One of my favorite summer activities was playing fetch in the park with my dog. After the pooch was worn out we’d sit in the grass and I’d marvel at the swallows that arrive by late morning. These birds would swoop, dive, bank and turn. It was dizzying to see how quickly they’d change directions and commit to a new path.
Another summer activity I enjoy is attending conferences on education. At each conference I’m inspired to improve some aspect of my teaching. I’d dive into these new topics like the sparrows in the park. I’d tell myself, “This is the year I implement small group instruction tied to differentiated learning goals.” Year after year my planning time, professional reading, and mental energy would be devoted to improving this, or some other, aspect of my teaching.
This July I attended the Lessons from TurnAround Schools- 2012 Institute with some teachers and the principals of our district’s Title I schools. TurnAround Schools is a program our district is using to help schools navigate (or avoid) the Corrective Action sanction for failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress.
Earlier this year Washington State was granted a waiver from AYP sanctions. Nevertheless the goal of TurnAround Schools- creating a culture of universal achievement is worth pursuing. This conference’s breakout sessions explained in detail “how to take the steps necessary to increase the academic achievement of all groups of children.” I was confident I’d find a new aspect of teaching to dive into. I attended sessions on using data, differentiation, parent support, and classroom management techniques for improving classroom culture and student achievement.
My experience was not what I had expected. The breakout sessions left me uninspired. The strategies that were shared were ones I had already known and or implemented. I didn’t find anything new.
When I shared this with my principal she replied- “Maybe that validates what’s already happening.”
Perhaps “the new” is not needed. Maybe we need to get the most out of what we already know.
This year I’ll avoid diving towards “the new.” I’ll follow the path I know and maximize my effort. I’m going to align myself with others and pull in the same direction. I’ll take my turn leading but I’m also happy to follow…
I’ll work more like a goose and less like a sparrow.