- "We believe in preparing students to be successful in all aspects of life. We want to help grow children to be inquisitive and adventurous in their education. We believe in molding students into caring individuals who thrive on a team."
- "We believe that each child deserves the best education possible for their own personal needs, including creating life-long habits that will enable them to be successful in their own way."
- "We believe in pushing students' thinking. Encouraging all students to have their own voice and ideas and share that with others. We believe in creating learners who are independent, kind, and knowledgeable."
- "We believe in cultivating learners who can be successful in the 21st century so we can have creative thinkers who are excited to learn and challenge themselves to do their best. "
- "We believe in developing 21st century learners that know how to think and how to take care of themselves, others, and their school and world...true leaders of their learning."
At our school, teachers work together to grow and learn in order to help our students reach these goals. The "how" includes working together to bring the best to our students in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. We work tirelessly to educate the whole child by designing lessons not only in academics and the tools of thinking, but also in the habits of mind that support taking care of ourselves, each other, and our school and world. Teachers are strongly committed to their own professional learning and are highly reflective on the process.
In order to grow and learn as teachers and to continue to study how to shape the culture to reach our goals, we know that we must design powerful professional learning experiences for teachers centered on transforming our school into a culture of thinking by mastering the cultural forces outlined in Ron Ritchhart's book, Creating Cultures of Thinking: the 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools . We decided to focus our learning on the following question:
"What else might we do to grow and develop our thinking about students' learning and deepen the culture of thinking in our classrooms and at our school?"
In order to grow and learn as teachers, we need to design professional learning opportunities that are effective and engaging. We then brainstormed responses to the question, "What makes an effective learning experience?" Answers included words like "engaging," "collaborative," "active," "reflective," "choice," etc. As we contemplated the answers, we realized that a traditional book study only includes parts of an effective learning experience and we must go further in our learning in order to truly achieve our goals. We decided to structure our learning based on Ritchhart's suggestion of read-discuss-act-reflect. Teachers will collaborate and grow and learn in vertical inquiry-action teams. We will structure our learning in cycles of read-discuss-act-reflect as follows:
- Whole group engagement on each cultural force
- Read/discuss - team members will read and discuss chapters on each cultural force in vertical teams using discourse protocols
- Act - team members will chose an action to try related to the cultural force
- Reflect - teachers will bring an artifact to share with a reflection centered around: Here's what (I tried)....So what (happened).....Now what (next....)
- Whole group reflective piece
Lastly, we discussed the importance of building strong teams in order to build strong schools. We used Dennis Sparks' article and rubric, Strong Teams, Strong Schools to set norms and expectations for effective teams based on the following key characteristics:
- Clarity of purpose
- Team structure