I hope everyone had an engaging professional development experience today. A few highlights from the past week:
- Our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams competed hard in their respective City Playoffs;
- Spring sports are beginning: soccer, softball, volleyball, track and field and golf;
- Grade 7 Parent Evening was well attended on Thursday evening;
- Ujjal Dosanjh, Vancouver South M.P., paid a visit to our school.
As we move forward with our school directions and continue to “self evaluate our own practices” we are, in essence, collaboratively defining the “big ideas” that represent the core principles of our community. Within this process is a significant opportunity veiled as a question: in defining these core principles, how do we develop and sustain excellence around our own professional learning?
There is a pronounced relationship between specific teaching practices and student achievement, and these practices are related to teacher learning opportunities. With this in mind, I am forwarding you an article that seems relevant following our Thursday staff meeting. In “What is a Learning Community?” Rick Dufour writes of the “three big ideas” (learning opportunities) behind a professional learning community:
- Big Idea #1: Ensuring that Students Learn
- Big Idea #2: A Culture of Collaboration
- Big Idea #3: A Focus on Results
He stresses the importance of nurturing a supportive and systematic process in which teachers work together to analyze and improve classroom practice: collaborative conversations (“the significant opportunity veiled as a question”) that call on team members to make public what has traditionally been private – goals, strategies, materials, pacing, questions, concerns and results. In doing this, staff engage in an ongoing cycle of questions that do not rest on the “why” behind student achievement but move towards the “what are we going to do about it”; questions that, in the end, promote deep professional learning for all involved.
Educational researcher, Nella Cambron-McCabe, has argued that a school should not simply build a learning community that “has as many definitions as there are people defining it. The emphasis should be on restructuring how people work together. That’s what ultimately has an effect on the classroom.” As a staff, you are already engaged in textbook defined “best practice” in that conversations around student achievement are already embedded within your daily routines. I look forward to participating in these conversations over the next month and I am excited about the ultimate effect that they will have both on student achievement and our professional development.
If the administrative team can help in any way with your March department conversations, please let us know. Enjoy the good weather and I’ll see you all on Monday.