Welcome back to school! Almost 3 weeks! We are up and running, and, boy, doesn’t it feel good? We’ve got great stuff to share with you today…
This year at SAMS we, the staff, are recentering our work to make our vision a reality. We know we want our school to be a place committed to authentic learning in a caring environment. But as we’ve worked towards this the past five years, we have noticed we need to do better, we need to reconnect with our vision and recommit.*
Here are a few questions we have been asking ourselves to recommit to our vision of being a school committed to authentic learning in a caring environment:
- Who we are as a school has been positively influenced by who we were. Staying connected to those pieces of our identity will help us become who our students need us to be. In what ways are we able to stay connected to our long-lasting values to help us commit to our vision at a deeper level?
- In what ways might we focus our work around and communicate our “why” to our students, families, and each other? We know that when we ground our work in our underlying belief- all will learn and contribute- we will never fail to lose track of the most essential work. We watched this video to really make clear how significant the benefit of knowing your why (or underlying belief) can be.
- How do we reach our goals of being a racially-equitable school through high-quality instruction? What learning does high-levels look like? As a staff, we spent time reflecting on the some of our most powerful learning. We noticed trends in our experiences. We reported learning from people, teachers, or mentors who knew us well as learners. They demanded from us extra effort and tolerance for failure. Our real learning required us to stretch ourselves in work that was just beyond our comfort zones. Reflecting on these deeper learning helped us identify the types of learning experiences we seek to provide for our students.
- What might we need to unlearn and relearn about high-quality teaching and learning? Decades of research tells us that learning discreet pieces of information in isolation does not lead to transformational learning. Real, rigorous learning only happens when our students are able to form frameworks in our minds about how new information connects to learning we’ve already mastered. Transformational learning only happens when we are able to reflect on what misperceptions and preconceptions we have. It only happens when we are allowed to think about our learning (metacognition). Our classrooms might need to be reorganized and redesigned to allow this kind of learning to happen more frequently. There might be costs- fewer grades yet more qualitative feedback and less teacher-input and more student self-directed learning- just to name a few.
- How do we model the importance of relationships to learning? Many of you know the fractions quote by heart now. We joke a lot about how often we say it, throw it around, put it on tshirts, write it in blogs. However, at SAMS we are proud to proclaim our commitment to deeper relationship. We believe it is what makes us extra special as a school. We are not embarrassed to express our love for our students, all of them, even when their behavior makes them unlikeable. The kids are all ours, and if we believe that as wholeheartedly as we do, the foundation upon which learning is built must be about strong and sound relationships. We love your kids, we love helping them learn, and we can’t wait to watch them have a successful, if not transformative, year.
We are going to ask you to help us with our re-commitment to our vision to a be a school committed to authentic learning in a caring environment. You will see some new dynamics in play when it comes to the work we have always done. For example:
- SAMSA (also called SAMS Parent Council) will be focused on this recommitment. We will move away from our sole-focus on racial equity this year, though you will see the direct connections to our racial equity work imbedded in all conversations about learning. We can’t wait to meet you, see you, learn with and from you starting next Monday! Sept. 25, 7-8 pm, Room 217. Bring a friend! See you there.
- You will see a different approach to conferences this year. Get ready to help us make conferences better than ever by telling us more in-depth information about your middle-schooler. We know you know who they are better than anyone and that matters. Stay tuned.
- Each quarter this year, there will be a student assembly focusing on one or more of our shared values of hard work, all belong, and respect. While students are participating in these four different assemblies, their teachers will be doing their own learning and professional development. Our first one is scheduled for Oct. 11. The students will experience a well-recommended multi-media presentation centered on perspective and identity. While they participate in the assembly, teachers will be doing their own learning as a staff. “Learning is the work” at SAMS, and we believe these once-a-quarter opportunities will benefit students and teachers.
The year has gotten off to a great start. It’s exciting to be in the company of each other, your kids, and our greater SAMS community. We invite you not just to the parent meeting next Monday, but to stop in and/or stay in touch in any way that feels safe and accessible for you. You’ll find us on Twitter (@SAMS282 or @abskujawski), Instagram (@SAMSHuskies282), and there’s always those daily announcements Traci, queen of SAMS, sends.
Thanks for trusting us with your kids. It’s such a joy to do this work with you. Take good care!
-amy (on behalf of Renee and the rest of our staff too!)
*If you are interested in the evidence we’ve gathered to help us determine the direction of the work this year and important ways to recommit to our vision, know that we are all about sharing. It’s just we’ve got a feeling the blog is going to be long already, so let us know if you’d like to have a longer conversation about this.