This is job one! We've been emphasizing how the brain learns by growing dendrites and strengthening neural connections. It is not teaching that is so important, but instead how every individual interacts with content to grow and strengthen their brain power. We have done work in our PD days to look at how we grade and give feedback. A fixed mindset is that kids have “it” or not and that intelligence is relatively fixed by the time kids are in school. The role of grading is thus to sort and rank students. However, we have been challenged to move more to a growth mindset.
In the growth mindset, brains are plastic and can always grow and improve. The role of grades is to give actionable feedback to students, to give them information on how they learn as compared to a standard and what they have to do to improve their individual performance and learning. We have been challenged to increase our formative assessment (ongoing feedback for learning) and to make sure our summative assessments actually measure what kids know and can do instead of other behaviors. Practically this means we have been asking teachers to look at developing rubrics, to examine the types and grading of homework and other practice work, to look at policies around late work and “re-dos” and to look at how we can make a grade an accurate measure and communication of learning. Our teachers have been having great discussions on how a focus on learning is changing their teaching.
Care for Each Person Every Day
Schools are not just about becoming smart, but also about becoming good. People cannot learn if they are hungry, anxious, or worried about other things. We need to make school a safe haven both physically and emotionally for our staff and students so that they can focus on teaching and learning. Practically, this means we continue our focus on school safety and on preventing bullying and harassment by having students become invested in their communities as a place they want to be and a place they want to make better. We invest a lot in co-curricular activities and in student groups to try to make sure every student feels a sense of belonging. We look for students who may need extra help and encouragement to succeed. Learning is ultimately about human relationships and an old saying from my teaching days still rings true: Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Caring is an essential ingredient to our practice.
Teach to Touch the Future
This is borrowed from Christa McAuliffe, who does have some Bow roots. We need to educate students for their future, not our past. We need to give them tools that will evolve for jobs and careers that do not even exist yet. We need to be future minded and not rely on what worked for us or TTWWADI (that’s the way we’ve always done it). Practically, we are looking at how going to Chromebooks in more of a 1:1 environment may lead us to a flipped classroom. The traditional classroom has content delivered from experts in class and students at home doing practice, but the flipped classroom has students getting content from technology rich sources at home and coming in to do practice and processing under the teacher’s supervision. We are looking at the role of individual work and effort and how perhaps we need to help students work in teams to create original products. The work place of the future might involve more collaboration on Google Documents and less of an individual producing paper. How can we help our students prepare for that future? How do our libraries move toward becoming learning commons and how do we restructure study halls to make them more supportive if differentiated learning?