semester that will make my school a more positive restorative place:
· Foster understanding of students’ behavior
· Seek to repair harm
· Using affective questions when addressing conflicts.
· Start a Do No Harm culture in my classroom by implementing the three dimensions:
o Take care of yourself
o Take care of each other
o Take care of this place
· Handling issues with a positive tone.
How is the challenge of making stakeholders feel welcome to your school connected to your school mission?
One of our school missions is our dedication “to prepare students to be the global leaders for tomorrow” One of the biggest challenges has been to align the stakeholder partnership activities to meet our goal. The school has offered several workshops to inform parents about our vision of turning students into leaders. Another challenge could be communicating effectively with stakeholders. Sharing information between staff and stakeholders could become an issue due to the high demands of our program.
What did you do to assess which stakeholder group could be more effectively welcomed? And what did you find?
Through informal interviews and observations done on different stakeholder groups I could conclude that our program could welcome the business community more effectively. Although our school tries to include the community and the community events into our school, this has been really challenging. At least sixty percent of our students come from different districts and near by communities and I do not see our students and parents fully connecting to the Lakeside community.
Future Sphere of Influence: What would you do to improve welcoming this group if you were the school leader?
· Addressing the importance of being part of the community.
· Offer more opportunities for students to link their school projects to real work through the community.
· Offer more opportunities for stakeholders to be part of the school.
· Invite local business to create school-community partnerships.
Current Sphere of Influence: What can you do in your present position to enhance welcoming these stakeholders?
· Include community-based home-projects to promote the interaction between members for the community and students’ families.
· Facilitate opportunities to interact with the community and collaborate with business and public organization to make improvements in the community.
· Assessing the positive and negative impact that our school may cause to the community and help to increase and/or minimize it.
Current Sphere of Influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more welcoming place:
· Greeting all staff members in the hallways.
· Ask visitors if they need help.
· Greeting teachers in their own language.
· To make extra efforts to make sure that visitors will have positive things to say about our school.
· Being visible and approachable for all parents.