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Engage, Explore, and Extend

One week ago, our staff participated in our first School Improvement Day of the year. With the chaos that the start of the year brings, it was a really wonderful day to slow down, engage with our colleagues, explore new ideas, and extend our knowledge. Various staff members took the lead, and just like we encourage our staff to offer in their classrooms, teachers had choice when it came to how they wanted to spend their time. By the end of the day, the energy was still high and many teachers shared excitement for what they saw, heard, and learned from their colleagues in the building. Anytime you can get teachers together talking, sharing, and learning - life is GOOD.

I am excited to share our agenda for the day, some takeaways from the different sessions, and some of the feedback we received from our staff.

As I mentioned earlier, a majority of the day centered on ENGAGING with colleagues, EXPLORING new ideas, and EXTENDING their knowledge. After brainstorming different ideas during an Instructional Leadership Team meeting, we organized the day around some hot topics we knew they were interested in learning more about. Here are the different choices we offered:

ENGAGE with Colleagues: Topics and Table Talk
  • Homework: Policy and Practice
  • Retakes: Policy and Practice
  • Grading: What does the research say? 
  • ACCESS: What are the best practices?
  • Leading Student-Driven Discussions
  • PearDeck - Engaging All Students
  • Flexing and Flipping Your Classroom Space
  • Getting to Know your Grade Level: A Student's Day
  • Padlet and Student Voice
  • Using Inquiry-based Teaching and Design Thinking
EXTEND Your Knowledge
  • Deans and the Dangers Teens Face
  • SEL: What Services are Available for Students
  • Facilitated IEPS and PLAAFP Reports
  • Learn More about Blended Learning
Yes - a lot of awesome topics that I know you know sparked some great conversations. Man oh man - as I walked around various sessions, teachers were engaged, asking questions, exploring new ideas, sharing their instructional ideas with other departments, and just talking about all good things connected to teaching and learning. This kind of day makes me excited to be in this profession. As I always say, there is nothing more powerful than a room full of teachers talking, sharing, and learning. And yes, my friends, this day was powerful indeed. 

One of my favorite aspects about this day is that our teachers, deans, support staff, and other faculty members stepped up to the plate and led our staff through these sessions. Despite their hectic schedules, they still took time to prepare and bring energy, passion, and great thought to their presentations. I can't think of a better way to bring our staff together than by listening to each other....because man oh man, our teachers have so much awesomeness to share! Whenever our staff leads and empowers other staff members, it makes me extremely proud to be a Wildcat, and I feel so blessed to work at such a special place. (Yes, I know you heard me say this so many times before...)

As we work to develop School Improvement Days, I believe one of the best things school leaders can do is ask for honest feedback from staff members. Just like we ask teachers to do with their students in the classroom, we must give our teachers a chance to reflect on their learning and also an outlet to voice their needs for professional development. So, we asked our staff one simple question at the end of the day - What was your biggest takeaway? Short, sweet, and man oh man, extremely helpful!

Our staff shared some new information they learned about hot topics. They were specific about what they discovered and were able to articulate it wonderfully in just a few sentences. Other staff shared that they enjoyed the variety of topics and wished they could attend more sessions. Yes, my friends, they shared that there were too many great topics to choose from! AKA...they wish they had more time to engage in these great conversations and work with colleagues. I think this speaks to our school's culture and collegiality. Check it out for yourself...

One staff member said, "I really appreciate the teacher-driven focus, where we had the chance to determine the course of sessions and discussions."

Another reflected, "I was really happy today to feel like my time was productive. I learned and got to experiment as well. That helps me get more confident with it and more likely to implement what I learned." 

A teacher shared that she was "glad to work at a school that has such a humanistic approach to working with students. Every discussion I [she] was part of today centered around on how we can help students feel commented to school and live a well-balanced life." 

Wow. Isn't that awesome? When our focus is on helping students feel connected to the school, safe when they are here, and engaged throughout the day, that means we are doing our jobs. Because as you all know, the bottom line is this...our work should always come back to our students. And this SIP day, my friends, continued to confirm that our teachers are devoted to creating special, memorable learning experiences for our students. Now that calls for a #boomshakalaka! 

Now, the fun part begins...watching how staff members use what they learned during this day to make an impact throughout the school. I can't wait to share it with you! #whatsup