The process of drafting Challenge Planners has greatly guided our efforts to focus, clarify, and simplify. Central to this year’s ES planner is the idea that inquiry is a lens through which we approach teaching and learning. This journey really began five years ago, as we aimed to reach JIS’ Dream One: Integrating Relevant, Experiential and Contemporary Learning and JIS’ Dream Two: Empowering our students to engage with our vision. With each passing year, challenging ourselves through the process we follow, gets us closer to where we want to be.
To further focus our work this year, literacy (specifically, writing) has been chosen as a vehicle through which we can sharpen our inquiry lens, work on horizontal and vertical alignment, and remain true to our commitment to be clear, cohesive and collaborative in our work. Not only have we been clear on our focus, but also ensured we seek expert support where we needed it. To that end, the visiting consultants who visited us this past semester T have moved us deeper into inquiry, helped us get organized and allowed us to further simplify how we do things.
A short synopses of what each consultant specifically addressed while here:
Kath Murdoch worked with new teachers and assistant teachers to bring them into the fold with our pedagogy of choice. Kath helped us refine our planning documentation and fine tune a set of transferable competencies, grounded on our JIS Learning Dispositions, that will allow teachers to hone in on critical learning for our students.
Matt Glover: Matt worked with individual teams, sifting through our writing units, engaging teachers in getting to the essence of what they should teach in each unit, based on what real writers do. Specifically, three big ideas gained traction with parents and teachers:
- We must honor our students approximations: look at where they are in regards to their writing skills and nudge them to the next level, one step at a time.
- We want to nudge our students to reach the goals set forth; pushing them is not as advantageous, nudging is.
- Through immersing students in the work that real writers do, students can inquire into what makes good writing. Teachers embed the skills needed, having the students fully experience what it feels to be a real writer.
Peter Bowers (Word Study Expert): Pete worked with each grade level in exploring how the English language works and how the process of teaching orthography (spelling) can be approached through scientific inquiry.
All consultants delivered very well received parent education sessions further expanding the knowledge base of our parent community regarding why we teach the way we teach.
On a daily basis we are seeing how our teachers are applying the thinking generated by our consultants. It is an exciting time for the newly formed ES leadership team at JIS, as we now get to nurture the energy and enthusiasm generated by our visiting experts.
So much has been accomplished in just one semester of school. Creating Challenge Planners and allowing them to lead the way to teaching and learning is a powerful tool to reach dreams, aims and goals.