August 16th, 2018 will mark the start of another great year in Jeffco Public Schools. It has been fun visiting schools and different teams to see their preparations for tomorrow. There is an air of excitement and a palpable sense of positive energy in our schools and across the organization. One might even characterize it as “fun!”
This year, I’m committing to visit 500 classrooms across Jeffco (and possibly in some other places as well). I’m going to be gathering observations on what students are doing in these classrooms, so that I have a strong understanding of the student experience in Jeffco and how we might make that authentic, meaningful, engaging, memorable, and connected to the world outside of school.
In particular, I’m going to be looking for great examples of something called student “task.” Task is a component of learning where the student moves into the driver’s seat and gets to practice and experience something first-hand.
We wish these experiences to be anchored in challenging and relevant content (facts), but also to provide opportunities for students to practice a host of important skills such as collaboration, perseverance, adaptability, critical thinking, effective communication, problem solving, persuasion, and personal responsibility.
This list is by no means exhaustive. These skills (among others) are what employers have been telling us for some time our students are missing in the workforce. They are also vitally important for our students as we prepare our students for an increasingly automated and globally connected world and where the importance of being an engaged citizen are even more critical.
I will also be looking for great examples of something called student agency. This means that we want to see more of students exercising choice in how they respond to complex problems and that they are getting the opportunity to work on problems and projects which are relevant and meaningful to them.
I realize that in several of these classrooms I will only spend minutes before needing to move on. I do have another full time job, after all! But I hope to capture the spirit of what is happening in these classrooms and learn from that.
I also try to spend two days (one each semester) co-teaching. I do this usually with a social studies teacher, since that was my content area when I was a teacher. This year, I’ll be working with Dale Munholland at Pomona High School and Kerrie Dallman at Arvada West High School. I also spend time working alongside our support staff each year, getting to know these critical support roles as people and professionals.
I don’t know yet what will emerge from this one year study – but I will occasionally share reflections and my learning with you.
I’ll be using the hashtag #500c and posting photos of my visits. Wish me luck!