Back to School 2017

By Linda Marrs-Morford, IPLI Director

It’s one of my favorite times of the year – the beginning of a new school year.  Everyone starts with a clean slate – students, parents, teachers, staff, and yes, even administrators.  Across the country, schools are hosting teacher in-service days to prepare for the upcoming year, and I’d like to challenge our school principals to also start with a clean slate for these professional development days.  Let’s change the conversation at these meetings from a list of “to do” and “compliance” items (easily covered in a memo or online training) to deeper conversations about learning, not only about our students, but also about how the adults in the building learn.

How do you begin?  Let’s start with questions suggested by one of IPLI’s Summer Seminar keynote speakers – Dr. Pedro Noguera.  Dr. Noguera is the Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.  His research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional, and global contexts. His keynote address was titled Excellence through Equity:  Creating Conditions for Great Teaching and Learning.  Dr. Noguera challenged over 280 educators in the audience to focus on the right questions:

  • Instead of focusing on how to raise achievement, we should ask: How can we get our students excited about learning?
  • Instead of focusing on how to prepare our students for state exams, we should ask: How do we prepare our students to be independent learners?  What will they need to know to be successful in life?
  • Instead of asking how to cover the curriculum, we should ask: How will I make what I teach relevant and meaningful to students?

These are all great questions for our faculty and staff to explore.  Pick one and using a discussion protocol (find examples at http://bit.ly/2v7S0oO), engage your faculty/staff in conversations that have the potential to significantly improve your school.

Happy New School Year!