As a kid, I loved designing and building things! All my dolls had their own custom- made furniture and Lego cars. I recently had the opportunity to design and build a maker space for educators to implement making and tinkering in their libraries and classrooms. Talk about a dream project-it was easy to get caught up in the fun of purchasing new equipment, gathering supplies, and designing experiences. The most important thing I learned is the vital role a maker mindset can have on students in stretching their critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration skills. Maker spaces provide students with a platform to learn academic content while honing important life skills.
Getting Off The Bench If you are anything like me, you know that the “Science of Reading” is a lightning rod in the world of education right now, but feel more comfortable sitting on the sidelines and letting the experts engage. I decided it was time to jump into the conversation and wanted to share a few things that I learned along the way. As it turns out, I have a strong opinion on the matter, given my experience as an elementary and middle school educator and my dedication to building more equitable learning environments for all students. I now understand from my research and exploratory conversations that the Science of Reading promotes stronger reading and literacy skills. It also plays a central role in developing positive student identities when school districts support the implementation of DEI and SEL curricular tools. The magic potion for cultivating the most positive impacts for students includes the implementation of explicit phonetic instruction together with a culturally responsive curriculum. This language-rich and holistic learning environment sets students up to fully engage with academic material and grow to reach their full potential.
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In a previous blog, “Implementing the Best in Imperfect Conditions” Chelle Minnihan and I skimmed the surface of three essential conditions for effective implementation. Now, we venture deeper into these crucial aspects and how they can help you achieve your district’s goals.
I recently returned to work from parental leave after adding a healthy and happy baby to our now family of four. My parental leave included a multitude of experiences, ranging from the tranquility of morning stroller walks to the inevitable sleepless nights, and from supporting our toddler in adapting to the arrival of the new baby to the constant rhythm of diaper changes. This period also included the adventure of a 6-state road trip, bringing forth a spectrum of emotions including joy, love, frustration, overwhelm, and sheer exhaustion. As my family and I enter this new phase of our lives, we are navigating unfamiliar, and at times, choppy waters. Amidst the shifts, trials, and uncertainties that accompany change, I have consistently sought solace and steadiness in a mindset grounded in gratitude. In order to ensure that thankfulness has staying power, regardless of what life has in store, consider applying one of these three strategies to lead and live with a gratitude mindset.
Too often, schools are trapped inside cycles of belief that they are working on school improvement when in reality very little changes year-over-year. Does this sound familiar? It is time to shift this paradigm. School transformation efforts often fail because the typical school improvement playbook does not fully consider and appreciate what levers can actually drive transformational change. The approach to school improvement is often overly-complicated, compliance-driven, and based on outdated or inaccurate data. Instead, schools can rely on evidence based research demonstrating what does work to improve schools. At PLC Associates, we offer a robust research base on “what works in schools” and practitioners with pragmatic experience who deeply know the work. This is exactly why our models and strategies have such solid results.
Your organization has just been officially placed on the school improvement or district accountability list. As a leader, this likely comes as no surprise to you. In fact, you may have already taken steps over the last several months to make significant improvements around climate, instruction, curriculum, and leadership. However, for your staff, and likely the rest of the community, this announcement can be jarring and bring a range of emotions - embarrassment, discouragement, and even anger. That said, it is critically important that you actively take steps now to set the foundation for future success – for your students, staff, and community. Moreover, you should be mindful about how you engage with your community, how they perceive your ability to manage your organization through the improvement process, and how they might take ownership of an improvement process that will build critical momentum. To that end, here are five concrete actions you should take within the first 45 days.