August is here...School is gearing up...Our excitement is building. As we enter hallways and classrooms newly waxed, painted, and ready for the hustle and bustle of active learning, we appreciate the work that occurred over the summer and the take a deep breath as we face the work that will go on all year long. The best thing about the beginning of each school year is the opportunity to start with fresh ideas, perspectives, and shiny new goals for us, as educators, and for students too. The possibilities are endless if we have a plan, the right tools, and much needed time and support to implement those goals.
How did your time away re-energize you? What new ideas do you have? What new understandings will inspire your teaching or the goals you set? What changes will you implement? What support will you need to be the best educator you can be?
During the last few weeks, my husband and I have been preparing our rental house for the new tenants. It’s an old house rich with family history, wonderful woodwork and hardwood floors. But it has its challenges too. It seems with each new renter, we do a little more fixing, updating, and remodeling to help this old house meet the needs of today’s tenants. Our work is much like that of schools and educators as they implement changes or new strategies each year to better serve the educational needs of today’s students.
With any new remodeling project or change initiative, we reflect on where we’ve been, where we want to go, and how we will get there. Rarely do we have the opportunity to build from the ground up. Most of the time we are transforming our existing structures (while we live in them), using what we can, eliminating things that no longer fit our purpose, and bringing in new ideas to improve the living/learning environment.
Recently my husband and I tackled the old wallpaper upstairs that served its purpose for many years. As we began to strip away the top layer in the hallway, we uncovered several layers that revealed even more of the history of this old house and those who once lived there. It was a messy and sweaty task. One bedroom only had 1 layer of paper, that was already loose in many places, and it peeled off quickly. We found as we began to work on what used to be my bedroom, the strategy we successfully used on 3 layers of wallpaper in the hallway didn’t work as well on the two layers of wallpaper that had been painted over in this bedroom. So we made adjustments in our strategies, but it still required perseverance and hard work. Our motivation was that the result will be worth the effort and would allow this old house to be new and fresh again while maintaining the structure and character that sustained it the past 100 plus years.
Our wallpaper experience closely relates to our work at school, not just with physical structures, but with traditions, time-worn strategies, and even people. Some are easily changed, while honoring their contribution to past successes. Some offer some initial resistance, but quickly fall into place with a little more time and attention. But a few are stubborn and must have multiple opportunities to help them buy-in and get on board with the new plan. Eventually, while keeping the goal in mind, persistence, evolving strategies, and perseverance win out and the transformation occurs.
What goals will you and your colleagues set this year? Ask and answer these questions as you develop these goals:
· Why are these changes needed?
· How will you accomplish these goals? (including, Who will be involved?)
· What will you achieve when they are successfully implemented?
As you consider the remodeling that must be done to help teachers and students be successful, peel back the layers of the many things your school already has in place and seek input as you decide what can and should be saved, and exactly how and where the new ideas and strategies will fit. Then determine the tools, skills, materials, and human resources you will need to complete this make over.
Learning Forward Kansas exists to support schools and educators in the renovations that occur each school year as we continually strive to achieve excellent teaching and learning every day. How can we help with this year’s remodeling project?
LFKS has several learning opportunities planned for the 2016-17 school year in which you can acquire the knowledge and skills associated with leading change, while experiencing useful tools and strategies that will support your efforts to implement the complex changes in your district. Or you can learn more about the power of feedback with Jim Knight at our annual conference in February. In addition, LFKS has several resources available, and in development, that will assist you with leading and designing effective professional learning experiences, along with sessions that will allow you to experience these designs. Please check out our website for more specific information.
No matter the project or complex change, success is possible if we have a clear plan, the right skills, tools, time, and support to turn this old house into this year’s learning palace!