Welcome 2017-2018

Monday I start my 24th year in education. Each year begins with tremendous optimism for everyone: students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Kids can do and will do it; they will succeed. It is our responsibility to find a way to reach every student and help them reach their fullest potential. As we begin this wonderful 180-day journey, I wish each of you the very best and remember every day why we are here….to help kids succeed to their fullest potential, no matter how difficult, no matter how many obstacles we must overcome, no matter the reason. Our kids deserve it!

 

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Enthusiasm through Empowerment

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For all of us, whether as administrators, teachers, students, or parents, the start of the school year is filled with all sorts of emotions. There is a sense of sadness that summer is over and the relaxed feeling that accompanies summer days has come to an end. There is the knowledge that the hectic pace of the school year is about to start and not end for the next ten months. The summer gives us time to pause and reflect on the previous year and also allows us to recharge for the start of the next year. Regardless of the joys of summer, I often hear people say, “It was a great summer, but I am ready to get back to school.”

A new school year is filled with excitement, rejuvenation, and anticipation. These feelings are only natural and motivating. For those of us on Twitter, our feeds have become inundated with back to school messages that cover a myriad of topics. There is even a hashtag #1st3days to mark the start of the year. Regardless of your role or how many years you have been in school, everyone has that sense of enthusiasm to start the year. Knowing this, I ask the question…

“What are you enthusiastic about to start the school year?”

As the year begins to unfold, that sense of enthusiasm and excitement begins to dissipate week by week, month by month; it is only natural. Over the last few days, I have reflected on this very notion…

“Why do we lose that sense of enthusiasm?”

And

“How can we maintain it all year?”

Is it even possible? Who knows, but it was worth exploring. Through my journey, I discovered a book by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani entitled Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Own Learning. The title grabbed me…

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“Could we as teachers help students maintain that level of enthusiasm if we empowered them throughout the school year?”

So I bought the book for my Kindle and began reading and thinking. Two chapters in the book jumped out:

Ch3: Empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future.

Ch 5: It’s not about giving them a roadmap for learning, it’s about having them create their own maps.

After reading these chapters I asked myself…

“What if we as educators, found a way within our classrooms to empower students to follow their passions, would this help build and maintain that level of enthusiasm?”

I would imagine more could be gained if we created a structure that allowed students to follow their passions for a portion of the school week, found a way to have them relate it back to what was being taught, and allowed for an authentic assessment of learning.

20% chart

Juliani created this chart for the 20% rule as a way to empower students to guide their learning. 20% of a day or a week may be too much time. But let’s not focus on the time, but the concept of empowering students in an engaging and authentic way. There are many ways to do this, and this is just one. So I ask the question…

“How will you empower your students this year to maintain that level of enthusiasm throughout the school year?”