Friday, August 17, 2012

PLC - A Summary of our Cultural Recommitment


Today, our staff came back ready to work and learn.  We started out by welcoming back all of our staff and having our new members introduce themselves to the campus.  After our introductions and welcome back, we moved into celebration mode and honored all of the hard work that our teachers and staff accomplished last year:
  • Built a new and innovative curriculum aligned to the new standards,
  • Implemented our new PLC philosophy with the 3 Big Ideas,
  • Created a positive CHAMPs behavior system,
  • Piloted iPads in 10 classrooms,
  • Motivated our students with fun activities centered around our learning targets, and
  • Made outstanding improvements in our students' learning.
After our campus celebrations, each staff member took a moment to write about a personal celebration that was special to them last year. To see the pride in our campus team's eyes was truly an inspiring moment for me.  Our hard work was recognized, honored and celebrated. 

Mission & Vision

Our new campus theme, 'iLearn', was unveiled, and the concept set the tone that our campus will thrive on a low threat / risk rich environment to ensure that learning occurs within every child and every staff member (more on that in a later post).  We then reviewed our compelling reasons to recommit to the mission and vision of the campus which was based on a Did You Know video as well as research that illustrates the consequences for students who fail to get an education (via Daggett, DuFour, and Mattos).  The challenge was posed of each staff member to take one word from our vision that meant the most to them and write in their journal about how the word described the campus that we hope to become. The word led us to our values.

Linking Values to Norms

Teams  reviewed our values and collaborated using Twitter #geschat (as an integrated PD activity).   Each team selected one value that meant the most to them and summarized it in 140 characters or less, and each tweet elicited some poignant thoughts about our campus values.  We then took a moment to reread each tweet from our projection screen, and I asked the campus to pick one word that stuck out the most in their minds.  These are the patterns that described our campus values:
  • Trust - We must have an environment where we can count on one another and be vulnerable with one another, especially in our times of difficulty and failure.  Trust is foundational to collaboration.
  • Safety - Our teams must create safe havens where team members know that their flaws, failures and mistakes will not be judged, but supported. Safety is essential to learning.
  • Relationships - "Great relationships precede great performance", and we believe that we must never allow conflict to jeopardize our trusting relationships.
  • Celebration - We must celebrate every achievement both great and small, campus-wide and individually, because we believe that celebration is the fuel for learning.
After watching Rick DuFour's video on Groups vs. Teams and a couple humorous videos to further illustrate his point, we learned about values and norms and how they are linked.  Values are beliefs, used as a blueprint for improvement and they support the mission and vision.  Values define the attitudes that each member must display each day to reach our vision, but values are useless if our behaviors do not reflect them.  We must have norms that define our behaviors and how we will go about our day to ensure that we are self-disciplined and focused on learning from one another.  Norms make teams effective, efficient and ultimately accountable.  Teams took their new learning and began the work of developing their Recipe for Success.  They revised and updated last year's norms ensuring that Trust, Safety, Relationships and Celebration were supported by every norm.

As teams came back ready to have lunch, the atmosphere was electric.  Our campus was pumped about the upcoming school year and ready to set our SMART Goals.  Teachers shared stories of how far they came last year and about dreams of what our campus could accomplish this year.  The stress our new STAAR test didn't have a place in this room because the staff released themselves from the fear of accountability.  They were recommitted to something bigger, something bolder and the real reason that they were called into the profession of education.  They were recommitted to a culture focused on guaranteeing the very best education for every child, every day in every way.

Thank you, GES.  It is going to be an amazing year!!!


  1. Hey John,

    Really dig a TON about all of this -- particularly the fact that your starting your own school hashtag. I hope that explodes for your faculty and that you'll use it to share a constant stream of resources for your teams and teachers.

    What caught my eye the most, though, was the mention that teachers "wrote in their journals."

    Do you have your faculty journal on a regular basis? If so, how?

    It sounds SUPER valuable. I can see every faculty meeting starting with (1). Ten minutes of journaling about a topic important to the school and (2). ten minutes of sharing about the journaling.

    You could even combine it with the flipped faculty meeting stuff that people are talking about: Watch one of the videos that you shared, journal about it, and come to our next meeting ready to reflect with a partner about what you've written.

    If this is what you're doing, let us know how! It's cool.

    Rock on,

  2. Your flipped faculty meetings has inspired me to model it in our PD. my teachers are new to Twitter but 10 signed up and are beginning to explore. That's cool. We are starting Techie Tuesdays to take our tech integration further. I'm looking for schools to partner with in this initiative to broaden our knowledge & learning. Thanks for the FdBk. The post doesn't do justice to what actually happened. T

  3. Thank you so much for sharing! This sounds like a truly amazing and ideal faculty "meeting" if you can even call it a meeting. I agree with Mr. Ferriter. Creating a school hashtag, and the accomplishment of getting teachers to be connected is powerful! I also love the journaling. I have tried asking teachers to write a reflection of data specifically just to incorporate what we were doing with data and looking at it to increase student achievement, and for some of the teachers it was foreign and uncomfortable, but they rose to the challenge. I have to commend you on inspiring teachers to dig deep and get back to the reason they were called to the profession. Accountability should not be feared, yet rather push us to do better for students!