John just began in his first administrative position this fall as an Assistant Principal at a Middle School in New Jersey and was interested in checking out the instructional practices in our school. Although I guess John was hoping to learn something at Cantiague, in the end, the experience ending up teaching me a lot. We spent the entire day walking around our school, visiting classrooms, talking to teachers and engaging our kids in different conversations and discussions. How was this different than any other day? Well, today I took the day and visited my school and it was a game changer.
I usually spend a lot of time in our classrooms on most days but today was different. Today I was trying to share information with John, answer his questions, spotlight various content areas and check out what our kids were doing. As we visited the classrooms and walked around the building the visit took on a whole other meaning for me. I wasn't really thinking about whether or not John was seeing anything "good" but instead I found myself smiling more and more and shaking my head in agreement with all the things happening in our school. I took the day, stayed out of my office and visited my school and this is what I learned...
- The people in our building are happy. There were staff members, students and parents in the building throughout the day and their sense of pride and joy was clear!
- There is incredible vertical alignment in the instruction in our building from Kindergarten through 5th Grade! The alignment was visible in writing workshop where all our children experienced publishing their first piece in the last week or two. The alignment was visible in reading workshop where all our children are learning various reading strategies and skills that are helping them grow with their independent reading. The alignment was visible in mathematics where our children are exploring all four operations within problem solving situations!
- We value 1:1 instruction at all levels and in all subject areas. Many of our teachers were engaged in 1:1 conferences in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics. Our 1:1 experiences allow us to differentiate instruction, guide future instruction and best meet the needs of our kids!
- We have come a long way in our six years together as a team! We have dedicated a lot of time, passion and effort to enhancing our craft and the results are evident.
- We spend time planning for small groups as a way to further differentiate instruction! Our children experience guided reading groups, strategy groups, book clubs, group writing conferences and small group math stations just to name a few. There is a lot of research that speaks to the importance of proximity as it relates to learning and through the small group experience our teachers are able to keep a close eye on our kids and support their growth!
- We love our kids and devote a lot of time to the development of their self-confidence and happiness. Although we have implemented the Common Core State Standards we are not defined by standards - we are more than a number! We devote time to the development of the whole child and the data comes in the form of smiles, laughter and genuine enthusiasm about being in school!
- Technology has permeated our building as a way to facilitate and enhance learning! iPads are being used by staff and kids. One classroom was having a BYOD experience. One of our first graders created a story using a web based augmented reality site. One of our fifth graders is using Evernote to develop his own digital portfolio. Many of our teachers and kids are blogging. Our SMARTBoards are truly interactive just to spotlight a few examples!
- We value community and collaboration! Our children are consistently offered opportunities to work together, "turn and talk", discuss their ideas and share strategies. We see the value in facilitating learning experiences between children - the theory of social learning has found a place in our school.
- Our kids tell our story. Whether through our Weekly Video Updates or just conversations in the hallway, the children of Cantiague can tell you what Cantiague is all about - what we stand for - what we believe! Check out a sample of our Weekly Video Update...
- We still have a lot to explore, try and experience as we look for opportunities to innovate and push ourselves out of our collective comfort zone!
So, although I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to spend the day with John and "show off" our school, in the end, I am grateful for all that I learned today and all that I was reminded about in regards to the awesomeness of our community. With that in mind, I challenge all my fellow educators and Lead Learners to Take a Day and Visit Your School... it will be an experience that will change you and your community!