This time last year, I had just returned from my induction into the the Rowland fellowship. It was the first time that someone had given me full autonomy for my professional learning and it felt amazing. I was so grateful. I set out to inquire about how Enosburg Falls High School could implement ACT 77 in a way that was transformational and increased motivation and engagement? Searching for models proved challenging.
I looked for models around the country and around the world hoping to find the answer to this question. I attended a conference and school visits in Finland with a colleague and my principal looking for “the secret sauce”. I visited a public high school that doesn’t use grades to communicate learning but instead has several structures in place geared at developing collaborative relationships between teachers and students. A first year math teacher was inspired by classroom practices in San Francisco and she now sees math in places she had never considered. She also saw the Pacific ocean and road in a taxi for the first time in her life. I visited a school using unicycling to encourage growth mindset. I got to know five of my colleagues in a new way as we lived together in an East Nashville house inspiring each other to develop deeper, more relevant, student-directed projects in our classrooms. And a leadership Summit in San Francisco helped me synthesize much of this learning into ideas around systems and structures that could sustain this work.
The most important take away for me was that we need to have solid relationships between all stakeholders before any structures and systems can be successful. Students need to trust teachers and teachers need to trust students; teachers need to trust their administrators and their administrators need to develop systems and structures that provide autonomy. We need to work to develop better relationships with parents. We need to do a much better job communicating with the community about the amazing learning that is happening at our high school. It is all about relationships.
Enosburg Falls High School will be working to redesign our advisory program with a focus on relationships not academics. We are exploring next steps toward elimination of grades as a means of communicating about learning. We will be using LiFT as a platform for student personal learning plans, a venue for more personalized professional learning for teachers and as a collaborative way to develop instructional plans. We will be focusing on developing instruction and professional learning that promotes autonomy, mastery and purpose to increase motivation and engagement throughout the entire learning community. Finally, I will be working to enhance our use of video to transform instruction and communicate with community. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with the changes.