The sound of your own footsteps echo as you walk. You relish in the quiet early morning moments. Doors are unlocked, lights turned on and soon the hustle and bustle of the school day begins. It almost takes your breath away how fast the atmosphere in a school can change when the doors open and the students come in.
Every morning, in schools across Canada and the United States, about four million teachers have the amazing potential for positive impact. It might start with a warm, genuine greeting or end with positive affirmation and celebration. Sandwiched between the beginning and end of the day are all “teachable moments”, when learning truly happens.
This week, I happened in one of these classrooms where you just know that students are being positively impacted. Ms. Byrd teachers at Robert F Morehead Middle School in Dollarway School District in Arkansas. I spent a few minutes in her room and I knew right away that it was someone that I would want my child to spend time with if she was in middle school. Ms. Byrd was having a conversation with the students; that was what her instruction felt like to me. She was interacting with them in a way that they were engaged. And her room told a story of what was the most important thing that she was teaching- I should say “who” because it was all about the student.
This bulletin board truly represents what Ms. Byrd believes in her students. The center part (it is hard to tell in my less than professional picture) is a mirror. Imagine having an opportunity to look in to a mirror every day and see yourself and these reminders of what you are responsible for and control. Imagine having a teacher that expects this high level of responsibility from you and is helping you understand that you are and must be accountable for your own actions, words, choices, grades and success. How important are these messages in building a sense of student ownership of their learning? Of their lives?
In our world of education, we talk about essential learnings for students, how we will instruct, assess and intervene on these learnings and we face many challenges and differences in opinions of what and how we improve schools. It doesn’t matter where I am or what school I am in, the most critical factor, in my opinion, is whether or not teachers believe that all and each student can learn and like Ms. Byrd does, creates an expectation that the student must also have this belief.
I have been writing this blog for almost two years now. I am sure if you read back through the blogs, this will not be the first time that my weekly message is about the student. Sometimes, I need the reminder when I am on the road and in schools and districts that this is what our work is about. Sometimes it is easier for me not to stray from this as the priority and other times, like everyone else, I get caught up in all the other factors that we know to also be true about improving schools. Ms. Byrd did a great job of being my reminder this week of what our business of education is all about.
Thank you, Ms. Byrd and thank you to all of the teachers who work tirelessly to be there for students. To not give up on them and continue to confront the excuses and self-doubt. To make lessons relevant and engaging. To raise expectations and give students the autonomy and responsibility to direct their own traffic on their learning journey. As this week comes to an end, I invite you to reflect on your own beliefs and actions. Are you modeling an authentic belief in the ability of students to learn, no matter what? Does all mean all in your school or district? What does that look like and sound like in your halls and classrooms? What are the messages that are being given intentionally or unintentionally? It might be a great time for self-reflection as a staff or individually. There is no time like the present to make a difference.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to being back with you next week.