It’s Cool to be Kind

People… this work is all about the people I meet.  I just can’t say enough about the school leaders, teachers and other road warriors that I have been blessed to meet and work with for the past six years. You have all “read” me say (over and over again) that school improvement is hard work. It takes a willingness to dig in, see the messy truths and want to fix them.  Oh, and it takes so much heart and soul.  You know you are doing the work when you are exhausted at the end of the day but so energized the next morning to go back in and get things done!  And, what is all of this heart and soul about… the students of course.  Just making a difference… one student at a time… when all kids means ALL kids.

This summer, I have been following a story that evolved in one of my favorite schools to visit, Fox Elementary in Columbus, Georgia.  While the kiddos were off for their summer break, some very special adults, with a whole lot of heart and soul have been busy painting up a storm in the school.  Now, I am not talking about a little touch up paint in the classrooms or halls, but murals all over the place… including the bathrooms.  You have to read and hear this story… https://www.ledger-enquirer.com/news/local/education/article215853760.html#storylink=cpy.  It will warm your heart. Here is a bit of it…

Principal Yvette Scarborough, several teachers and many community volunteers led by SPARK ART’s Rachael “Smiley” White have spent hours getting ready for this first week of school.  As we educators all know and appreciate, volunteers, like Ms. White, truly impact the lives of our students.  “We don’t get to choose where we are in life, but you can be something, you can become something, no matter where you are,” White said. We know the old saying, “it takes a community to raise a child” and this is alive and well in Columbus with Ms. White and the others who generously donated hours to paint this summer.

As the students returned38655897_10217857146047479_7716608783983575040_n to school these past few days, they were greeted by Principal Scarborough and her amazing staff AND lots and lots of cool pictures and inspiring, fun messages that have been added to walls, bathroom stalls and doors. (Who could not be inspired to work hard to improve a school when you see a face like this little guy’s? He is so glad to be back and wearing Scarborough’s favorite t-shirt!!)

When I first met Dr. Scarborough three years ago, she knew she had her work cut out for her as the new principal at Fox Elementary. Besides wanting to ensure that student learning improved, she recognized the need for a cultural shift that included a focus on relationships.  With dedicated time and lots of hard work, this developed into authentically creating a school that was known for its kindness, both inside and outside the walls of the building. I have watched Dr. Scarborough’s professional growth as a principal and her willingness to accept coaching has inspired me to stay on the road and continue this work.  We have had lots of difficult but “fun” discussions about the work needed at the school (she has accepted my challenge of making the school more fun these past few years and I love her for it!).  As she said in a recent interview, “Our theme this year is, ‘We don’t lose; we win or we learn. I don’t want the students to be defined by their neighborhood or their circumstances. They need to know that they are loved.  Sometimes this is the only place they may feel it. We know things at school can be hard.  Learning isn’t always the easiest thing to do. So you may feel like, ‘Ugh, this is not what I want.’ But you know what?  I can make something enjoyable out of it.  It’s a life lesson if we don’t let the daily grind pull us down.”

If you were to visit the school today, some of the additions you would see include, “throw kindness around like confetti”, “you are capable of amazing things”, “be the reason someone smiles today”, “your mistakes define you”, “let your light shine”, “bloom where you are planted and it’s cool to be kind”. 38650049_10217857147247509_4927819375467036672_nThe hallways are themed and you just have to feel energized and happy being in the school.  We all know what happens when we enjoy what we do… we want to do more of it so why wouldn’t we want learning and school to be fun?

I know that at Fox, the hard work that has gone in to creating the atmosphere is just the first step to a life time of learning for the students.  Dr. Scarborough understands the delicate balance of having a vision for a school built on relationships and smiles that’s foundation is developed from a belief of shared responsibility for each student’s learning. I can’t wait to be back there with her later in August. As one of her walls says, “bloom where you are planted”. That sure sums up the Scarborough/Fox connection!!

So, until next Saturday, “let your light shine”.  That is what life and learning is all about.  Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week.

 

 

 

Saving Lives

The biggest compliment I can receive, when I am on the road working in my schools is this…”this school improvement work is saving lives”.  I have to say, when I hear that I am reminded of the critical importance of what so many do to impact student lives.  While this is how I like to think about my work and what really keeps me on the road, I want to tell you about someone who actually has taken on the daunting task of saving lives… one Epipen at a time.

Her name is Kelly Dunfield. Kelly is a Nurse Practitioner from my home province of New Brunswick, Canada.  As much as I like to think about the work I do as saving lives, Kelly actually has taken the initiative to do that… every single day. be-ready-healthcareSo far, her initiative has saved six lives that she knows about… and there definitely may be others.  I was reminded about Kelly this week when I was in an airport and had to watch a medical team support a young lady having an anaphylactic reaction. The great thing about Kelly’s project is that is truly fits the need so many of us have in our schools to provide as many opportunities to students and adults to be in a safe and healthy environment. Here is the story…

In December 2015, Kelly and her husband John established Be Ready Health Care Inc. (http://www.bereadyhealthcare.com/. This was in response to a very successful pilot program providing public epinephrine auto- injectors (Epipens as we often call them). This pilot project was launched in the spring of 2014, when 28 public sites in Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada were identified and agreed to participate.  Each site received an alarmed wall cabinet that contained both, one adult and one child dose of epinephrine auto injectors.  Before each site installed this cabinet, education was provided by Kelly (which is still part of the implementation) to correctly recognize and respond to an anaphylactic reaction.  Within a few short months of the launch of this pilot, a life was saved and Kelly and John quickly realized the important potential that this initiative had to save more lives, and the need to promote publicly accessible epinephrine in all communities.

The cabinets are manufactured in New Brunswick, Canada and will hold up to 4 EpiPens or 1 naloxone kit or 2 naloxone nasal sprays. (They expanded the business from the epinephrine cabinets to an additional cabinet (naloxone)  being available to provide a quick response to a drug overdose). Both of these cabinets create an opportunity to respond quickly to a medical emergency similar to what cardiac defibrillators do for us in public places.  Be Ready Health Care provides the cabinets and you can buy the epinephrine and naloxone behind the counter (across Canada) in pharmacies without a prescription. I am not able to comment on the USA availability.

Kelly and John both have other “day jobs”. This project is a passion for them. Just speak to Kelly for a few minutes and you will realize what a special person she is. Kelly is determined to save as many lives as she can by selling the cabinets, and most importantly, educating people about the potential we all have to react immediately and appropriately to these medical emergencies and save lives.  Schools, universities, restaurants, hockey rinks, businesses and other public buildings across Canada and USA (as far away as North Dakota) have seen the benefit of the cabinets.

In 1996, I was principal of Lewisville Middle School in Moncton, New Brunswick. Anyone reading this who worked with me there will know why these cabinets personally mean so much to me.  We had a student who had severe allergies and we did store an Epipen in the office for her.  One day, a teacher had to administer the epinephrine to the young girl and by mistake injected in her own hand instead (she had the Epipen upside down). When she came to find me at the office, the Epipen was hanging out of her hand and the student was standing there without the drug she desperately needed.  Luckily the school was not too far from the hospital and we were able to get both of them there on time to recieve medical treatment.  One of Kelly’s kits would have provided me with an additional epipen and obviously my staff would have benefited from Kelly’s training!

This past week, I worked in Rapid City, South Dakota with the amazing, energetic staff at North Middle School. We accomplished many things and one of the goals of our time together was to agree on collective commitments by the teachers for this school year.  What would we agree to have as commitments as we shared responsibility for all students in our building?  The North Middle team described their need to have high expectations of their students and at the same time build relationships and nurture them.  One of the commitments that they talked about a great deal was their need to ensure that the students had a safe haven to come to each and every day… that the students would know, when they came in the door, that they were in a safe space.  I so appreciated the work that the teachers did this week and most importantly their undeniable belief in their ability to save the lives of their students.  It isn’t quite the same as Kelly’s cabinets but our work is right up there as critically important.

As I said earlier, Kelly knows of at least six lives that have been saved- five with the epinephrine and one from the naloxone.  If you are interested in a cabinet for your school or business, I am sure Kelly would love to talk to you. Contact here through their website-www.bereadyhealthcare.com.  Have a great week and celebrate the important work that you are part of as an educator, saving lives!  See you next Saturday!

 

 

The Rear View Mirror

I remember when I was learning to drive a car, the importance of using the rear view mirror became pretty evident (don’t forget, I learned to drive a car long before the creation of backup cameras!).  Being able to parallel park was a requirement for your driver’s exam and that rear view mirror seemed to be the most valuable tool that you had to use. There have been many days of driving that I wished that it was much bigger. Why is there such a disproportionate distinction between the size of that rear view mirror and the front window? rear-view-mirror-drawing-58 Couldn’t the automakers have created something more realistic for drivers like me?  (After all these years, backing up is still not my strongest suit!) And, what in the world does this have to do with a blog on school improvement?

I actually think it is a great analogy.  First of all, to really improve schools you have to do both… reflect and learn from what has happened in the past and at the same time, we have to be looking ahead.  That rear view mirror becomes the lessons learned from past practices, mistakes and successes.  It is last year’s student data, goals we set, etc. as well as the time to reflect on what really happened at the school.  And, now, I love that there is a such a difference between the rear view mirror and the front window! In all honesty, the real looking that we have to do is forward… out that front window.

Being able to picture what we want our school to become, what our common purpose really is and setting goals and action plans in motion, to get us there, is that forward look.  Seeing where we are at, in other words, our current reality, is a great use for those big windows too.  I know for a fact, the GPS will only work (aka- a map), if I know where I am starting from. The rear view mirror also comes in real handy when we are determining where we are.  Being lost on the road brings confusion and an obvious lack of direction. These are not the feelings that. you want to experience when you are working to improve your school.

As I continue to work in schools this year, I will use the comparison of the rear view mirror and the front window as my personal visual for where the work and conversations should go.  For example, if the discussions are becoming too lengthy about the past, then I know we are way beyond the small size of that rear view mirror. To keep looking forward, we need to think about the broader picture of where we are going, what lies ahead and what road map will get us there.  Maybe those automakers did know a thing or two about design… there really is a reason for the window to be so much bigger than the mirror.

To the principals reading this, I hope this helps you frame what you want your focus to be as you begin this school year.  You know that the past is important but it is not where we dwell.  You get that some of your teachers will want to spend more time on what have been their experiences in the past and you will need to lead the conversations forward, to what you want to become as a school, not where you have been.  I am not saying the historical context isn’t important, it just isn’t what will get you where you want to go.

Consider what questions that you can ask to move forward while at the same time honoring the reflective thinking of past experiences.  Create opportunities for teachers to spend time understanding “where” they are and what road that they will take to continue on your journey.  What steps are going to drive you forward?  As you are driving this week, remember to keep your eyes on the road looking forward to what is ahead and that small, rear view mirror to clarify what is behind you.  Thanks for reading and see you next Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Believe

When I leave home this time of the year to go to work, someone always asks me what in the world I do to support schools in the heat of the summer?  Teachers are off enjoying their long summer breaks, right?  Who would I possibly work with in the middle of July? The last thing that teachers want to do in the summer is go to school?  Isn’t it?  So, what do I go off and do in July in the name of school improvement? How do I find anyone to work with?

Well, if the truth be told, for most educators, the learning never stops.  They might take a break for a while, but they are soon reading, preparing, attending conferences or studying together.  Now, I know, this is not the impression that many of my non-teacher friends have about “summer” and “teachers”.  But, think about it, if you have had an opportunity to share a meal or a coffee with an educator over the summer, I bet it doesn’t take long for the conversation to be about school.  We just can’t seem to help ourselves… we shut if off for a while to celebrate and enjoy the end of a school year  but soon our minds are moving on to the next year.  And, getting ready can take on a whole life of its own for the educators who want to work together in the summer months.  Let me introduce you to some who I have recently met.

Over the past two weeks, I have worked in four different schools (in two states) with teachers invested in learning together.  In the four schools, there are different neighborhoods, unique student needs and different expectations by the leaders (district and school).  The bottom line though, is, the teachers come together to learn because they believe in their students and they are willing to accept leadership roles in their schools.  636174569062629052-1906224031_believe_nischalaIn all four schools, these teachers want to create a shared leadership model that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to  “we’ve got this” or “they are our students” not “mine” and “yours”.

These hard-working educators come to the table with a variety of skills, experiences and understanding of the work to be done. Sometimes, they express concerns about not knowing  “how” to lead and we work through clarifying expectations, building understanding of common purpose and most importantly, creating confidence in their ability to support the work necessary to make a difference in the lives of their students. You see, in all of these schools, they undeniably understand that collaborating and sharing in the work together will create a far greater chance for students to learn.  And, most importantly, they believe in their students. Honestly, how I see it is these educators understand that by believing in their students, they are saving lives. What can get better than this as a purpose to our work?

When I think about the difficult, bumpy road that school improvement is, I always go back to three necessary ingredients one- you must have educators and leaders who will collaborate, create common purpose and share ownership (no-one can do this work in isolation), two- you have to do the right work (in other words, you have to know what is going to get you results and stay intentional in your work to get there) and lastly- you have to believe in your students. Without the belief, it really doesn’t happen.

This last one is a hard one.  In so many schools, the disconnect between wanting students to succeed and KNOWING that they can succeed is the elephant in the room.  How do you develop unconditional belief in others? What does it take to have a mindset that is genuinely positive that each and every student will succeed? And, if we are to share ownership and leadership  of student learning, how do we influence others to believe?   Consider these three questions as you get ready for this new school year.    Reflection and discussion of where we honestly are with our thinking and beliefs is a very important exercise for educators to do together and there is no time better than the first of the year to create your collective commitments to each other.  Will you commit to shared leadership and ownership? And, will you truly agree to model, in all of your actions and words, a 100% commitment to a belief in each student in your school? They sure know when we do or we don’t and nothing builds confidence faster than knowing someone else has it for us! Let’s face it, as humans, we have energy and enthusiasm for what we are doing when we know others believe in us.

I know that the educators who I worked with during the past two weeks are believers and I know they want to continue to be when they actually start working with the students.  That is when the rubber will hit the road, in other words, staying true to their beliefs despite the challenges that come before them in the shape of a student, will be the test. Personal and professional buckets are filled during the summer and once the doors of the school are open again, these buckets seem to deplete quite quickly. Someone who means the world to me reminded me, this week,  that I am doing this work to save lives. With all of my heart, I have to believe in my principals and teachers. And they in turn have to believe in the students.  This is what we do and so as you think about the 2018-2019 school year, I  ask you to believe…no matter what…don’t stop believing.  Have a great week.  See you next Saturday.

Becky

As 2017 was coming to an end, I started this weekly Saturday blog to share my experiences and thoughts as I continue to work to improve schools.  Before taking a summer break, I had penned 25 posts (you can read them all below here if you want!).  I truly enjoy the opportunity to share and love the feedback that I receive on the blog.  I wanted to come back to it refreshed and ready to write and I wasn’t sure on what Saturday I would start posting again; I just knew that after a short break, I would.  Someone very dear to me has a saying that he uses when I am struggling with a decision… “relax and wait for the sign”.  The sign came to me this week,  on July 10, when I learned of a dear friend’s passing… Becky DuFour. rebecca-dufour-530_1 Today, Saturday, July 14, is her 58th birthday. And so, this post is dedicated to Becky and all she has taught me about schools… and about life.

For the educators reading this, I am pretty sure that Becky’s name will be familiar to you.  She worked with her husband, Richard DuFour for many years as international presenters and co-authored many books, with Rick and others, supporting collaboration as the focus of  school improvement- professional learning communities. They were part of the Solution Tree family, the company that I am also so fortunate to work with and, for many of us, Rick and Becky were the reasons that we came to be part of this journey. I first met the DuFours in 2004 when I was a superintendent.  I had the opportunity to invite them to  work with us in my district and later had the pleasure of working with both of them in places throughout Canada and the USA.  With Rick and Becky there were laughs, hugs and learning.

As a leader, I so appreciated that Becky was always willing to listen and help; she was just an email or phone call away.  As a friend, I warmed when I heard her voice, saw her name pop up in an email or best yet, was with her in person.   Her writing guided my work both as a principal and as a superintendent and since I became a road warrior, her teachings have helped me guide many others in ways that are so needed in our schools.  Laying the foundation for trusting, collaborative relationships that are focused on student learning and student achievement, understanding that there are “tights” that must lead to accountability in schools and knowing our collective purpose as we do this work are just a few of the many, many key messages that I carry with me every day from Becky’s teaching. She was often heard reminding us of our collective purpose and to ensure that we all shared ownership of students.

Most importantly though, in the past five years, I learned life lessons from the DuFours.  Rick was diagnosed with cancer and for several years, we all watched as he stayed true to who he was, a teacher first and foremost.  Becky loved and supported him with all of her heart. When Rick passed away in February, 2017, Becky, his rock, continued to be there for everyone.  I will never forget her warm welcome and embrace for me at the celebration service for Rick.  Becky just had a way of giving you what you needed, unconditionally and with so much love. She demonstrated for all of us, what it meant to live with a heart full of gratitude despite any difficult days.  Since Rick’s passing, I continued to be inspired by Becky.  Despite her grief she worked shoulder to shoulder with us, leading webinars and calls with schools, giving  advice and continuing to provide direction and leadership to the work of improving schools.

Lastly, Becky is the reason that I even started this blog.  In November, I had the pleasure of seeing Becky and talking with her about writing.  She knew that I was working on a draft of a book and she encouraged me to also consider this blog.  I will never forget what she said to me, “don’t over think it…just write.” She shared with me her experiences with her writing and how she had to work at staying focused and finding the time. And so, since November, that is exactly what my blogs have been.  Weekly writings that I felt inspired to put to paper and I tried really hard to just let them be… for Becky.  I will miss so many things about Becky, mostly, just knowing that she was out there, home with her family or on the road teaching others and that I might have more time with her.  Oh, and her hugs… she knew how to give you a hug that meant something and, most recently, I looked forward to her weekly emails and comments on my blog.  She told me she started every Saturday morning reading them and she always sent me a note.  Her last words to me every week were … “keep writing”.

So, this 26th blog is dedicated to you, Becky DuFour, author, incredibly strong educational leader, mentor, loving wife, sister, mother, grandmother and dear friend. My work will feel different for a long time without you.  Your legacy of passionately going forth to improve schools will live on in my heart.  And, for my family and friends, don’t be surprised if I hug you with a little more strength and hold on just a little longer… that will be Becky’s influence on me reminding me that the most important work we do is to love others. As her beautiful daughter Hannah said to us this week, she knew how much she was loved. And, Becky, we all knew how much we were loved because you showed it in every single thing that you said and did.  Thank you.

 

 

Lessons from the Road

As the school year comes to a close, I think about what I have learned this year in my travels.  From amazing people come lessons, with experiences I gain wisdom and from the places I visit, I grow as a person.  This twenty-five blog will be my last for a few weeks as I take a bit of a break for family and friends and a beautiful summer in eastern Canada.  So, for now… here are a few lessons from the school improvement road.

Lesson #1: When schools struggle to be successful with students, no one is happy- especially not the teachers or administrators.  If for one minute you think that they don’t really care, in other words, this is just a job to them, think again.  I was reminded over and over again this year that educators go to work every day wanting the very best for their students.  They just might not have all of the resources, expertise and know how of what to do next but, for the most part, they sure want to do better. They might be overwhelmed by the needs of the students and the work to be done but don’t take that as not wanting to be successful. If the will is there let’s work on the skill. With will and skill we can move mountains.

Lesson #2: Students can get really, really excited when they become better students.  I have told you about Willy and some of my other friends in schools who want to talk to me and share their love for learning.  You just have to understand how really awesome it  is when the students understand that they are responsible for their learning and share in the “what to do next”, the enthusiasm is contagious! The best part of my work is seeing this through the eyes of the students. It doesn’t get any better!

Lesson #3: I still have lots to learn.  In this 38th year as an educator (gasp…did I really type that??), I am learning in my schools every single day.  Some times the lessons are reminders of things I know but I am not applying anymore and sometimes, it is new learning. I still have to read, study and write to stay current in research and best practices and I know that this journey, for me, is not over.  The needs are real and I feel so blessed to be able to help.  I just know that I can not get stagnant in my own thinking and look for solutions to make a difference with each and every school.  If I can continue to work with integrity and honor the expertise in the schools, I know that I will have an impact.

Lesson #4:  It is fun, challenging, tough, exhausting, exciting, hard, interesting and crazy being a road warrior!  Staying in hotels every night, living out of a suitcase, flying on tons of flights, doing your shopping in airports and trying to find your way around new places in a rental car over and over again… well, it isn’t all glamorous.  I am learning, every year, to make the very best of every adventure.suitcases The highlights for me are the little things, the violin that I listened to in the Minneapolis airport one day that brought me to tears because the music was so beautiful and it reminded me of my family when I was growing up, running in to my dear friend Terri Klemm in Starbucks in South Dakota, seeing the exhausted Delta staff after Atlanta airport was basically shut down doing all they could for all of us with smiles on their faces, knowing actually where to buy fun souvenirs in the Detroit airport, having one meal this year with Lissa (maybe it was two, Lissa but I think we only saw each other once, sadly!), sharing crawfish with educators in Lafayette, Louisanna, seeing the Carole King musical, “Beautiful” with my good friend Jeanne in Fresno, California and keeping my head up and eyes wide open in airports in case I would run in to another road warrior (right Angela? It happened in the Little Rock airport!!!) Mostly, it was about meeting people who I can continue to learn from (Kathy, you taught me a ton about literacy) and just being with people who energize me.

So, in the wise (but maybe a little over used) words of Dr. Seuss, from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”: “All Alone! Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot. And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on. But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward un many frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.”

I am not sure if Dr. Seuss was writing about school improvement and the journey of continuous hard work that it takes to stay focused but I can say this… the educators who I work with hike on and on and face the problems head on. This is the way to stay true to improving schools and it has been an honor to be on the road with you this year.  And to my friends, the other road warriors, I think Dr. Seuss knew about us too when he wrote this!  See you all in August!

 

Graduation

In most of the schools and districts that I work in, this is graduation week.  In fact, several of the ceremonies are today!  A time for so many mixed emotions… celebrations, anxiety about next steps, good-byes, goals attained and for some families and students, it is a disappointing time. High school teachers and administrators are also feeling the emotions… pride fills the auditoriums as students cross the stage. Sadness is the reality for the students who were not able to be there with them. What really influences the student’s ability to get to this finish line?  Who has the impact?

At a recent elementary school visit, I had the opportunity to see the graduating seniors come back to their home school to be honored.  The high school marching band led the seniors through the hallways of the elementary school and the young students and their teachers were out in the hallways ready to clap and cheer on the seniors.  Some of the elementary teachers recognized seniors that they had taught and the energy and enthusiasm in the air was contagious! It was a celebration of reaching the ultimate goal of high school graduation. For many of these seniors, they were the first graduates in their families.  They are role models for both their family and others and this was truly obvious to me as the observer that morning.  I heard young students exclaim, “Look, JD is graduating!”, “There is my neighbor, I didn’t know that she was a graduate!”. And, as the teachers reminded me, this was a high school that has worked very hard to increase their graduate rate by diligently working to meet the needs of students and ensuring success. I learned that the high school has a motto, “whatever it takes”.  I like this focus.

I really appreciate that the high school is celebrating graduation with their neighboring schools. Besides providing an opportunity for the seniors to feel celebrated and honored, it is a real teachable moment for the elementary children.  In school improvement, we talk all the time about students owning their learning, setting goals and knowing what they have to do to achieve their goals.  And, in many high poverty neighborhoods, graduation is truly a difficult goal. graduation-hat Besides the obvious academic struggles, life happens. Staying focused on the goal of completing school is a challenge for many.  Seeing what can happen if you stay with it is an amazing visual for the younger students.

I was moved by the conversations that the elementary teachers were having. They were really sharing ownership of the students who they had taught. They were reminiscing about some events that were remembered and genuinely surprised to see some of the students who they knew had struggled.  There was disappointment when they recognized that some students were missing. It really struck me that, despite not being the high school teachers who had the pleasure of teaching these students the past few years, they still felt responsible for them.

Isn’t this what school improvement is really about?  Understanding that, beginning in early years and moving all the way up to the 12th grade, we are all responsible? That there are learning progressions, in other words, if kindergarten teachers are not prepared to ensure their students leave mastering what is required by the end of kindergarten then students go in to first grade with a deficit.  (I know the kindergarten teachers I work with and who are reading this are maybe a little tired of me telling them how important that they are to the big picture… but they sure are). That it isn’t just about the high school getting students to graduation, it is a community of educators, coaches, schools and families that get them there. It’s about shared responsibility for students all the way through, not just when they sit in front of us in class.

How do we create systems of ownership of all?  What should be the expectations of K-12, creating cultures of coherence?  In my experience, it takes strong leadership (district and school level) based on deep understanding that all grades impact the end goal; not just the state or provincial tested years.  That having high expectations for all students to leave a grade proficient in essential learnings, in other words, what really is expected at that grade level has to be the system norm.  For example, that writing in fifth grade shouldn’t look like writing in second grade and we definitely should not be ok with that. And, mostly, that students and teachers are well supported in meeting these grade level targets.

As we close another school year (and I know my friends in the northern states and Canada are not quite here yet), what have you done to contribute to a student’s success this year?  Do you know the impact that you have had? Have you stopped and celebrated your small wins and the bigger wins as well?  Can you see the need for all of us in education to share the ownership?  Is it fair for high school teachers to feel the overwhelming responsibility to have students graduate?  I know these questions might seem rhetorical to you, but please consider your contributions.  Next time, I will write my twenty-fifth blog on improving schools. It will be my last for a couple of months as a take a summer break with you.  Thank you for staying with me on this journey. I have loved your feedback and comments. See you next Saturday.