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Being Present

And just like that....first semester is coming to an end. Teachers are working diligently to prepare, proctor, and grade final exams, and our students are trying to push through a stressful week of finals to a much-deserved winter break. As I reflect on the semester, I must note that it is probably one of the most memorable in my career. A small idea to start a blog based on classroom observations has exploded into one of the best professional development opportunities I've ever had. 

As I prepared to come back to work after a long maternity leave, I knew that I wanted to be more present in our school. Present in the hallways. Present in the work offices. Present in the classrooms. It is my belief that when someone is visible and accessible, others are more willing to ask questions and/or share ideas. This has always been my goal, but for one reason or another, it was always difficult to find the time to consistently be present around the building. This year would be different....this year I would make a schedule, create a blog, make myself accountable. And wow...this little idea has made my job even more enjoyable and meaningful than I ever thought possible. Well, wait...

Let me rephrase that....the great work of our teachers and school have made my job more enjoyable and meaningful. Wow! I work at such an awesome place, and words cannot begin to describe all of the wonderful, thought-provoking lessons I've had the opportunity to observe. 

As I review my posts from the semester, I am amazed and also excited to report that there are so many consistencies across the building when it comes to instruction and student learning. With the wide array of class offered, our students have awesome opportunities to learn more about themselves and uncover their true passions. Despite the variety, there is a clear foundation of educational beliefs and essentials present in every classroom. To summarize, here's what's driving instruction and learning at Neuqua Valley: 
  • Student-Centered Learning
  • Student Ownership
  • The 4C's
  • Variety
  • Choice/Voice
  • Accountability
  • Modeling
  • Coaching
  • Advocacy 
  • Organization/Purpose
  • Storytelling
  • Progress
  • Crucial Conversations / Awareness 
  • Synthesis
  • Passion
See - I told you I had a great semester! Who wouldn't love seeing all of this firsthand in the classroom? It is truly remarkable. 

While our students are challenged daily through various lessons and activities, the methods listed above are at the heart of the classroom. As educators, our goal is to provide a safe learning environment where students can grow both personally and academically. With this list, it is evident that our students are given countless opportunities to think, question, listen, collaborate, challenge, analyze, synthesize, create, and most importantly, learn during their time with us. Now, that's what I'm talking about! 

On a final note...I am proud to share that - through these classroom visits and conversations with my colleagues -  I learned so much about what it takes to be an effective teacher and how to motivate, challenge, and engage our students. My own teaching has transformed based on what I've witnessed from my colleagues and what I've observed when it comes to student learning. It has challenged my thinking and really made me consider how and why I do things in my own classroom. If you ask me, that is the best kind of professional AND personal development.

My goals moving forward are simple: (1) Motivate teachers to share what they are doing in their classrooms with colleagues throughout the school, (2) Encourage the organization of cross-curricular meetings for teachers to just talk and share what they do in their classrooms to help students, (3) Figure out a way to help teachers find time to visit other classrooms, and (4) Meet with and help teachers take their lessons, activities, and assignments to the next level. Ultimately...I want to continue to be present. Bring it on, 2018! #whatsup