Best School in the universe digital poster and museum tour
Digital Museum Tour
Several years ago failure was a real option at my school site, but in recent years more structures, interventions, and supports have been put into place to make this less the case. Although our school still has a way to go in terms of embracing the concept “It’s Never Too Late to Learn,” many teachers at our site including myself, are committed to increasing learning opportunities by improving the quality of instruction and through academic interventions, individualized support, and recovery options. For example, many teachers have moved toward grading policies that emphasize mastery rather grade compliance. Giving students opportunities to demonstrate mastery of the topic allows for revision of an assignment or an option to redo an assignment. Other opportunities outside of credit recovery, include Saturday Scholars, which allows students to make-up absences and missed work, and a process in place for Seniors that allows students to appeal and put a support plan in place. There are plans in place to extend this program to include other grade levels.
In terms of enhancing “never too late to learn” structures that are already in place, our site is in a transitional phase and not all teachers are onboard with re-conceptualizing or rethinking their grading policy. Our Instructional Leadership Team is starting to have conversations about the number of students on academic probation and whether this is partly the case because of teacher grading policies. Although structures and interventions that enhance a “never too late to learn” environment are being implemented, this is not school-wide. As the instructional leader, we need to provide professional development through our horizontal teams on our school-wide PD days and share results from teachers experimenting with alternative structures to make students successful in meeting competencies.
In my present sphere of influence, I can share personal experiences in terms of what has worked in my own classroom with colleagues and I can continue to implement interventions. In the last month in my regular 10th grade Modern World History sections, I have emphasized the idea of mastery and have provided opportunities for students to revise writing if students choose to do so and to turn-in assignments (up until a point) late. I also changed the way I provide feedback, for example, my choice of words, I revamped the types of homework assigned. What I discovered is that students who used to receive “D”s and “F”s for not turning in assignments are now getting their assignments in and are having discussions with me and with other students about their work. I have also provided more choices with assignment options during class time and it has afforded more time to work with individual students.
Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school increase learning opportunities:
References:Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian. How to create a culture of achievement in your school and classroom. ASCD, 2012.
Socialization plays an important role in shaping student agency and identity. Part of this socialization takes place at school. Teachers, administrators, counselors, custodial staff, non-certificated personnel, and peers all help shape student agency and identity. An individual with a strong sense of agency believes they can achieve a particular effect or an end. This individual is able to start with the end in mind, has the resilience to achieve their goals, and is able to be proactive. Given the period of time an individual is in school and that it’s during a period of critical development, the school environment also plays an important role in shaping identity. Students learn values, seek out role models, and develop their individuality while in school. Some of this reflects what makes them unique and some reflects part of the collective culture of the school environment.
At my own school site, my colleagues and I are aware of the impact of our word choice, but often do not consistently think about our actions until after the fact. Thinking about various classroom scenarios and how to react in certain situations in advance can go along way to prevent poor word choice and regrets. Even after years of teaching, I occasionally find myself choosing words unwisely or not knowing what to say. Experience has taught me to think about my word choice and the consequences of my actions, but it is something I still need to develop. Based on conversations with colleagues and recently at our Instructional Council meetings, our faculty our aware of the impact of word choice and in trying to make our school culture more welcoming, it is something we feel needs to be developed and practiced, but cannot be achieved overnight. More recently in trying to develop a welcoming school culture, I am trying to be more conscience of my word choice with students in my classroom and in the ways I interact with them. I know over the years, I have shaped many of the choices my students have made. Whether these have been beneficial choices, I’m not sure but would like to think so. Because I value world travel and experiencing other cultures, many students I have taught have gone into similar fields of study and are traveling in various parts of the world. I received a letter from an alum sharing with me all of the ways I affected her live. Last I heard from her she was doing some fieldwork at Berkeley and was in Malawi, Africa. I continue to keep in touch with past students via Facebook and other forms of social media, and many have returned to visit over the years, imparting their own words of wisdom to my current students.
If I were the school leader, I would first focus on creating a more welcoming school culture and then build in the concept of do no harm and the use of choice words. Although several important elements that make-up a school culture, to be more effective and actually achieve the culture desired, it is necessary to do this in steps and not all at once. Given the degree of change our school site has experienced within the last few years and our current culture, we have the potential to create the best school in the universe but only if we do this strategically. Currently, our Instructional Council team is in the planning stages to create a more welcoming school-wide culture and we are including activities to assist staff with this in professional development trainings. Part of training will focus on restorative practices and on choice words. Since I am on the Instructional Council Team, as well as on several other leadership teams, and our current Principal has embraced the need to improve our school culture, these practices are within my sphere of influence. However, a concern for many at our last Instructional Council meeting was the period of time needed to effectively develop these practices to effect change, and whether these efforts will be abandoned next year when Principals are given another book or school-wide focus to be embraced. This concern stems from passed initiatives everyone has invested in that were tossed aside with the next administration or superintendent coming aboard.
In terms of my own classroom environment, I am continuing to focus on improving the environment, making it a more welcoming place and have been more conscious of my word choice and interactions with students. Part of this for me, involves checking in individually with students and getting a sense of where they are at. Given that I had a student teacher last semester and have had two classes of students to get to know this semester, I was fortunate to be able to implement practices like do no harm and choice words into these classes right from the start. I have already noticed a difference in the classroom environment and the way students interact with me. Several students are taking more risks in their work than previously and students who were not turning in work last semester are making a conscious effort to do so.
Commitment to 6 things I am willing to do this semester that will make my school choose words more wisely:
References:Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian. How to create a culture of achievement in your school and classroom. ASCD, 2012.
Do no Harm
When it comes to the concept of Do No Harm, I believe this idea applies to all stakeholders. Policies and procedures are created so that people do not harm themselves, others, or their community. To prepare students for the demands of the world they live in, which is changing at a rapid pace, it is important to build the capacity to be responsible citizens. This involves many stakeholders. In terms of the classroom teacher, it is important to build a classroom culture of mutual respect, where all individuals take responsibility for their learning, themselves, others, and the environment. This culture becomes a commitment that hopefully will extend beyond the classroom and school environment. According to Dr. Pumpian's presentation (2015), creating a safe learning environment involves taking care of oneself, each other, and the environment. This concept is emphasized in great detail in How to Create a Culture of Achievement (2012).
As a school leader, the concept of "do no harm" resonates with me and at its core is very basic, yet powerful. In terms of my own school site, I begin by revisiting the student, teacher, parent, staff handbook, as many of the discipline policies and practices are sadly out of date. Recent consensus among the staff and admin team was that the handbook is in desperate need of revision. As a result, the handbook is currently under review with plans in place for a complete overhaul. As the Principal or person of influence, I would task a committee comprised of members from each stakeholder group with revising the handbook. Prior to its revision, I would use a tool similar to the Action Research Tool 8 and 9 in How to Create a Culture of Achievement, as well as a survey, to get a sense of where the school culture is in terms of discipline procedures and policies needed. I would also eliminate school rules such as not chewing gum, having cellular devices only out before school, lunch, and after school, as such rules are not consistently enforced anyway and most teachers have their own classroom procedures with regard to food, drinks, and use of electronic devices. Finally, I would look at the effectiveness of consequences. One issue that stands out at my school site is student tardiness. I agree with the discussion in How to Create a Culture of Achievement, that punishing students by keeping them out of class or sending them to the office for being late or forgetting a pencil is ridiculous and does not resolve the issue. If anything, it adds further disruption to the learning environment and usually does not result in a behavior change.
There is also a need for consistency among stakeholders in terms of putting into practice or reinforcing the policies and procedures that are in place. As the school leader, putting principles into action requires on-going PD and not a one-time session at the beginning of the year. Routine coaching on problem-solving approaches, conflict resolution, and prevention strategies needs to occur. Teachers would also be encouraged to visit classrooms and share best practices.
Currently, the concept of teaching students to “do no harm” is partially integrated into our school culture. We are in the process of revamping some of our policies and procedures with regard to discipline. The pillar, “do no harm” is easy to remember and practice, but it needs "buy in" from the entire staff and the rest of our stakeholders if it will be successful. Past years, experienced inconsistency and mixed messages of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Having the same exact handbook for middle and high school students has also resulted in confusion. Should the policies and procedures be the same for 6th graders, 8th graders, and seniors? Some of our grade levels are mixed? Overall, disciplinary actions have improved since 2010.
Commitment this semester to make my school a more positive restorative place:
1. Review my own classroom policies and procedures. Are the consequences appropriate? Do they make sense? If not, revise them.
2. Routinely check in with students and take time to have conversations with them about their behavior. I already revised my own tardy policy and I have had fewer students tardy since.
3. Use of affective questions in dealing with conflicts that arise.
4. Foster self-regulation to build capacity of students and staff to function at school.
5. Analyze the causes or motivation of the misbehavior and be preventative and proactive.
Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian. How to create a culture of achievement in your school and classroom. ASCD, 2012.
The San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) Welcome Vision and Mission
The vision of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) is to provide all students with a rigorous, standards-based curriculum in arts and academics that instills a life-long passion for learning and a respect for diversity. Our mission is dedicated to providing a challenging interdisciplinary curriculum, which inspires academic and artistic excellence for a culturally diverse population. We are committed to a personalized atmosphere of self-esteem, respect, enthusiasm, and cooperation.
The challenge we face is to balance the love of the arts with academics and to welcome all stakeholders in both of these ares so that the arts and academics really do share center stage, and all students have the opportunity to excel artistically and academically.
To personalize the artistic and academic experience for SCPA students and build self-esteem, enthusiasm, and cooperation, our staff is in the process of revisiting our school culture and the extent to which it is welcoming. This year we added a 7th grade retreat to help unite the 7th graders and to start building a more welcoming culture for our middle school students. Last year we implemented an 8th grade promotion. Because we are a 6-12 grade school, our middle school students did not receive the same recognition and attention as our high school students. We are implementing programs to change this. We also have several programs in place to reduce bullying. Much of these efforts are promoted by our ASB students, our school webpage, lessons on digital citizenship, and Circle of Friends. We have also started a school-wide student of the month recognition and validation of their achievements. Finally our new Principal is holding Principal chats between all stakeholders.
Based on my assessment of which stakeholders could be more effectively welcomed, parents of EL students were the subgroup that seemed less welcomed. There is also inconsistency with parents being welcomed on campus by all stakeholders, as well as inconsistencies between teachers, staff, and administration).
Future Sphere of Influence: If I were the school Principal, I would assemble a subcommittee to create opportunities to welcome parents of EL students and provide better support to this group.
Current Sphere of Influence: In my present position to enhance welcoming parents of EL students, I would re-establish a monthly on-sight ELAC meeting. This would include access to resources, ELL supports, cultural celebration, assistance with technologies students are using.
FIVE Things I am Willing to do this Semester that Will Make my SCPA a More Welcoming Place:
1. Reach out to the EL parent community.
2. Get to know staff new to SCPA (I tend to stay on one side of the campus—need to get out more).
3. Think about relationships based on respect and mutual accountability rather than on an “us” verses “them” mentality.
4. Provide verbal and written communications to follow up as needed.
5. Teach and model understanding, respect, and tolerance.