Its time to state our beliefs

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It is time for ALL in education to state their beliefs. Education is saturated with interest groups; ranging from teacher unions, administrative associations, to non-profit think tanks, parent groups and for profit companies. ALL of us know we can do better. Most of these organizations have similar belief systems, but we are running parallel paths attempting to arrive at the same location. Our message often gets blurred in the public eyes. When we disagree, rhetoric takes over our focus and progress is stifled. Stakeholders need to start to work together for our students or our PUBLIC education system we know, value and cherish in American will crumble.

A few recent events have greatly impacted my thinking. First I saw the documentary Most Likely To Succeed, A must for ALL who care about education. It tells the story of what education SHOULD be instead of what it has turned into due to the unintended consequences of poor legislative policies.

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

If the trailer peaks your interest find a viewing near you. Next viewing in Michigan is at Fraser HS Oct. 29 6:30 PM where I will be to discuss a plan for the next steps in education. Second I attended the Association Of Middle Level Education Conference in Columbus Ohio. AMLE base all of their work on their core beliefs which are clearly written down in their position paper: This We Believe. The belief statement guide every session at the conference and all that their organization focuses their work. In a conversation with a friend while reflecting that Michigan and the USA lack a clear belief statement, a friend pointed me toward Alfie Kohn’s recent post: To Change What We Do, Consider What We Believe.

What do we collectively believe in education? 

What if all the stakeholder groups could come together and clearly state OUR collective beliefs in education. Our beliefs for students, educations, and community and their roles in education. We might not all agree int he same path to the belief, but I am sure we COULD create a common, collaborative, extensive belief statement. Sure some of my readers are saying this is a mission statement that districts have. Our beliefs have more depth. This collective belief statement would guide our policies. ANY educational policy introduced would have to address a CORE COLLECTIVE belief, not just be on someones agenda.

HOW TO START: Write down our beliefs 

We believe all students can learn. We believe they learn in different ways and at different rates. How do our policies reflect theses beliefs?

We believe that teachers should be highly skilled practitioners, the top of their class. Skilled and passionate about their profession. How do our funding policies make this happen?

We believe that community involvement in our schools will make them successful. In what ways is this encouraged by policy?

What are your beliefs? Please use form to add them so we can make a belief statement for education!

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Dancing out our Fridays

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Photo by W. Janda

How does your school celebrate a successful completion of the week? At ours we have started a dancing tradition! Students work hard in classes to reach learning targets, their hard work needs to be celebrated as a community. Grades are individual accomplishments that show learning. Some families celebrate these grades by going out to dinner or reward grades by giving money for the number of A’s on a report card. These celebrations don’t happen at a high frequency, 4 time per year at most.

Our new principal decided we needed more visible celebrations IN SCHOOL. After a hard weeks work we dance out the last 10 minutes of our Fridays.  On Wednesday a survey is posted and shared with students and staff to ask for a song to inspire our dance moves. At 3:00 PM announcements are made to remind students of coming events. Then the music comes on the PA, students and staff get up out of their seats and GROVE to the music. The hallways fill up with smiles and movement. Their is no better way for a student to end the day than dancing with a smile out the door.

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This small celebration has breathed new life and spirit into our building. Office referrals are down and smiles are up! Maybe one of these days we will have live music or be on the Ellen Show, but for now we love moving to the tunes and having fun as a community!

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Photo by D. Sikora

To Compete or Collaborate

Schools seem caught up in competition these days. When I was a student the competition was left for the sports fields and academic clubs like Chess Club, Quiz Bowl and Science Olympiad. These competitions promoted school spirit, pride and showed off student talents to the community. Competition is natural in between individuals, helping one strive to grow. This allows us to see if we are measuring up with others. Students feel pride with victory and return to practice hard in the face of defeat.

Now days schools are competing in more places. Since school of choice laws and for profit charters have popped up on every corner schools are competing for students, funding, rankings and staff. This competition is different than before, not friendly or for local pride but for survival. Similar to two rival businesses competing for consumers dollars. Is this new type of competition good for education?

District rush to be the first with a technology tool to market to students, many have forgotten to train staff and research best proposals. Money is spent on radio, billboard and television adds to lure students into choosing their school. Crafty vision statements and names have been used to make one school seem better than another. Wealthy district lure poorer districts top staff away by marginal increases in pay but hope for a future. It seems like we are running education like a highly competitive business.

Shouldn’t districts be collaborating? The majority of school funding comes from state school aid. All schools have the same goal to educate all students that walk through the doors. Should districts valuable financial resources be spent in competition as teachers re-create lessons that are being taught through-out the state? Wouldn’t we all be better served if lesson plans were shared. Instead of districts spend time creating their own PD each district could share their expertise with each other. Students would stay put, building strong schools in every community instead of leaving some districts abandoned.

Let’s make all schools succeed through district collaboration, leaving the competitions to the sports fields.