Tech and Learning sponsored an inspiring workshop this weekend about Bridging the Equity Gap. Although there was a technology focus to the conference, to me, the learning and message went beyond the topic and technology.
Our first stop was to the Denver School of Science and Technology. It was evident from the visit that there was a strong sense of culture, high expectations, opportunity, and student voice throughout the campus. What was most impressive is that 100% of graduates have been accepted to a 4-year college. Their core values are clearly listed all over the school and from the 2 hours we spent there, I could see that they were a living and breathing part of the school. If you are going to be successful you need to know what you stand for and what you believe in and be able to clearly articulate it. DSST was able to do this.
What are your core values and beliefs and do people know them?
Adeel Khan, principal of the Conservatory Green High Schools said, “real learning happens through relationships.” We can take this a step further and say that a leader is only successful once they have built true relationships. We spend a lot of time focusing on how to raise scores, close gaps, and addressing issues, but how much time are we spending building relationships in our schools and districts?
How can you do a better job building relationships in your schools?
Wisdom Amouzou said, “Chromebooking the hell out of schools does not create digital equity.” A lot of what we do in education is “throw products” at students. But if we are going to see true systemic change, “the system must change to truly serve all.” Just because a district has the resources to purchase materials and programs, that does not mean that we will close gaps and see progress. The approach to sustainable change and progress must be from within and part of your core values and beliefs in order for it to be effective.
What can we do as leaders to make sure that change and progress becomes a part of the fabric of our schools?
Kristy Sailors is the Director of Technology for the Houston Public Schools. She serves over 200,000 students in her school community. In talking to Kristy and other leaders from across the nation it was apparent that it does not matter the size of your school district or your budget, the issues are the same everywhere. Many people use this as a crutch or an excuse as to why students are not succeeding, but that is too easy of an excuse.
What are you going to do to minimize those issues in your community?
Sean Wybrant asked us these three questions. He is the Colorado Teacher of the Year who believes in student agency and voice. Empowering students is so important to their success. What was evident about listening to Sean speak is that he has high standards and expectations of his students and they are able to meet them. Sean’s classroom can serve as an exemplar that it is possible to give students a voice while still maintaining rigor and high expectations.
How can we increase student agency in our districts and schools?
All of us know the importance and power of our PLN. This weekend served as another strong example of this. Jen O’Neill introduced me to Brad Hubbard, Tom Todd, and Johnnie Thomas. Three educators with different backgrounds from different parts of the country. We joined up with Eric Conti and Pat Larkin for an engaging conversation about education and students after one of the sessions ended. All of us walked away from that conversation with a different and new outlook on education and the challenges and obstacles we each face to better our school communities and an appreciation for what needs to be done to make that happen. More importantly, I walked away with stronger and better PLN and 6 people that I can reach out to for help and support.
How do you use your PLN to better yourself and community?
As we are looking to impact change and build a better experience for our students remember to just do it!