Having attended National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) annual conferences nearly every year since 1979, I can easily attest to the adaptive nature of our national organization to provide quality sessions that present innovative approaches, inspiring speakers, and valuable opportunities to network with diverse colleagues facing similar and different challenges. (more…)
Guest post by Melissa D. Hensley
Throughout my tenure as a middle and high school principal, the consistent request from teachers has been for ongoing, non-evaluative feedback about their pedagogical practices. Early in my career, this meant completing classroom walkthroughs, collecting data about instructional strategies, and offering recommendations. Providing this general feedback took a lot of time and often failed to improve instruction. I wondered, how could I help teachers get the ongoing feedback they wanted in a more efficient and effective way? (more…)
Remember when student learning took place in a one-room school (think “Little House on the Prairie”)? There was a time when all students were together—learning in one culture and one environment.
But as communities got bigger, we started separating students by developmental stages. As a result, students now have to transition from school to school—experiencing different cultures and curriculums each time. And there is no doubt that those transitions can be difficult. (more…)
In education, we rarely achieve success on our own. In fact, as school leaders, we do our best work when we share our goals and empower those around us to get there. (more…)
Guest post by Bill Coon, Ed.D.
You enter a social studies classroom and are immediately greeted by a student who welcomes you and introduces himself. The student explains the learning target, or the tangible learning goal he or she can understand and work towards, and then he explains the Habits of Scholarship, or character, target. He shares that today’s Habit of Scholarship is, “I can work collaboratively with my peers to draft a thesis statement for an essay about Peter the Great.” The student invites you to sit down and enjoy the class. After you sit down at a table with three other students, the students unpack the learning targets together and then break into small groups to begin their work for the day. As an observer, you begin to see multiple examples of collaboration in each group.
Guest post by Larry Rother
If you haven’t attended an Edcamp or even heard of an Edcamp, you’re not alone. These “unconferences” bring together K–12 educators for a day of collaboration and learning with no preset agenda. NASSP was the first organization to include an EdCamp in their national conference at Ignite ’15, and supported the Edcamp Leadership event this past summer.
On July 13, 2015, this Edcamp Leadership event was hosted in 17 cities across the nation and was attended by 1,500+ school leaders comprised of principals, assistant principals, lead teachers, department chairs, and more. And for most of us, it was our first time attending an Edcamp.
Yes, if you caught that last part, I said “our first time” because prior to Edcamp Leadership Phoenix, I hadn’t attended a full Edcamp. Despite my inexperience, I actually hosted the Edcamp Leadership event in Phoenix with my good friend and colleague Dan Kelley, Principal of Smithfield High School in Rhode Island. (more…)
Billed as an event that would involve “talking, sharing, and innovating about changing the way the world learns,” NASSP’s first-ever Edcamp preceded its annual national conference, Ignite ’15, in San Diego.
Free and open to anyone, this “unconference” on February 19 brought together more than 100 educators to create their own agenda on the spot, and then meet. Attendees did not need to be registered for the NASSP conference in order to attend Edcamp, according to one of its organizers, Jimmy Casas, principal of Betterndorf High School in Bettendorf, IA.
The Edcamp concept is a phenomenon that is gaining traction nationwide. As described on the Edcamp Foundation’s website: “Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp (more…)
Guest post by Jimmy Casas, principal, Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, IA, and Jeff Zoul, assistant superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Deerfield Public Schools District 109 in Deerfield, IL.
The jubilation that she had felt during the welcome-back-to-school week had worn off. Gone was the energy of connecting with new faces, interacting with her peers, and preparing for the arrival of students who were eager to get back to school after a long summer. She was now alone, in her classroom, removed from the rest of her peers. She was feeling isolated, less effective, and thirsting for some adult personal and professional interaction. (more…)
Guest post by Dwight Carter:
In most cases, one of the last places affected by school reform is the schoolhouse itself. It’s expensive to completely redesign an entire school, and we are used to school looking a certain way: long corridors, square classrooms, rows of lockers, trophy cases lining the walls of the lobby, a large bland cafeteria, narrow stairways, and little natural light.
Today’s learners–Millennials and the “iGeneration”–need a new kind of school. They are wired differently than any generation that has come before them, due in part to the integration of technology in everyday life. Millennials include those born between 1977 and 1998 or by some definitions 1982 to 2000.
According to The Learning Café and American Demographics, today’s generation of students are creative and collaborative by nature; they don’t know life without connectivity; they multitask; they want positive relationships with their teacher, administrator, or boss; they want things personalized to their interests; and they want to rewrite the rules. They see institutions as irrelevant, and schools are often seen as institutions to them. Understandably, traditional school design hinders how today’s learner want to interact and engage in school.
At Gahanna Lincoln High School, we were facing a challenge: With 2400 students, we were at capacity and had the opportunity to do something creative to provide more space and, at the same time, meet the needs of today’s learner.
With the vision of former Superintendents Gregg Morris and Mark White, along with a team of curriculum coordinators, business directors, and highly qualified teachers, we built Clark Hall. Clark Hall is a 51,000-square-foot, three-story work of art. It doesn’t resemble a typical American high school at all; rather it’s more like an innovative office building. The goal was to create an open, modern, bright space that evokes creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, choice and fun. It houses fourteen classrooms, each with its own conference room, enterprise strength connectivity, natural light, laptops for every student, and collaborative spaces in hallways so students are able to use the entire space for learning.
We traded in the traditional rows of desks and chairs for soft, brightly colored modular furniture, some exercise balls, a few rocking chairs, and a couple of Adirondack chairs. We created two large commons areas that can be used for just about anything we want: smaller classroom space or large presentation space. A few of the classrooms have colorful carpet squares that make up a soft seating area of the sort you might find in a modern coffee house or redesigned university student union. We abandoned the “bargain-basement beige” paint for splashes of primary colors and bright white. We worked with the architects to include as much natural light as possible to evoke energy and creativity.
With flexibility built into the daily schedule, teachers have more time to interact with students on an individual basis, students feel more relaxed and are more compelled to engage in the learning process, and collaboration among students is the norm. Additionally, collaboration among teachers of different content areas has become a natural part of the day because they are not separated by department. We have an art teacher next to AP psychology and personal finance teachers, for example.
Because today’s learners like and need structure, we work with them at the beginning of each school year to develop expectations for the space; as a result, we have few discipline problems. Teachers no longer hover over students to make sure they are on task. Students appreciate the freedom and understand this freedom is a byproduct of responsible behavior.
Clark Hall has inspired change on our main campus as well. One of the main hubs of most schools and universities is the library. We wanted our library to have the same feel as Clark Hall, so our Librarian, Ann Gleek, dreamt big and made some significant improvements. Changes like removing some of the book shelves, painting the walls, and removing some of the traditional furniture have made for a more social, collaborative and inviting environment for students. There is still a quiet room for study, but the largest part of the space is open and collaborative.
Educational reform must include reforming or transforming the physical learning environment. According to Daniel Pink, design is one of the elements of the right brain that we must tap into. We have to look differently at the space we have now and spruce things up… a lot… for the sake of learning.
I will discuss this in more detail as well as its impact on student learning during my presentation at Ignite 2014!
Dwight Carter (@Dwight_Carter) is principal of Gahanna Lincoln High School in Ohio. Dwight was named an NASSP Digital Principal in 2013. He will be presenting Digitally Creative Learning Environments on Friday, February 7 at Ignite ’14 in Dallas. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.