So this week I’m going to write about the second facet of this year’s C.O.A.R. Initiative…..OPPORTUNITY. It was almost exactly one year ago today that I first wrote about this very topic, and as we begin the third full week of school in 2012-13, I feel as though we’re finally starting to seize the opportunity that is right here in our hands. Looking around at the smiles and laughter during last Friday’s fantastic faculty boat cruise, it is not hard to recognize the truly palpable positive energy that we’re carrying with us to start the year. The feeling on campus is upbeat, exciting, and wonderfully collegial, which puts us in the perfect position to consolidate what we began a couple of years ago. I’ve been calling 2012-13 “the year of consolidation”, because the initiatives that we’ve been working so hard to introduce to our students over the past two years are starting to take hold. From my perspective, it feels as though the momentum is growing rapidly with each passing day, and I have to say………. it’s keeping a perpetual smile on my face.
So this week I will begin to break down, and go deeper into the four facets of our new C.O.A.R. Initiative. Last week I introduced and outlined the overall sentiment and philosophy behind it, and over the next four weeks I will talk specifically about each aspect so we all have a collective and shared understanding of what it’s trying to accomplish……let me begin with COMMUNITY . One of the challenges facing a school like ours, (which has gone through a period of tremendous growth over the past four or five years) is the daunting task of trying to overcome the loss of, or to put it another way, trying to keep a firm grasp on that “small school” feel, where community is at the center and heart of everything that we do. As we explode into a school of over 1500 students ranging from Toddler through to 12th Grade, and into a faculty of almost 200 educators, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay connected and in tune with the needs of our shared school community. It’s even more important for us here at Shanghai Community International School because Community is in our name, and very much part of our mission. The C.O.A.R initiative has its sights set on restoring this small school feeling at SCIS, and energizing our school by putting a capital ‘C’ back into community.
At the end of last year, when the relatively small group of us began to discuss this initiative, we identified a few specific and targeted areas where we thought improvement was needed. We came up with a charter of sorts, which outlined what we wanted to focus on regarding the recommitment to our community, and some of the ideas that might bring it all to life………..this is what we thought of and put down on paper……
Community: We will………
· Celebrate each other’s contributions to our school (our personal and professional accomplishments)
· Support one another (commit to making everyone feel valued through nurturing and caring relationships)
· Communicate effectively (presuming positive intent with all we do, critical friends protocol workshops, hard conversation role play workshops, book studies)
· Learn from each other (share our collective expertise through faculty Professional Development workshops, peer classroom observations, shared videotaped lessons)
· Celebrate our “brand” (faculty shirt and fleeces, faculty shirt days, once a month spirit day stand up meetings used for faculty celebrations)
· Be transparent about who we are as a school and where we’re going (our story and fairytale)
Obviously, community is not just about us as a faculty, as there are other stakeholder groups who contribute immeasurably to the success of our institution. Groups like our wonderful and supportive parent community, our beautiful students (who I believe will be the most positively impacted by this initiative), our support and facilities staff, and the surrounding local neighborhood community who we hope to have support us at every turn. All of these groups need to be embraced, celebrated, and infused into this endeavor if our goal is to be accomplished. We need to look at ways of getting these groups on board and involved, and here are a few ideas for you to wrestle with……
- Using the expertise of our parent community (How about inviting our poets and authors into a Language Arts class? Maybe our computer programmers into a digital technology class ? What about our engineers, our mathematicians, our business owners, our musicians, our historians, our meteorologists, our professional athletes, or any other professionals that would connect the classroom to the world outside our walls? These connections will not only foster wonderful relationships within our community, it will give our students a chance to learn in a more authentic way)
- Having appreciation days for our facilities and support staff. These incredibly hard working men and women are often underappreciated and undervalued, which is crazy considering all that they do to allow us to focus on the learning of our students.
- Inviting the local neighborhood community leaders to our student performances, our graduations, and getting them involved in a much bigger way through our service learning initiatives. We are guests in their country and we should show our appreciation by building a mutually strong partnership.
- Celebrating our students and all they accomplish in every possible way…….assemblies, honor societies, award nights, social functions, and all the rest…….truly make them the focus of everything we do!
Anyway, I think you get the idea. My challenge to you all this week is to look at your specific programs, your role in after school activity and sport, and to look at what you are willing to share of yourself at an upcoming PD day……With a specific and concerted effort by everyone, we can enhance our community in a profound way……like the quote below states……we all have to be ready to take the helm. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and great for each other.
Quote of the Week……..
A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.
– Henrik Ibsen
Attached Article – Creating a School Community Creating a School Community
Coalition for Community Schools Website
Where the Hell is Matt? (Need a VPN in China….great video about our Global Community)
So I‘ve never been more excited about a school year than I am about this one…2012-13. We’ve spent the last couple of years collecting the necessary puzzle pieces to bring our vision to life, and I honestly feel as though this year, we finally have the right collection of master puzzle makers (educators) to put it all together. The initiatives that we’re rolling out are exciting to say the least, and have been over 18 months in the making. Hopefully, the effect that these will collectively have on student learning, as well as on the culture and climate of our school will be tremendous, and will help get us a lot closer to becoming the educational institution that we’re striving to become. Initiatives such as our new student academic electronic portfolios (S.N.A.P Network), our new report card which separates out academic achievement from the habits and attitudes of a learner, our new and daily sustained silent reading program in the Middle School, and our enhanced focus on service learning throughout the Upper School, are all poised to become part of the fabric of who we are. The most exciting initiative however, in my opinion, and the one that I believe will have the greatest impact on teachers and students alike is our commitment to C.O.A.R. (Community. Opportunity. Accountability. Respect.)……..let me explain.
Over the last several years, SCIS Hongqiao has experienced many wonderful changes, and a period of tremendous growth. Finally, at almost full capacity with regards to student enrolment, we can completely focus on our educational programs, and look to develop something that is lasting, sustainable, and truly focused on student learning. We have the facilities, we have the resources, we have a curricular framework and vision, and we’ve hired exceptional educators who can deliver and engage…….the opportunity is right here in our hands. All of this, as you all know, means nothing however if we cannot come together as a faculty, and rally around who we currently are through a shared vision. The C.O.A.R initiative is a deliberate attempt to celebrate and share what we do individually in our own classrooms, as well as what we accomplish in our respective departments. It’s a commitment to learning from one another, to growing professionally together as a teaching community, to supporting each other in a positive and collegial way, and to becoming part of a tribe that even Seth Godin would be proud of, which has “student learning” as its rallying cry.
The C.O.A.R initiative is, at its core, a chance to find a common purpose within our community. A chance to build relationships with each other that revolve around mutual respect and trust, and a chance to model personal and professional behavior that our students can emulate, look up to, and admire. It’s a chance to find balance in our lives so that we all feel fulfilled at work, as well as in our personal lives, and finally it’s a chance to recommit to why we all became educators in the first place……..the kids! C.O.A.R is also about celebrating our brand, and being proud of who we are and what we do. The new faculty shirts and fleeces, the monthly meeting in your C.O.A.R groups to pick each other up and keep each other on track, the commitment to having the difficult but trust building conversations with your colleagues while presuming positive intent, and the monthly celebration stand up meetings which will showcase everyone’s important contributions to what we’re accomplishing……….it’s about our attitude, our collective morale, and the frame of mind that we come to school with every morning……(think about what kind of energy you’re bringing to work everyday for our students, and for each other)
We’re in the enviable position of arriving at this point in the same year as our WASC accreditation self study, but as the quote below so clearly states, it’s not about anyone else but ourselves. This year is about coming together as a group, and getting it right for the benefit our our kids. Let me finish with a quick analogy……..it’s like we’ve spent the last two years building a beautiful house. We’ve worked hard to pour the foundation, put up the frame, complete all of the landscaping, and we’ve finally been given the keys. Now, this year is all about turning this beautiful looking house into a home…….a home that is safe, and happy, and inviting, and where student learning is the flame in the fireplace that warms our hearts and inspires the young minds of our students. Take a look through the last two years of posts at www.mondaymusings.org, and see how far we’ve come…..it certainly makes me proud to be on this journey with all of you.
Have a wonderful first full week everyone, and remember to be great for our students and GREAT for each other.
Quote of the Week……….
Ultimately, school improvement comes from within, and cannot be externally mandated – Roland Barth
Article #1 – Faculty Collegiality by Thomas R. Hoerr Faculty Collegiality
Article #2 – Promoting Collegiality in Schools by Roland Barth Roland Barth on Promoting Collegiality in Schools
Inspirational TED Talk ……….
(Replace the idea of being a great parent with that of being a great educator)