I once thought of the beginning of the school year as a fresh start, as many educators might. With new students come new expectations and possibilities that can certainly lead to new insights and practices. There is a certain vibe in the air during the weeks before September, with much planning and preparation for the first day and the first week, with thoughts about the first impression(s) to be left on students, colleagues and the community.
Yet – this year I didn’t feel the need to “start fresh”, rather, I understood it as a need to continue from where we last left off, both professionally and academically. Last school year was an interesting one – I collaborated a lot, I ventured out a lot and I brought a lot back to our school for students to engage with and for teaches to play with. For me, that work never stops and I am striving this school year to keep the momentum going, continuing on the foundations/groundwork set during the last. In a weird way, school has seemed to not end, nor has it seemed to start again – I’ve spent my summer thinking about how I would approach my new schedule (logistically), but not once did I think about how to “begin”, instead I thought of where I should continue to go.
During the second week of school, I am reflecting on what I didn’t do during the first.
To me, I am continuing to focus my vision on 3 key areas, those which I hope develop and shift as the year progresses:
- My own self-directed Professional Learning
- Facilitating current/relevant Professional Learning for others
- Developing a framework that allows said Professional Learning to impact Student engagement and achievement
I’ve talked a lot about the 4Cs and inquiry-based practices/approaches, but what I really think we are in need of, and what I am considering now, is broadening our understanding of how and when learning happens and developing organic spaces for this process to play out. Yes, focus should be paid toward attaining goals and developing next steps, but first let’s consider the environment we are asking our staff and students to engage within – is it engaging enough?
Instead of re-reading curriculum documents and developing unit plans this summer, I looked towards alternative sources of inspiration that made more sense to me in terms of the “larger scale” – towards more grandiose ways of thinking that inspire change in practice and convention. With this, I turned to texts that deal with how we A. generate good ideas and B. put these good ideas into action. Not “traditional” education-based texts (why not?), but I wanted a full scope of what is possible.
Through this, I learned a couple of things which made me consider:
It’s obvious to see these as BIG ideas, but the point is considering the potential. I used to plan for the first week of school as if developing a sense of routine and redundancy was mandatory (routine has a place, don’t get me wrong), but this year I considered the first week as a time to continue on building the ideas we as a school community established last school year (self-directed inquiry and open, collaborative learning). To me, this meant considering how we build our communities of learning to invite organic growth and redefinition that is dependent on what is important in the here and now. Allowing for a space and learning environment that is fluid, temporal and that can move/shift/change when need be became critical, and not the boarders around the bulletin board nor the posters on the wall. The first week of school was, for me, a reminder what I needed to continue into the coming weeks, a tap on the shoulder that encouraged me to not let all of our work fade away.
So, I began to consider how to develop these spaces to generate ideas and develop them in a consistent way – something that didn’t hinder the process itself, but allowed it to happen again and again. Through this, I learned something else, which made me consider:
So, how does this work within my school setting? How do these frames of thinking impact my own self-directed approach to Professional Learning? How will I enable that of others through this mode of mind? Ultimately, how is this going to impact student engagement and achievement? I’m not sure yet, I’m still thinking. But – I’m not weighed down by the conventional prospect of starting from the bottom, because we are here and its now the second week of school.