“I want to be in the room where it happens...” There are so many powerful scenes in the award-winning musical, Hamilton. The moment Aaron Burr laments being left out of the decision-making process is not only a turning point in the story but a great depiction of how many feel when it comes to the all-important “rooms” where decisions that affect their lives are made.
More than ever, teachers need connections and opportunities to talk about student learning, celebrate progress and discuss overcoming challenges. The welcome and standard structure of PLCs in schools is an obvious route for these professional conversations. It is easy for meetings to be eaten up with personal stories, professional questions, and school concerns. It distracts from the intention of this time, which is designed to ensure students are at the center of teaching and learning.
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At Education Elements, we define personalized learning as an instructional approach that empowers students to build ownership of their learning. And, as students transitioned back into schools in the wake of remote and hybrid learning, our district partners across the country emphasize that this student-centered approach to teaching has never been more needed. With buzzwords floating around like “learning loss,” we are at risk of losing the full story of how educators have always endeavored to meet students where they are. At this moment, personalized learning is emerging as a critical process that equips educators with the practices to support students in getting the instruction they need, when they need it.
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.
The stories, run in newspapers across the country each week, paint a desperate picture: a Pre-K teacher in Texas juggling two classrooms alone; classes across the country led by a recurring series of long-term substitutes with no formal training; a school district in Pennsylvania forced to shorten school days due to lack of staff; districts in North Carolina reporting hundreds of vacant teaching positions even as the school year begins. In the words of National Education Association (NEA) union leader Becky Pringle: “The educator shortage is a five alarm crisis.”
The creation of a shared instructional vision brings many benefits to a school or district. An instructional vision can provide a shared understanding of what instructional excellence looks, feels, and sounds like. It aligns classroom practices to a clear set of principles and expectations. It can also bring instructional unity to any district plagued with uncertainty about instructional practices. There is a common misconception that a superintendent should create an instructional vision in isolation and only rely on the most current research and best practices. And that once an instructional vision is in place and shared, then it will be easily understood, accepted, and adopted by district leaders, school leaders, teachers, staff, and students.