The school year has started and educators are working harder than ever to be their best for kids. We all have hopes and dreams for our students so that they can find success and happiness. To allow this to occur, it can be helpful for educators to take a step back and think about our roles in a larger context. Our schools overall have the fundamental purpose to help students learn. The question we each need to answer: “are you ready for student learning”?
Student learning is the foundation of the work we all do for students despite many of us having different roles within schools. To help each student learn at high levels, there are some key attributes educators can incorporate or be mindful of that will help each of us be our best for kids so we are ready to support student learning.
- It starts with us
Each educator is a leader as the impact we have upon young people is significant. We have a great opportunity daily to create positive change for students that helps each student learn. To achieve that end goal, we need to recognize that being a leader means we must continually learn. The new learnings may be about instructional strategies, content specific, PLC concepts or how to incorporate SEL components within our work. The bottom line is that if we are learning then we are growing and that allows each of us to be our best for kids. The continuous learning mindset allows our students to see and value learning. Our young people will do what they see us do – what we model to students as far as trying new strategies to improve our classrooms or improve our school matters.
- Focus on purpose and lead with passion
Each educator went into this profession for a specific reason. In most cases it is because along our journey someone took an interest in us to help us be successful or motivated us to reach our potential. It is important we remember our purpose: to help connect with kids and create classrooms and schools where kids feel connected and valued. If this occurs then learning at the highest levels can occur. It takes intentional work to create these classrooms and schools and must happen daily. If we each lead with our passion to make a difference then students will feel and see that impact which will help them feel connected and ready to learn.
- Add value to other leaders, multiply value to others
Professional learning is a significant part of the growth of an educator. How can we include other educators in that professional learning is important so we are learning from each other and sharing best practices. This allows you to find like minded educators who also want to grow and improve. We must be willing to take an intentional approach to supporting other educators so they improve and grow as an educator. This will not only help them but also develop your influence and increase the effectiveness of your school.
- Names matter as does someone’s voice
Students need to feel included and a part of something bigger than just a classroom. Classroom teachers and building leaders need to get to know the names of each student. We tend to overlook the significance of saying someone’s name in the course of a busy day but that is how you can make them feel included and a part of something bigger. Just as important is finding time and ways to listen to students – they have positive ideas and creative ways that can make a classroom or school better.
- Begin with the end in mind
For classroom teachers, Focus your instructional work on what we want students to be able to demonstrate, know and be able to transfer over time to different settings. The curriculum standards are very important and educators must begin their unit planning by asking themselves what would the end of unit assessment or products look like based on key essential standards. This allows the right instructional work to be the purpose of an educator’s classroom lesson plans which then leads to focusing on developing quality lessons. The individual lessons need to have students at the heart of the work where the kids will be doing relevant work through rigorous activities. Teachers should also measure student learning with formative assessments and use data to adjust instructional practices to determine which students need differentiated learning opportunities.
For building and district leaders, we must ask ourselves, do our teachers know what we want our classroom learning to look like that allows for high levels of student learning? It is always important to be clear about our focus and then design quality Professional Development that models the type of classroom learning experiences we desire in each classroom. This should involve following your district’s strategic plan so PD is aligned and has systematic ways to be incorporated over time that keeps the focus on what matters most – school culture and student learning. Also include teacher voice in the planning of the PD and have teachers help lead some of the work as their voice matters and their expertise is some of the best PD.
Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leader must develop people to their fullest potential as “you grow as a school community by growing your people”. This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others and the focus should be on student learning. The greatest thing a leader can do for someone else is give them confidence; the confidence to step outside of their comfort zone to grow in their skill set. Leaders do this by seeing what people can become and working/motivating them to learn and develop over time. Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others. This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization – impact others. Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support and develop others as leaders. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “Are you ready for student learning” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org