Thursday, August 25, 2016

The First Five Days of School: A New Approach to Start School at McCall

I recently concluded an 18 month learning journey for leaders in Plano ISD called the Visioning Institute. This was a district initiative, based upon a state initiative, so the dialogue among participants was powerful for our district. We came together as educators with a desire to learn and grow together. The participants of the institute worked together as learners side by side, rather than as district officials sharing information and initiatives. Through my learning with the program, I was exposed to innovative teaching and leadership techniques and pushed to think differently about many traditional aspects of education.  As a part of our work together, we were encouraged to roll out a facet of our institute learning on our campuses this year.  I am rolling out an approach to the start of school based upon the work of Allan November and called The First Five Days of School.

Mr. November is planted in the idea that to set the stage appropriately for deep learning for a successful school year, students need time to come together as a learning community, develop a relationship with their teacher and begin to work collaboratively with low risk content.  For our first five days, we have based our learning around his research plus other learning we have been exposed to by the district or pursuing independently.  We are combining some social and emotional strategies our teachers learned from professional development provided by the district.  These strategies help kids express their feelings and advocate for their needs.  In addition, many of our teachers pursued learning more about the AVID program, so many AVID strategies were perfect for our goals of the our First Five Days at McCall.  It is our goal that this week will  lay out a foundation that helps our Colts feel connected to their new teacher, their new friends, and develop a strong learning community ready to tackle deeper learning.  

As a parent, you can listen for your child discussing a goal that they set for the year, or information about how their brain works, or strategies for organization for the school year.   We designed a week to impact them and help gear them up for success.  It is my hope that some of our students who are a bit quieter in the classroom and are slow to warm up will feel comfortable faster and ready to engage in learning.  

I am taking feedback from our teachers and the kids to see how the week is going.  The consensus is that it is a good use of time, but we can look at shortening the time to the first three days of school as we do a great job with some of this instruction in our weekly class meetings that are held every Wednesday.  I will be monitoring our implementation of this week far beyond just this consensus; I want to observe and notice several facets:  how the kids interact with one another over the year, how student behavior is impacted, and how deep are the teacher and student relationships/connections.  

This initiative is important to me as I am founded in the belief that is the elementary school's job to foster a positive experience for our kids from the very beginning.  If children do not have a positive experience with us and get connected into their learning from a young age, it is going to be hard to foster that later.  I take my role in selecting your child's teachers very seriously and putting together an instructional program that meets their vast needs.  I recruit the very best teachers, retain the best teachers  and nurture them so that they nurture your children.  I want all of you to love our school and the people who provide the education to your child. 

I invite you to review a couple of resources that may better explain The First Five Days better than I have in terms that are not "eduspeak" below in the hotlinks provided.  Further, I invite your comments below or in person to help provide feedback about how YOU feel YOUR child's first five days of school have gone this year.

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