2016 brought so much greatness to education. Educational research has brought much attention to some key areas of need in education. The need for public education and the research that shows our Public school systems are able to make gains with students with the least of advantages, it shows that charter schools and privitization are not the right answer for all students, especially for students that are the most challenging to teach. 2016 brought California's highest graduation rates, and lowest dropout rates. It also brought the idea of true equity and opened our eyes to what that looks like. All of this knowledge is a gift.
For me personally, 2016 brought me Mindfulness training through Mindful Schools which was a wonderful experience. It brought me PLC training with the Dufour's which was inspiring, and in 2016 I was accepted into a Educational Doctoral Program that challenged my thinking and has pushed my academic ability beyond what I thought was possible. 2016 brought me health and blessings beyond anything I could imagine and for that I am forever grateful.
With this reflection I have a few resolutions I wanted to share, and I hope we can commit to these resolutions together.
1. Don't go it alone.
Being a continuation school teacher, administrator, staff member can be a draining job. We work with students that need the most everything: love, time, structure, attention, positive reinforcement, to be listen to, modeling, positive feedback, one-on-one attention, check-ins, counseling, pep talks, a shoulder to cry on, a mentor, a caregiver, and a friend. We do all of this, but you can not be the only one who does all of this for every student. As a school we have to share these responsibilities for all of our students. There is a lot of things that go into this to make sure you do not get burned out and that this is a shared responsibility for your site. This is not an easy feat. There is alot that goes into creating this shared vision and school culture. You as a leader have to make sure students come first. This is not something that will happen overnight, but if this is something that speaks to you, the Professional Learning community (PLC) process is one that works.
So what does that mean? Less "coblaborating" and more collaborating. It means working as a team and depending on one another. It looks like every student being educated and nurtured by staff communicating and trusting each other to work toward your school's mission and vision. Let's learn from leaders that have gone it alone. Erin Gruwell from The Freedom Writers Diary, she went it alone for four years tirelessly working for the most at-risk students. But that is all she had to give, four years. Imagine what she could have achieved in a school that had the same vision she had and their mission was to help all students. We can't keep burning teachers out, we can believe that it is one person's sole responsibility to change the world. We have to do it together. We have to collaborate and learn from each other.
If anything I hope my blog and facebook page is a little bit of that. From school to school we need each other. There are a dwindling number of continuation schools in the state of California. There are no best practices, besides the recommendations that come from CCEA (thank goodness for those), and we are very vulnerable as research has pointed out that continuation schools across the state vary drastically. Some are very successful, some not so much. We as schools can not take on the educational world by ourselves, we need each other, we need to learn from eachother's successes and learn from eachother's mistakes. We need to use data to drive our practices, and note that common data practices are not always true for continuation schools, and also note that we can no longer use past experience as evidence, we have to collect that data. Let's go into 2017 with a resolution of collaborating and working with each other. Let's connect and ask questions (even if they seem silly or insignificant), let's discuss our visions of continuation schools in the state and how we can make them better. Let's share our struggles and be there for one another and grow as professionals and as a team.
2. Fight the Good Fight
We are in a time that many educational practices are going to be questioned. Be prepared for these questions. Continuation schools can no longer justify our worth by creating less suspensions in our comprehensive feeder schools. We have so start collecting data. I just finished my school's WASC document for our WASC visit in January. If you are preparing for this visit in the next couple of years please take my advise and prepare early! The new document is very comprehensive and asks schools to take a serious look at your data. Some things that were surprising to my school was the ethnic make up and our school, and we questioned our own cultural competencies in a positive and progressive way. Other things that were even more dire was the percentage of students we referred to adult education. For our school district the community college runs the adult education program. With further investigation we found that the students that we did refer to adult education do not succeed, they are virtually dropouts. We then questioned what we could do to help the students that could not graduate from our school succeed. We also noted that we needed to be keeping the data that showed the growth of our students, and not just their improving grades. We needed to show the data that students attendance improved when they came to our school, that student were happier at our school, that our student surveys showed that our students were happy and safe in our school. With this process we noted that we needed to survey students more often as we have a transient community, we also noted that we need to be thinking of a way to keep in contact with our graduates so we can gauge our successes in preparing students for life after graduation.
With the current political educational climate we as continuation schools need to be prepared with our data as evidence for our need and our worth. Our schools can no longer be looked as the schools where all the bad kids go. Our schools are where students that fall through the cracks have a soft place to land. Continuation schools are in need of some good press, and everyone in our state need to know that they are essential for the success of our most vulnerable populations.
3. Share your goals with others (especially with your students)
Often we feel like our goals for teaching or school are personal and we don't share those with many, especially our students. Often my students are my biggest cheerleaders. So when I get back to school from winter break I am going to share my goal of working out once a week (I like achieveable goals) and I am challenging my teaching to collaborate more and make all of my lessons relevant. With that I intend to be implicit in explaining why my lessons are relevant for post high school life.
4. Attend and present at the CCEA conference in 2017
If there is any conference you attend this year make sure it is the CCEA conference. I know in the past it has felt a bit unorganized, but I promise it is always worth it. If I need to talk you into it, email me your phone number! This is the only chance we get to learn from each other. I recommend not going to sponsored events, and I will also advise you to not get caught up in bringing in a paid outside speakers to your school, but you know what is right for your school. I do recommend going to as many teacher and current principal presentations as possible. I have learned so much from those speakers and have added so much of what we have learned into our own school. Our Career Fair, school garden, and counseling and discipline practices have all come from ideas received at a CCEA conference.
Even more than attend, if you are a seasoned CCEA attendee this is the year for you to present. I have learned so much from the comments on the Altedfrommybed facebook page, I can't even imagine what I would learn from you presenting. We all have so much to offer, let's mix things up and get some new presenters this year! Again, if you need a little motivation just shoot me an email, and I will give you a nudge in the right direction!
Also, would anyone be interested in an altedfrommybed mixer? I will post this question on my facebook page. I would love to meet up with all of you!
5. Take care of yourself
As always, and this will be a resolution for me every year and I hope for you every year as well. If it is mindfulness, yoga, martial arts, working out, getting a massage, taking a walk; please, do it for yourself. Make art, take photographs, be creative. Creativity breeds creativity. Bring happiness and creativity to your students and families. These are the greatest of all gifts.
Most of all, I hope 2017 is the best of all years. I wish all of you the best of everything. You deserve it.