Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Need for Recognition

Our efforts to improve public education have created a focus on results and a reliance on technology.  We now use sophisticated ways to track learning; our students’ scores on national, state, and local assessments are warehoused in systems that follow them through their educational experience.  Cutting edge technology helps us deliver a national curriculum, evaluate our effectiveness, and prepare students for the 21st century. We use a variety of data as evidence of our progress.

However well-intentioned these reform efforts, they have resulted in unintended consequences. As our attention shifted to results and technology, we lost focus on the only critical components of education: our young people and their educators. They have become invisible. If our efforts are to be successful, we must begin at a personal and individual level. We must recognize our students and teachers.

In this sense recognition does not refer to praise or reward for some behavior. Recognition is instead seeing the value of another person, acknowledging that person as "one of us."  When we are recognized, we see ourselves as a valued part of a collective action. Without this recognition, we find it difficult to see ourselves as part of a greater whole. 

In order to move forward, we must recognize those for whom these extraordinary reform efforts are designed to serve.  Moving students and their teachers to the forefront of any and all educational initiatives is the only way.

We must say to them in actions and in words, “I see you.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Social Emotional Health Creates Readiness for the Core

When a new initiative is being introduced into a system, most of the efforts focus on planning, training, implementation, and evaluation. The Common Core, an initiative on a level never before seen in educational reform efforts, shares this focus. For several years we have anticipated the implementation with curriculum development and educator training. We are making progress toward meeting the technology capacity needed in every school. Lately, the discussion is moving toward the assessments based on the Core.

What is often missing in the design of reform efforts is readiness. Despite the capacity needed on so many levels for the successful implementation of the Core, readiness is a critical first step.

Readiness goes beyond the capacity building, and instead refers to the school climate and group norms that must be in place before the implementation occurs. The climate must be a safe and positive environment conducive to learning. The development of norms among educators is just as vital as those developed within individual classrooms with students.

The Core requires deep levels of discourse and collaboration that can only occur when there is a sufficient level of trust among students, between students and teachers, and among educators in a school building.

By tending to the social and emotional health of our school buildings now, we will create and strengthen both our school climates and our relationships. In doing so, we will have achieved a readiness necessary for successful implementation of the Core.

"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." ~Henry Ford

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Social Emotional Health at the Core of the Common Core

While the push for academic content standards continues at a constant rate and with a looming launch date, the social emotional health of our children must be at the forefront of this initiative in order for the implementation of the Common Core to be successful and to make the  greatest difference.

The Common Core standards assume a level of social skill ability that cannot be ignored. Before the Core is in our classrooms, we must first be sure that our students are ready for this substantive change on an emotional and social level.

Some educators are overwhelmed at the thought of having students perform at the high level required of them by the Common Core. One way to shift perspectives to a proactive stance is to tend to social emotional needs now and make it a part of every moment in the classroom.

Teaching students to become better decision makers, increase their self-awareness, and develop strong and healthy relationships will help them in all aspects of their lives, including their initiation to and success with the Common Core.