Email to Staff – 11/29/18

Email to Staff

November 29, 2018

Good afternoon,

I began writing my Friday message on October 5th with the first one addressing what will not be tolerated. I should’ve followed that one with this one, but instead I wrote of my dreams for RCPS. I then wrote of how data will drive this dream.  How learning for us as professionals will occur. I wrote of the importance of adult relationships in order to ensure the success of our students. I’ve written about the many things I’m thankful for, which now includes a four-wheel drive Jeep. Last week I wrote about the power of giving. Well this week I write about how Every Student, Every Day needs a champion.

So what exactly is a champion? A champion is someone like Nicole Joyce (RIS), Ed Dechen (RIS), Courtney Donovan (NE), Erica Wallstrom (RHS), Marisa Aston (RMS) or Sue Cody (NW).  I point these teachers out only for the sake of this writing, as I know there are so many of you that fit this profile.  They have demonstrated commitment, willingness, determination, perseverance, and a growth mindset to support some of our neediest, most marginalized and most challenging children.  Children that truly need to know that they are loved and cared for. These champions find creative ways to support our most marginalized and neediest students.  These champions are determined to see them succeed, no matter how many tears they shed, they refuse to give up or give in.

So what exactly do they do? Well I can’t exactly answer that but believe that a champion for children does the following. First and foremost, they don’t have a fixed mindset because they know it has terrible implications for how they treat students. They do not have a crystal ball, and don’t treat students who struggle like they will struggle for the rest of their lives. They have the mindset that says if students aren’t doing well in their classrooms it may not be due to the students and may require that they change the way they teach. “Change the environment and not the child.” They understand that the use ability groups, categorizing students by test scores, and not instructing in a variety of ways, they will continue to treat students with a fixed mindset. A teachers fixed mindset puts students at greater risk of having a fixed mindset.

I believe these champions use less summative testing and more formative assessment. They know that data from formative assessments provides the sweet spot for their teaching. They are less concerned about grades and more concerned about standard mastery. These champions change the way they provide feedback. I believe they provide feedback that goes deeper as the students gain more expertise in the topic. They understand that praise, although great to hear, does not move learning forward.

These champions use flexible grouping. They don’t put students in ability groups like Lions, Tigers and Bears, something I was guilty of. They understand that students, no matter their academic level, can provide effective feedback to each other if it has been modeled correctly. They don’t just ask surface level questions but seek to ask deep and probing questions. Champion teachers ask 75% that are deep and 25% that are surface. They understand the need to stop talking, therefore moving from the “sage on the stage to the guide on the side.”  Research shows “Teachers ask more than 200 questions per hour,” which means wait time is low and students are not getting the opportunity to talk with one another. They use engagement strategies like Think, Pair, Share or cooperative conversations to increase for opportunities for students to talk and share their learning.

In the end, we need to be champions for our children and have that mindset for our own growth but more importantly for the growth of their students.  As the champions I’ve spoken about demonstrate, their actions are where the rubber hits the road.  I believe that we can ALL be champions when we reflect and continuously reflect on our practices and work to continuously change our mindset and that of our children.

Thank you ALL for the work you do for Every Student, Every Day! Have a great weekend.

 

In Service,

Adam Taylor, Superintendent

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