Sunday, November 6, 2016

Relationships.. The Power Within

I’m always amazed by the wisdom and writings of my professional learning network. I can only assume that they are:
  • Better organized in their brain, and/or
  • Better writers, and/or
  • Better able to focus than I.

Or, they are that committed to the transparency of their learning to encourage and empower others...

That said, I’m back here today to practice what we’re asking of our Vanguard Fellows - to share their learning journeys with others. Sharing not only invites others to learn from you, but it also forces you to reflect... way deeper than the last few moments of the day, in the dark when you’re trying to fall asleep, or on Friday night/Saturday morning when you’re struggling to justify to yourself that you did indeed accomplish something during the week. So, here goes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately.

A few weeks ago (October 9th) on the Channel 2 Newsmaker show on Sunday morning, Khambrel Marshall interviewed Bertie Simmons. She came out of retirement to become Furr HS principal where the campus has redefined itself into one that now hold a $10 million grant to redesign hre campus. She credits the successful turnaround on the campus to the relationships she built with the students, particularly the 12 gangs that were present when she started. Here's a related video from CBS This Morning...

Obviously she didn’t stop there. I was amazed by her strength and clearly the patience that it must have taken to develop the community of learners that is now Furr High School. Field trip! Thinking she has so much to offer to us!

Today, I read Chris Wejr’s post Find the Fireflies - Help Students to Shine on the Connected Principals blog. In it he challenges us to begin with ONE learner who needs you to take the time to to truly get to know his/her strengths so that you can provide opportunities that truly empower that learner. Take that first step rather than be overwhelmed with “Where do I start?” He shares Rachel Macy Stafford’s analogy. She encourages you to build relationships with and uncover the strengths of the "Firefly" learners, the learners that shine from within, the learners that may go unnoticed because they only shine under the right conditions. Pick the one who isn’t a "Butterfly".. Pick the ONE...I think back to Bertie and how she must have started one by one and it didn’t sound like she started with butterflies.

I spend a lot of time pondering the Vanguard Fellows, their strengths and their struggles and our need to build stronger relationships. They are on the front lines in a system that is beginning a journey down a path that is barely visible. We’re learning together how our paths may take shape and the tools that will help us get there. It is not easy work, but I have hope that together we can create an powerful practice that will help share the future of our district and encourage others. This first cohort of Vanguard Fellows are thoughtful practitioners, strong in reflective thinking yet hesitant to create artifacts of their learning. My wonder is: is it a factor of our relationships - that they aren’t strong enough for them to truly value the the time/effort we ask then to spend in creating these artifacts. I used to think it was time - just not enough - but my current wonder leads me to believe we don’t have enough of a relationship for them to trust.

There are so many ways to get to the heart of student ownership of learning - which is the promise of personalized learning. I’m going to trust the system and our Vanguard Fellows. Sharing your thinking doesn't’ come without cost. In the extremely busy world of a teacher the time to sit and reflect doesn’t come without a huge price. But, it also comes with huge gains....

Come up for some air! There's power in "we!"