1. Is failure a real and regularly option and experience for kids at your school?
At my school failure was a regular option for our students. The reason I say this is because grades are based on specific things that need to be turned in. One of the things that affect grades is homework and because of this some students tends to fail a course.
2. If so, what impact do you believe that is creating? If not, what structures have been put into place to accomplish alternatives?
Before we implemented the changes we have done this year I believe the impact this was having on the students was a cycle of failure. Many of the students who wanted to pass a class were not able to pass a class for something as small as homework. Homework that many of the teachers never really graded or just gave a score based on few of the questions, because of this a good portion of our students knew that for them reaching a certain grade was improbable and worse yet, many didn't try to ask what they could do to improve their grade.
This year our school has shifted the grading for homework from affecting academic grades to citizenship grades. Which should be a better reflection of what the students can do academically.
3. What conditions exist that make it to late to learn and reach competency in your school? Can you give an example?
One of the conditions that make it to late to learn at our school is the amount of work teachers have to do to grade an essay for example. When a teacher has to grade a final essay it might take them a few days to accomplish this. If they end up grading an essay more than once than the amount of time is double and our teachers are already working longer hours than most school and have to create their own curriculum. Another issue that exists in our school is the lack of professional development in growth mind set. Our teachers believe in our students but they have also been through the educational system that teaches us that we need to teach responsibility in our students.
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?
If I was the school leader I would shift my focus from grading on specific assignments to creating a project based learning program. I believe this would be a better option because students would be continually working on the project receiving feedback on their work in order to improve it, learn from it and finally reach competency. I would also create a structure for continuous self reflection and goal setting by the students with a check list on their progress toward their goal with an attitude of nothing is ever over until is over.
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?
In my current position my sphere of influence is very small in this particular issue but I believe next year I can make some positive changes in this. As far as creating a “never to late to learn” structure in my current practice one of the things I can do is not see each failure as an actual failure but as a chance to grow in my own knowledge. As far as my peers, the best way I can influence their “never to late to learn” mentality is by sharing this information with them and findings ways to push for this in their classroom. Where are places within the classroom that students can improve on their previous work to show they have reached competency.
6. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school increase learning opportunities:
1. Provide more feedback in a timely manner to increase the time available for students to modify work.
2. Cultivate a culture of “it’s never too late”
3. Provide more opportunities for teachers to improve on their technology skills. Create a plan for them for grow with technology.
4. Introduce incompletes to my fellow teachers as a way to not close the book.
5. Be more available to provide support for my fellow teachers for them to learn how to better implement technology in the classroom.
1. What role does school play in building students’ agency and identity?
The school is the community that our students spend most of their time in and it is the place where they learn some if not many of the social skills that they need to be successful in life. The keywords in this last statement are successful and social skills. One way we develop identity is through the social interactions we have and the school is the place where many of those interactions happen and where we learn the social skills that help us work through those interactions. The other key word in that statement is successful, which relates to agency and how we as teachers, staff and school community can create an atmosphere where students believe in their ability to be successful, not to always succeed but to be successful. This is the role the school plays in building students’ agency and identity, we create the structure where students can learn or not learn these.
2. 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?
As I look back, I have discovered that I was not fully aware of the words I said and how that I say impacted my students. Does that not mean that the words that were coming out of my mouth were in any way taking away from the development of my students’ agency and identity. For example, last year and every year since I have taught I have done an end of break little monologue with my students. In this monologue I include things such as why I am proud of my students, how I see each and every one of them and what I hope to see when I come back from break or what I hope to see when I hear about them in the future. In all honesty, I do this because I think my kids, which is what I call my students, are very special to me and they deserve a teacher who believes in them as much as I see them believe in me. A specific example I have said to my students many times is that I don’t care if they get an A or B, that what I notice and makes me proud to be their teacher is how hard they work to get that grade.
3. 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?
If I were the school leader I would create a list (with students and staff) of 5-10 words that we would use to communicate with each other. I would rotate these words throughout the year and expect these words to become part of the school culture. I am thinking words such as proud, successful, impressive or determined. I would ask the staff to use these words with the students during their lessons to promote the use of agency and identity.
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?
As a school leader right now I can bring this particular pillar to my staff by asking them to reflect on the words they currently use to communicate with their students. I can also create a small professional development on this pillar and how we as teachers are responsible for creating agency and identity for our students.
As far as my own choice words are concerned when interacting with staff and students I can do create a list of positive and agency/identity building words that I can carry with me and review during the day to use with the school I work with. I know this is something that will allow me to become more conscious about the words I use because they will be available for me to see and review daily which will make them part of my daily life and become a habit.
5. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school choose words wisely?
1. Create a PD on choice words
2. Create a list of choice words for me
3. Review and practice the use of these choice words every day
4. Discuss the use of choice words with students and staff on a one on one basis
5. Be actively engaged of the use of choice words during admin meetings
1. When it comes to the concept of Do No Harm, I believe that school is the place most students come to feel safe and that it needs to be a place where they feel wanted and welcomed.
2. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in discipline policies and practices?
a. I believe that sending a student outside of the classroom is the worst thing you can do unless you follow them. I have seen in the past students who are sent to detention and all they do is boast about how proud they are they were able to leave that classroom. As a future school leader one discipline policy I would implement would be that any issue needs to be handle by the teacher as soon as it happens. If that means I or someone else needs to come in and cover the class then that is what will happen. I also believe that every case should be looked at independently of anything that happened the previous years. I say this because some kids can develop a reputation and teachers because they are human buy into that reputation when in reality its just that, reputation and not reality. For this I would set a policy where teachers could not discuss behavior issues with each other unless it was for a way to resolve the behavior.
3. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in program practices and initiatives?
a. I believe that as a teacher we need to come up with classroom rules on a year-by-year basis. What worked for one class and one year doesn’t work for another. As a future school leader I believe each year should be new and yes, there should be some guidelines in terms of policies and practices in order for their to be consistency but overall things need to be done and revise on a year to year basis. One way I would do this is to have a staff meeting where we could come as a consensus on what we believe should be guidelines we need to agree upon to have a successful year for our students, no more than 5. The key here is to put our students first and not us as the adults. These policies should be based on making sure the student is able to achieve their true potential without impeding the learning of others. I would also create a forum where students can discuss their grievances with the staff or the administration, sort of a complaint box. This way there could be an open discussion about what is working for our students and what is not.
4. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in our professional development as a community of learners?
a. One thing that our school did a few years back was provide very powerful training on how to implements positive behavior. I wont say that I remember a lot of that class but I will say this, the impact that it made in me was tremendous. I remember one activity in which we had to stand on chairs and talk down to our students, who were other teachers pretending to be students. The paradigm shift because I was no longer talking to a student but a colleague was profound. So as a future school leader I would provide professional development not only on restorative practices as we discussed in the book but also on positive behavior modification practices.
5. Is the concept of teaching students to “first do no harm” integrated into the culture of your school (or workplace)?
a. Yes, the concept of “first do no harm” is part of our school culture. We have as previously mentioned, had professional development on positive behavior modification but also had professional development on restorative practices. For example, one thing we do as a school is we do not send students to the principal’s office when there is an issue in class. Instead we take the student out with us, have a conversation with them, while another adult takes over our class.
6. How does your answer to the previous prompt sit with you?
a. My first year I felt my principal was letting me down by not taking the student and instead asking me to deal with the situation. But my second year I understood the reason and I now come to champion this type of behavior management.
7. Current sphere of influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more positive restorative place:
a. Talk to adults with a positive language (I do it with kids but I cant do it with colleagues)
b. Go over, once a week, our restorative questions I carry with me to become more familiar with them when dealing with a student.
c. Use restorative practices with my colleagues and teachers
d. Don't jump to conclusions and analyze the cause of the behavior.
e. Send out monthly surveys to our students on the status of our school in terms of behavior and how they feel about our policies and guidelines.
f. Model appropriate behavior for my students.
How is the challenge of making stakeholders feel welcome to your school (or place of work) connected to your school mission?
Current Sphere of Influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more welcoming place: