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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Doesn't Every School Have Leadership Retreats?


On Friday our principal set up a leadership retreat for 6 of us. We had 3 Assistant Principals, the Literacy Coach, and myself. We went from 8 AM until the bill was paid at dinner about 12 hours later. And as I was driving home I thought to myself, "Wonder if other schools do this?"

I have mentioned it before, but I feel very strongly about the fact that I have a very good principal. He is a self-proclaimed geek who loves to look at analytical relationships - "If I tweak this input variable how will it affect my output variable?"  He also shared with us that he enjoys conflict too. He looks at conflict and failure as places where the greatest learning occurs - and he's right! Although I have to admit I'm someone who prefers that "we all just get along."

The timing of the retreat was perfect. All of us were "officially" on contract and the school was closed because we are still on the summer schedule which has the schools closed on Fridays. We worked from about 8 until nearly 5 with lunch delivered. Then we drove to a nice restaurant where we ate and had a few drinks which just added to our bonding experience.

The image at the top has part of our agenda. Notice that this section of the agenda is titled, Leaders of Learning.  No mention of being administrators. We are all about learning. And so you'll see that we started by looking at Chapter 1 of "Instructional Rounds in Education," which focuses on "The Instructional Core."  This year we want to purposefully examine the relationships between teachers, their students, and their content.  The relationship between these three is the key to deeper learning according to the authors.

Next we looked at our Mission Statement. The year before we taken what had been called a mission statement but was more of a motto and we analyzed it and adjusted it so that it was concrete and measurable. We like to think of the mission statement as a challenge. And so our first task was to look at student data and find 2 areas to celebrate and 2 areas where we failed, as a campus. We wrapped this section up by focusing on creating a common goal for the year.

When we have "Brutal Facts," like having only about 10% of our SPED students passing the state tests and less than half or our ESL students passing, it's easy to see where we need to focus. But driving towards one main goal that will help those students and every other of our 800+ students is a different story. We know that literacy has to be our main focus but what does this look like in math? in art? in PE? We need to make a concerted effort to help every student in every one of their classes.

The rest of the day was centered on the backward design process (BDP) and response to intervention (RTI). We are using CSCOPE this year for our pacing and curriculum design. So we have created a process to take the information given in CSCOPE and transform it using BDP so that it fits nicely into a project planning form (PPF). That's right we do BDP on CSCOPE to create our PPF!

Our teachers feel a bit stressed because they will be using a new curriculum guide and will be putting that information into a PPF because they will be using PBL as their primary mode of instruction (for the first time) while having 1:1 iPads (for the first time). Just a bunch of whiners if you ask me. Kidding of course. (see my post here about taking care of my teachers ).

Looking at the Instructional Core again, we need to make sure the teachers, their students, and their content are in perfect balance. If the leadership doesn't develop a system to ensure our teachers are successful. And if we haven't identified those students who will need additional help. And, if we haven't given our teachers a way to deliver curriculum in a way that provides the students with a way to go deeper. Then we will not be successful as a school.

Waiting until after the entire campus is back to their normal working hours is too late. We need to give them things that will help them throughout the year right away. But we also need to balance that with NOT giving them too much so that they feel even more overwhelmed. It's a tricky balancing act but we will remain positive and do as much modeling as possible in the early days and weeks of the school year. Still, we could not have gotten this far into the process without a dedicated day totally focused on how we, as Leaders of Learning, can create a culture of learning.  Bring on the teachers! I'm ready to help them get started