Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible. ~Ronnie Oldham
As educators, we often find ourselves in the position of having to make tough decisions about children. Those tough decisions are rarely black and white, so it’s often difficult to know what to do in response or reaction to the situations in which we find ourselves. There are some who would default to, “we do what’s best for kids,” but honestly, you should not be in education if that is not your absolute fundamental tenet. What causes each of us so much stress and concern or what drives the need for us to “take our work home with us” is trying to figure out exactly what is best for a child in each situation. There are as many opinions for what is best as there are sands in an hourglass. Options for solutions are a bit more limited.
As we focus on data teams, one area of decision-making that becomes clearer is how to improve the results of our work. They key is to become smarter and more practiced in the data teams process. In the book, Leaders Make it Happen: An Administrator’s Guide to Data Teams, authors McNulty and Besser state that many researchers found that, “the difference between the most effective classrooms and the least effective classrooms was attributable to the teacher.” They also go on to share that, “the difference between the most effective teachers and the least effective teachers is not what they know, but rather what they do” (p. 17). The authors share research that explains it is tough for teachers to unlearn practices they have utilized for years or have been taught by college professors who practiced a decade ago. There are so many reasons why.
One reason we find changing to be so tough is due to a system that seems resistant to change. However, the ability to change – called second order change – is in the hands and mind of each teacher. We have to limit our priorities and accept that premise. We need to accept and expect a higher level of accountability. Teaching is highly personal, so we must embrace collaboration then take that responsibility seriously and with dedication to our colleagues. We have to believe in, rely on, and support each other, even more so when one of us is struggling. We must CARE about each other and believe even when we can’t see.
Students then provide the canvas for us to express ourselves as professionals with our pedagogical paint. We get nervous when we hold them accountable, when rigor pushes their thinking and when relevance is not obvious. This is where the juxtaposition comes in what is “best for kids” and what we believe in education about our practice. Here’s where opinions are many and options seem limited.
The options do not have to be one or the other. Often times the best solution is a combo of extremes. We need to be there for our kids – to listen and CARE. We do not need to be their excuse. We should provide them supports to allow them to solve their problems. We should not should not encourage them to “escape” from the tough academic situation they have worked themselves into. Data teams work is built on differentiation for learning needs. How are you differentiating for students who struggle? That struggle may not just be with your content. More often it will be because they don’t come to school, forget to do or turn in their homework, or have troubles at home that block their focus on learning. These are REAL blocks to learning for our kids. Very real. No matter the reason, the fact is they didn’t learn. How can you help them problem solve and learn? Is what you believe is “best for kids” that “failure is not an option?” What would Benton look like if we believed that was best for our kids? Think about that when you look at which of your students are failing. I know you do your best. I also know that excellence is a journey. Reread the quote at the start of this blog. Let’s make sure our excellence is grounded in caring more, risking more, dreaming more, and expecting more from us. If we show our kids we are willing, they will follow our lead!
Week 6 – A Look Ahead
This week in our administrative walkthroughs, we will CONTINUE looking for and providing feedback on instructional questioning. We will look for what questions you are asking your students – do they require higher order thinking or are they mostly operational for giving directions?
Monday – Data Teams departmental meetings
Wednesday – JEPD Red Day Schedule (Info on Super Assessment Day, Text Complexity JEPD & AdvancEd email from Dr. Smith)
Thursday – Bus Evacuation @ 9:15 a.m. (directions TBA)
Reminder: Super Assessment Day will be Oct 3rd
~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~
All images available in CC from Flickr: “Decisions, decisions” by Garrettc http://www.flickr.com/photos/35468140272@N01/91385737/ ; “Maze Puzzle (Blender) by FutUndBendl “customer-loyalty_retention.jpg by enriqueburgosgarcia.