This weekend was about many things. At the core, however, it was about living our lives as curious learners. This enables us to invite our students to this life of being curious and discovering how to take action with our new learning.
As we experienced, it doesn't happen through sit and get. It doesn't happen through endless lecture and assigned print-based materials. It happens through conversation, questions, exploration, reading, image study, relationships, dance, tears, and joy.
Scroll through the tweets to share in the laughter, the tears, the performances, the learning, and the fire that was Santa Fe Multi-Day Institute 2018.
Because of the myriad ways writing workshop and oral language development are linked, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Put simply, during writing workshop, there is a lot of talk. It is a time in which children use language in authentic ways, seamlessly and purposefully integrating academic and social vocabulary as they work. Children rehearse for writing aloud, talking to plan what they are going to write. They brainstorm solutions to tricky parts with a partner. They discuss their writing process in metacognitive ways about during conferences with a teacher.
Few people I've spoken with about evaluations seem to find new evaluation frameworks useful in improving their teaching or in providing useful coaching feedback. The question of “what does good teaching look like?” is not clearer to them because new evaluation models have been adopted, many defying statistical logic of validity (especially those that rely on “student achievement” as part of teacher scores). Those who created these frameworks are raking in record profits while school districts struggle under the increased burden of these evaluation tools. Those making the decisions seem to know little about how these tools work and assume the data generated is valid despite overwhelming evidence that it is not necessarily objective or valid data for decisions. Instead, there are several other ways to consider what good teaching looks like.
Santa Fe wears the name The Land of Enchantment. This weekend, it also becomes our land of inquiry. Here, we not only embark on learning journeys to enrich our teaching lives and draw parallels to our work with students, but we invite ourselves into the tension and struggle of crucial skills: collaboration, vulnerability, advocacy, confronting fears, and so much more.
To create change in our schools we need to ask questions about our practices. Big questions. Specific questions. Hard questions. Questions that, if not asked, will drastically change access, inclusion, and the learning experience for our children.
As we were welcomed by our leader and host, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels, Kristin Ziemke declared that this institute is certainly a family reunion for the authors, “so consider yourselves part of the family”.
To be vulnerable in one’s learning process requires a connection with other learners, a space where we share the human condition, share space as family. Do our students have these conditions in our schools and classrooms? Do we consider our colleagues family? Can we create change and become lifelong learners in pursuit of knowledge, creativity, equity, and social justice without these conditions?
The excitement grew through the afternoon (as evidenced by chart paper, markers, and high-energy conversation) and small groups built a plan for their investigations. But inquiry, we have already learned, is more than just an engaging way to learn content and demonstrate mastery. We should ask ourselves, as nudged by Cornelius Minor during his keynote:
"How do I weaponize inquiry to keep myself safe and keep my community whole?" @MisterMinor nudging us toward what matters. #hsantafe18
Take look below through some of the tweets and links shared from our learning community on Saturday. Be sure to follow us on Twitter via @HeinemannPD and #HSantaFe18 and on Instagram @HeinemannPub to share in the thinking from this multi-day institute.
A fine line is drawn when the principal, who is the primary evaluator of classroom practice, acts as the coach. Coaches work with teachers when teachers are most vulnerable: teaching often less-than-polished lessons; working toward new competencies, but not yet mastering them. If we want teachers to take risks and grow, we must learn to notice things with a different lens—a coaching lens.
This is tricky work. You never really can separate yourself, leaving the evaluative part outside when you enter the classroom. Just the same, you never really abandon the coaching part of you when you enter a classroom, either. Part of instructional leadership is knowing when to let each part of you take the lead.
“I try to be as honest about what I see and to speak rather than be silent, especially if it means I can save lives, or serve humanity.”–Sandra Cisneros
This summer, as I was trying to regain energy and take time for much needed self-care, I heard and read reports about a state law that policed “culturally relevant” curriculum taught in schools. Former leaders of Arizona public schools moved to maintain the bill formerly known as HB 2281, which dismantled courses that offered curriculum centered on ethnic studies. Courses regarding Mexican-American history were significantly impacted. The HB 2281 bill stated: