Reflections on Learning

MCAS May Testing Schedule

  • Gr. 3 & 5 Math – May 9 & 10
  • Gr. 6 & 8 Math – May 11 & 12
  • Gr. 4 & 7 Math – May 16 & 17
  • Gr. 5 & 8 Science – May 18 & 19

Reflections on Learning

Roland Barth has had a profound impact on my work as a principal over the years.  The founder of the Harvard Principals’ Center, Roland’s ideas on the importance of school culture and of nurturing the craft of teaching have stood the test of time even as education has shifted over the past 20 years to an increased focus on standards and testing.

Roland was fond of repeating the oft-used metaphor of airplane passengers being instructed to put an oxygen mask on themselves  before putting a mask on their child.   The idea being, of course, that we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of the children.   In schools, this example translates to professional learning – the adults in the school need to be learning and growing in order for the students to be doing the same.

This past week I was reminded on two occasions how much I have relished the work of nurturing a reflective culture and providing opportunities for professional learning.

On Wednesday morning, teachers working with grades 3-5 gathered in the media room for the last literacy professional learning  session of the year led by Literacy Coach Dianne Muendel.

Teachers reviewed and revised the writing curriculum map we have developed together over the past three years.  We also looked at literacy data together, using the results of the BAS reading assessment that we administer twice a year. We celebrated the progress that many of our students receiving intensive intervention have made.  We also puzzled over the handful of students who did not show sufficient growth. And we examined the large number of students reading above grade level and how to ensure they continue to make at least a year’s worth of growth.  Finally, teachers worked together to plan and craft mini-lesson statements (big ideas) for the lessons used to open each Reading Workshop.

Teachers have participated in a series of half-day sessions devoted to teaching literacy over the past three years. We have learned new content, developed a more cohesive program in reading and writing, and further developed our repertoire as teachers of reading and writing.   Our students have been the beneficiaries.

I then left school to attend the annual spring conference of the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA).  Attended by 150 principals from across the state, the conference theme was “Renewing and Recharging School Leadership.”  In addition to two keynote presentations, the conference offered a choice of sessions led by principals sharing their best practices.

One of the keynote presentations particularly resonated with me.  Chip Wood and Pamela Seigle are well known as the respective developers of the Responsive Classroom and Open Circle social-emotional learning programs for students  (Brookline has used Responsive Classroom for many years). Interestingly, both have left their organizations focused on students and joined forces to focus on teacher and school leader renewal.  They reminded principals of the importance of relational trust in schools:  “Collaborative, supportive school communities are critical to helping students succeed in learning…the quality of adult relationships within a school community has the biggest impact on a school’s ability to improve.”

If the adults in a school continue to learn and grow (and be renewed), students will do the same.

For this reason, an essential aspect of school leadership is nurturing a reflective school culture and providing opportunities for teachers to develop their craft.

Rick Rogers


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