At the beginning of the year, every educator builds relationships with their students over the first few days of school. There is talk about “reaching them to teach them”. This excitement however quickly fades in order to dive into teaching content standards as many teachers feel the time crunch of the total number of allotted instructional. If we fast-forward to the middle of the school year, we often see that our relationships are beginning to suffer due to neglect and our relationships become strained. We have trained ourselves as educators to think that it is just what happens toward the end of every school year. It is NOT.
I have one focus and I ask myself one question. The focus is to design engaging learning experiences for students. The one question is: How do we design an environment that makes kids want to come to school every day?
I believe there are three main components involved in meeting the focus and answering the question. The learning, the environment, and the overall learner experience. These three components allow schools to engage students in meaningful ways and potentially hook them into becoming lifelong learners.
Whenever educators visit our school to tour, we end the tour with a learner experience conversation detailing what we want students to experience. The conversation almost always leads to risk-taking and growth mindset. We discuss the way in which we model risk-taking for students as teachers and campus leaders. This is not the fun and safe activity that you did earlier in the year. I challenge educators to take risks that make them feel like they just might fail and quite possibly feel embarrassed in the end. This is the feeling of real risk-taking. We must be the first ones to get on the ride and risk failure in order to show our students that it is ok to fail and learn from those failures.
As we begin a new year, everyone is talking about resolutions. For educators, we are actually in the middle of the year. This is the time that we begin to refocus and shift our mindsets as we enter “accountability season”. When I think of resolutions I’m reminded of Jon Gordon and The Power of One Word. My one word for this year is ENGAGE. Engage. If you don’t, you just may be missing greatness around you.
We have taken a different approach to engaging students on the campus that I lead. Our original idea was to bring a college feel to a middle school campus and show our students what the future of their educational experience would like. Flexible seating, collaboration areas, and student choice over the location and pace that learning will take place are our areas of focus.