I know that this is the start of a great song and I can almost hear you all humming along. It really represents my thinking this week… I have been off work since December and getting ready to be “on the road again” on Monday. Three schools, two states and lots of time in the car and in the air. And, here are my wonders about getting back at it…
As a school improvement coach, I wonder what I will find when I am back in my schools. Even though I have been able to stay in touch, I am anxious to see what work has been done and the progress that each school is making. I wonder what we will celebrate? What accomplishments (small or big) and what progress that they have made. It is really, really important that you stop and celebrate any positive changes in schools. The work is hard and educators and students deserve to stop and appreciate their efforts.
I know that I have expectations that my schools have stayed the course- collaboratively focusing on evidence-based decisions and most importantly, identifying what each student needs and doing all that they can to meet their needs. I also know that, they likely have had set-backs; school canceled due to weather, teachers out due to sickness, more expectations piled on them from outside influences and distractors that take their time and energy. In some cases, we may have to hit the “restart” button and that is ok, as long as we keep moving forward.
One thing for sure happens in February every year, the time starts to slip by. In August and September, it seems that the school year is miles long and we will have all the time in the world to ensure learning happens with all students. By this month, we are starting to realize that the year is moving fast and will soon be over. It is a great month to really look at where we are and what we want to accomplish. With the weeks left, what do we need to prioritize and really spend time doing. Which learning outcomes are the most important and who are the students that need extra time and support and what are we doing about it? We know that not all students learn at the same rate or in the same way. It is the best time to really examine what we are doing with our time and support. Is it effective? Are we sure what we are doing is making a difference? Or, it is time to step it up with both time and effective strategies and interventions? There should be a sense of urgency about the year right now and if it isn’t happening in your school, how can you help it along?
I had a great conversation with a principal this week. She reminded me of the value of the “community of learners” that the educators are in the building. Schools are all about student learning; that is why we go to work each day, so that student learning is maximized and that we do all we can to ensure it. While we are focused on this, we also need to remember, that as adults, we need to be constantly learning and stopping to celebrate our successes. Coming together in community to honor each other and notice what is happening and having a little fun is important. February is a great time to sharpen our saws, to truly consider our learning needs and take the time to reflect, renew and to learn. On the road this week, I will have the chance to work with close to two hundred educators. Their commitment to a continuous learning journey and their own professional development is inspiring and I am so thankful to be a part of this journey with them. They know that my expectation is implementation. I want them to take back what they learn and apply it to their practices. If we don’t take action and implement, then our students do not benefit from our work. That is true accountability for the time that we spend together.
I would be misleading you if I also didn’t say that I am nervous about being on the road. Because I was not working for health reasons, I am really hoping that I have the energy and stamina that I know I need to do this work. I am sure that I will feel exhausted at the end of the days (just like the teachers and administrators that I work with do every single day) and I know that my energy level will only stay high if I keep a positive outlook and mindset about the task at hand. I have to continue to believe in the adults so that they can believe in the students. I will need to remind myself that, despite my own setbacks and distractors, as long as I am working on the right work, we will move forward.
My challenge to you this week is to reflect on what this time of the year means to you. Is it a good time for you to really look at your student by student/skill by skill support? Is there a need to change some of the ways that students are being supported? Do you have a fear that you might get to the end of the year and not be sure that you did what you needed to do to meet the needs of students? Checking, double-checking and triple-checking what is working or not is always a great idea. We know that hope is not a strategy. We want to be doing all that we can to be sure of student success. Have a great week. See you next Saturday.