As we look at the world, customers, through the use of social media, have more of a say and input in the direction of companies. Quick and easy access through services like Twitter and Facebook have created a connectivity with large organizations and companies that have created a new sense of loyalty from customers. This is also mirrored in our change in society where increased used of technology and the Internet has shifted mediums where we are not only consumers of information, but also creators of it. People have always wanted to create and innovate, but now just have easier access to this.
This ability to create is not the only thing that we as people long for. Being part of something and having purpose in the direction of the vision and organizations that we are a part of gives us a feeling of value. Understanding these basic needs to be able to create and have purpose, we are seeing a shift in our schools. At our school, it has been imperative that students have more opportunities to not only be a part of the classroom, but to lead and have purpose in our school. This ability for educators to give up control of every thing that is happening in classes is a huge step in the right direction. If you read Shelly Wright’s blog, you will see the growth in not only her students, but in herself through this process. If we not only create an environment where our students can learn, but they also have purpose, we have the ability to do some amazing things.
I am continuously inspired by the teachers in our school and how they have given our students the opportunity to lead. I wanted to share some examples of what I have seen in the past two years that have really inspired me as a principal.
- Student Led Assemblies – The old format of teachers putting together assemblies on their own is something that I have not seen in the last two years. Although teachers tirelessly put in efforts facilitating these assemblies, it is ultimately students who are responsible for the set up and leading the way. This is a great source of pride for our students as every classroom gets to lead an assembly at some point of the year and they always seem to improve our community, whether locally or globally. Not only that, students are WAY more fun to watch.
- Hip Hop Dance Week – Last year and this coming school year, we have had an instructor come out to teach a hip-hop dance routine to all of our students that they perform for our entire school community at the end of the week. They dance to songs that they hear on the radio and it is something that is very meaningful and relevant to them. Although we have an instructor work with our students for the week, the best part for me last year was watching the teachers learning the routine with their students. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, our teachers stood side-by-side with our students and were active learners. Awesome!
- Identity Day – This has been something that we have been very proud of at Forest Green School as we have seen this take off in other schools around the world after we shared our day. Essentially, Identity Day is a chance for students to create a display about themselves and something they love or makes them unique. This is not about curriculum, this is about passions only. It is an amazing day and I am very proud of our school for doing this. (Here are links on Identity Day if you are interested in doing with your own school)
- Forest Green News – Every day for the last two years, teachers have done the announcements at our school. I love connecting with all students in this way and I think it is really important to ensure that we send a positive message first thing in the morning to get the day started off in the right direction. In the past month, we have started Forest Green News as a way for our students to share with each other what is happening in the classroom. Using Livestream, we not only connect with all classes, but with the world. This has been a very neat endeavour and I am looking forward to see where this goes with classes already creating commercials to be embedded into the “program”.
- Student Led Conferences – This year, we will be doing our first “Student Led Conferences” at Forest Green School in March. This gives our students the opportunity to not only self-assess their work, but to lead in the sharing of learning with parents. As March has traditionally had a low turnout rate for interviews, we believe that this will create a great opportunity for parents to see what their kids are doing from their kids! Here are a couple of links on Student Led Conferences from some innovative educators.
- 1-1 Laptop Program – We have only had our grade 5 and 6 computers for two weeks, but we are seeing some really cool opportunities being created by our teachers. Norm Usiskin who is one of the leaders for our school in innovative instruction, has been creating opportunities for students to explore their learning in a pace that is suitable and differentiated for each student. This not only gives individual students the opportunity to explore topics that may be of more interest, it also gives our teachers the opportunities to work with small groups to provide extra support that they may need. What I truly believe about these types of programs is that we create a system before we get the technology, not after. With our portfolio program and implementation of Google Apps for Education, I believe that we have created a program where this self-directed learning will be able to take off.
These programs have been very successful, or definitely have the potential to be amazing. As educators, we have let go of this need for perfection and allowed our students to go through the bumps of learning in this process. It is much more valuable and although it may not be a “polished product”, the students have had a huge amount of growth (isn’t that what learning is about?). Kudos to my staff for doing an excellent job for and with our kids everyday.
Please feel free to share some of your examples from your own school/classrooms so that we can learn from each other.