Come check out the Thrive Conference…..
9.23.19 version of the brochure is right below….brochure long as of 92319
Come check out the Thrive Conference…..
9.23.19 version of the brochure is right below….brochure long as of 92319
Public schools serve multiple functions in our 2019 American society.
The list of functions provided by American public schools is extensive and far exceeds the aforementioned central roles. As each new school year approaches and I interact with parents considering what school to have their children attend, there are inevitable narratives that emerge. Some highlight test scores, others that tend towards the logistics of afterschool day care and many that attempt to look far into the future and connect the early grades experience with family’s aspirations for their children down the road. It is rare, however, to have deeply informed conversations about what schools actually do and what they actually are in a societal sense. This I think is partially due to public schools often having challenges in communicating their functions beyond the cliche or superficial level. Many times, as we all likely are, parents have the individual concern for their child. They want their children “to be challenged” or to “get the help they need.” Apart from the academic side of things, they want their children to have a safe environment where they can have friends and grow and develop their well being.
One thing to consider beyond these narratives is how their children and their family contributes to the lives and well being of others in the local community. By engaging with and in the local community schools families more readily help to construct and develop the type of community they want to live in. This is a more participative and citizen based approach than a strictly consumer based notion of school choice. Ask not what the community can do for your children but what you and your children can do for the community as JFK might have said. Of course the value to the consumer or citizen comes back to them when parents and families and children are more connected to each other in their local neighborhoods through one of the last public agoras in our American democracy (public schools).
Rio will continue to invite all our local children and families to fully engage in co-constructing the best possible educational environments and outcomes striving to THRIVE as a system and community.
Spring is in the Air and Spring Break is upon us in the Rio School District. This means there are only 8 weeks remaining of the 2018-19 school year. We hope each and every child experiences opportunities to develop their learning literacies and their 5Cs; communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and caring. Our staff and some of our children are probably very ready to take a much needed break and rest from the flurry of activity that has been emblematic of the last few months of work in our schools and organization. For those who do get the time off, the two weeks offer an opportunity to reflect on what has been this year and what will be the final 8 weeks that remain.
All of the staff of the Rio School District wish each child and family a restful, peaceful, and reflective Spring Break and we look forward to finishing the year strong upon your return.
The Reading Classroom
Rio School District children are thriving in many ways. Our recent years’ emphasis on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and caring has helped the adults in our organization create classroom and school environments that are suitable for young children’s development as full human beings as well as supporting their literacy development which is so essential to their success and sense of confidence in school systems and other contexts that demand high levels of reading, writing, and speaking. While I believe the above statement is evidenced in many ways we continue to look for the right mixtures of environment, tools, methods, practices to create classrooms across every school that help every child to progress to their maximum potential as readers.
This year we are focusing on reading interest, fluency, and meaning making. We put reading interest first in this order because we believe that fluent – meaning making readers are first and foremost interested readers. Next in the order is fluency that we basically define as the ability to decode and produce the text at a rate sufficient to support the reader’s meaning making of the text. Lastly, and most importantly in academic contexts like schools, we aim for children’s meaning making which includes their basic comprehension and understanding of the texts but expands to their ability and choices of ways to express the meanings they have read through writing, speaking, drawing or other media. This short post is a description of an idealized reading classroom from the point of view of the superintendent, educational researcher, and teacher. Its purpose is to spark further discussion and then actions across our District and others that have common goals in helping more children become interested, fluent, and meaning making readers.
In California we typically have 180 school days per year and we divide the years into things we call grade levels. We typically assign one teacher to a group of children for this year in elementary grades and more than one teacher to children in the middle grades years. Regardless of the structure I think it’s important to state early in the post that an idealized school context for readers is one where every teacher in every grade and every subject is a reading teacher involved and invested in each child’s development as interested, fluent, meaning making readers. This post is my description or listing of activities that are observable and should or could be observable in as many of those 180 days as possible across a school year. As a student of learning I know that in almost every context, repetition and time are key elements in learning. Things we do almost every day are understood by children as important as we have valued them by apportioning time to them.
So here we go, here is what a good reading classroom looks like from my point of view in terms of things you see commonly and every day as much as possible.
Reading classrooms let kids read freely for extended periods every day and give them choice in the texts they read.
Reading classrooms have many books in them and also provide access to libraries and other ways to access texts online and otherwise.
Reading classrooms have teachers and educators that read and model reading authentically in their lives not just as professional practice but because they are truly interested, fluent, meaning making readers themselves.
Reading classrooms provide daily opportunities for children to write about their reading and get regular feedback from their teacher and peers on this writing.
Reading classrooms have regular opportunities for all children to be read to. To hear read alouds.
Reading classrooms have teachers who have learned and who are learning about the reading process and who are constantly developing their practices to help children directly and indirectly to become interested, fluent, and meaning making readers through whole group, small group, and one one work with children.
Reading classrooms are visibly rich with texts and the artifacts of reading and writing.
Reading classrooms are very word rich in that they evidence high interest in the acquisition and exploration of words.. the basic units of language…
Reading classrooms have flexibility associated with the different children who populate them. They help the actual children learn to become or develop as readers rather than a homogenized standard established by others outside the classroom.
Reading classrooms have many opportunities for children to read with each other and to read the writing of their peers.
Reading classrooms have socio-emotional environments that create acceptance among all in the classroom for every child as reader regardless of their current status on spectrum across the three elements of interest, fluency, and meaning making.
Reading classrooms provide access and focus on texts that connect with the classroom children’s lives as well as new horizons they have never experienced.
Reading classrooms provide access and engagement with a variety of genre of texts and texts on and in a variety of media.
Reading classrooms strike a balance towards fun in reading but save the space for struggle as is necessary and appropriate in the context.
Reading classrooms are writing classrooms, are drawing classrooms, are literacy classrooms, and are reading more than text classrooms. Reading text is one key but major thrust in learning environments that focus every child to become interested, fluent, meaning making LEARNERS who understand that reading texts is a critical part their learning.
The list could surely go on but I think I will leave it at this for the moment as an invitation to educators and readers out there to add to the post. I will gladly take your thoughts, comments and ideas emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and then see where they go from there. A community of readers working together thoughtfully is likely the best way to support the development of the next generation of readers. In nearly three and a half decades of this work, my wife and I continue to look for ways to increase the numbers of children we are able to guide as truly interested, fluent, and meaning making readers. For child readers living in less economically resourced contexts this is critically important so that they do not fall into the statistical reality that Demography is Destiny. For all children, and for our country, a generation of interested, fluent, and meaning making readers is essential for our democracy to function as one that is driven by an informed and thoughtful citizenry.
\ ˈthrīv \
thrived or throve\ ˈthrōv \; thrived also thriven\ ˈthri-vən \; thriving\ˈthrī-viŋ \
1: to grow vigorously : FLOURISH
2: to gain in wealth or possessions : PROSPER
3: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances —often used with on thrives on conflict
(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thrive. , 1.27.19)
Thriving. At this moment and in this age, the words thrive and thriving have become a new focus. They were always there and present, but now more than ever, I think the Rio School District and other Districts like it might benefit from this solitary focus. Thriving. Are the children in our sphere of influence thriving? Are our employees thriving? Are the families and the community we are part of thriving? What are we doing to promote this thriving? What are we doing to hinder it? If we set aside, and I suggest we do for many reasons, the definition to gain wealth and possessions, we are left with growing vigorously and making progress towards our goals despite and/or because of our circumstances.
Rio’s children need to thrive in every sense as whole, developing human beings. They need to flourish physically, socially, emotionally, creatively, intellectually, academically, and civically. In recent years we have joined and contributed to the now two decades old movement to help children develop what have come to be known as 21st century skills. We preferred the word “practices,” for various ethnographic and pedagogical reasons. We jumped on board networks of educational institutions that seek to amplify the need for schools to break from old conventions and learn to teach for skills/practices such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. We embraced this movement, contributed to it in the last few years and raised by both modeling, rhetoric, and action issues of equity and asked questions and took actions aimed at who the 21st century should and could transform in schools.
This age of renovation and renewal is recycling many progressive concepts and the work of many progressive thinkers. Many of which I was engrossed in pondering and engaging with when I entered public professional education work more than thirty years ago. These much needed schooling changes are clearly moving in a better direction for all children, for all communities and families and for the American democracy which is so intertwined and driven like an engine by our schools and the development of the next generation of citizens, people, workers.
Here in the Rio school District, where many and most children grow up in homes and contexts with little economic means, with little immersion in academic language experience, and many with little experience with English as a language, I believe it is time to focus on this word THRIVE, and to ask ourselves as their caretakers, questions that inquire into every aspect of their thriving. I am particularly interested in and focused in on three major elements of their thriving, though every aspect of their thriving is likely important. It is hard to tell what every child will need to become who they should be and to find the promise this country suggests we offer; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I am focused on;
Rio School District
“Educating Learners to Thrive”
What we ought to be doing, and what I hope we are doing, is helping, guiding, contributing to, create contexts, environments, ecosystems, where and for children to thrive. In the coming weeks and months I will be working with others to ponder and take action guided by this focus and these words and to renew our assessment of ourselves along these lines. We are a little/big system with nine schools, more than 5,000 students, 500 employees, and a $60,000,000 dollar budget. I will be asking all our employees to begin by thinking about themselves and their own thriving as well as the children around them they come in most close daily contact with. Are they thriving? How can we tell? Can we measure this? Observe this? How will we know if we have prepared them to thrive when they leave us to go to high school and beyond? I can think of no better group of people to do this work with, there is much love and commitment here in the Rio School District community and a developing appetite for system wide learning and excellence.
On this day, 1.21.19, I have taken a look at the “I have a dream speech” again and selected some quotes from it. The speech, of course, should be taken in its entirety and full context. Still, I thought this selection might serve a purpose. I took the time, as I do each year, to revisit MLK’s texts and to reflect on where we are as a nation in relation to them in time and space. Some 51 years after his death. and some 56 years after the speech, there is no doubt we have come far in many aspects of the evolution of our society in terms of laws and the general views about race and gender and civil rights that the younger generation commonly uphold. Still, it is also obvious that these past decades have done little to alter the deep injustices in our society that were born from slavery and other elements of our nation’s origin.
These quotes are among the ideas I will reflect on today. I work to keep MLK and other pillars of our dreams alive in me and my work every day, though this auspicious day marks an opportunity to stop and reflect. There is probably no greater or more potent opportunity to contribute to MLK’s dream of the world as being an educator and working with children in one form or another. Thanks to all who have taken up this ” teaching” work in the past, the present, and who will do so in the spirit of guiding the next generation to construct a better world.
Here are the parts of the speech I have been reflecting on.. I was going to provide my thoughts.. but for the purpose of this post thought it better to let them speak for themselves.
Looking at quotes from the I have a dream speech (8.28.63) on 1.21.19 MLK Day
“greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
“…But one hundred years later (All right), the Negro still is not free.”
“…sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
“One hundred years later (All right), the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
“…This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men (My Lord), would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
“…We have also come to this hallowed spot (My Lord) to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. (Mhm) This is no time (My Lord) to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” “ ….Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”
“…I have a dream (Mhm) that one day (Yes) this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed (Hah): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (Yeah, Uh-huh, Hear hear) [applause]..”
“ … (Yes) we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation (Yes) into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. (Talk about it)”
“ … “Free at last! (Yes) Free at last! ”
S.T.E.A.M. : What’s it all about?
S.T.E.A.M. learning focuses on science, technology, engineering,arts, and math. These disciplines and practices have become more prominent focal points for school curriculum and learning activities in recent times. The Rio School District has been engaged in developing S.T.E.A.M. learning for the last six years. S.T.E.M. learning has long been valued due to its connection to our modern society’s emphasis on these content areas in the world economy. Rio makes sure to include the Arts in our learning activities for its various important connections to human development.
The Rio School District is charged with two basic aims; protecting the children in our supervision and educating them in preparation for their academic experiences and future life. In educating children we are tasked with guiding student literacy such that they can read, write, speak and do math at the levels that California standards based curriculum demands. In addition, we are charged with helping children develop as full human beings and citizens of the United States of America. The arts serve both literacy and human development in a multitude of ways. There are many fully developed reasons to support arts in schools. The following links provide some easy reading on the subject;
For many Rio students, S.T.E.A.M. learning helps to engage and motivate them to develop their basic literacy skills. Many Rio students depend on their schools to provide opportunities that more affluent families can afford to support outside school. Rio children continue to have opportunities to experience and learn from a great variety of S.T.E.A.M. activities including visual arts, music, drama, dance, robotics, coding, drones, video production, animation, gardening, environmental science, maker activities, and the list goes on and expands each year. These opportunities support their learning and interest in reading, writing, speaking and math while developing their skills and practices in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and caring.
S.T.E.A.M. learning is also an attempt to un-silo student learning and break down the walls and divisions between school subject areas so they can be more authentic and real world. The Rio School District’s aims to provide each child the opportunity to develop their academic literacies and grow as a full and whole human being and citizen is also anchored in providing children a variety of experiences that they can personalize and pursue as their interests.
What we measure….
Is what we measure what gets done? All that gets done?
Is what we measure what we value?
Is how we measure what we value indicative of what we value and how much we actually value it?
How much do we actually know and care about the actual measuring?
What do our measuring tools say about what we value and how we value?
In asking these questions after thirty two years in public education, teaching, administrating, researching, and thinking I do so to stimulate thoughtfulness among fellow educators, students, parents, and community members in the hope that a deeper,better consideration of the values we assign to school related outcomes might contribute to improvements in schools and better understanding and valuing of schooling in society at large.
What and how we measure and what and how we value things in general is often under considered if not taken for granted. In many instances in both school systems and beyond, people within and outside of the systems accept the valuing and measuring designed and implemented by others. Of course, there are efficiencies in these processes as we allow others to design and implement measures and values for us so that we can consume them or utilize them for various purposes.
As an educator and citizen, I think there are several key ingredients to make sure we bake into the recipe for a proper measurement to serve the learning processes in schools. They include transparency, simplicity, and potential for depth and context. Too often, our overly standardized schools have employed measures with results and techniques that are “black-boxed” and left to statistical experts to determine values. Too often, these and other measures use complexity to barrier the student and their family and sometimes teachers from full understanding of what they measure, how they measure and what they do not measure. Too often the measures are shallowly aimed and devoid of the context necessary to fully express the learner’s knowledge, engagement, and associated skills. Too often, these measurement failings serve to bias the outcomes and their ultimate usage in selection and sorting processes towards the demographic and socio-economic gaps that are currently and long sustained in the American educational system. It seems what we value is curiously and long aligned with socio-economic strata in the society.
Literacies and the command of the English language are pre-eminent in our measures and valuing. Consideration of the place that literacy achievement, targets, standardized and age-based level determinations is one area of great potential for the broader understanding of the measuring and valuing of education. Along with finding the best place to position literacy measurement and valuing, recent trends in education that have begun to value what have come to be named “21st century skills; communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity offer educators, learners, and families the opportunity to include life skills and practices into the mix of what school values while the society at large has fully valued these for many years.
To my mind, the ideal measuring and valuing system is one that is at least understood and accepted by the learners that it measures and values. At best, the measuring and valuing would be designed and created by the learner as guided by their educators and their families.
Why M.L.K. Matters to Children Today
Martin Luther King was a tireless worker for creating a better America. In this sense, children should know who he was and what he was all about. MLK’s work was all about making things better for children. He knew the things he was working for would take time to achieve and would manifest more fully for the children of his time to experience. In this way MLK stands out as someone who deeply cared about children and children should have people like that for reflection.
MLK was a tireless believer in the power of love. Children know that their greatest power is to love and be loved. MLK’s stance for non-violence and for the power of non-violence speaks to children as they are among the most vulnerable to violence.
MLK was a tireless believer in hope and action. Children raised with a spirit of hope for the future are more likely to grow naturally and fully. Children who learn and see models for action in creating better futures will be more likely to develop as people of action themselves. Action and hopefulness are a great combination for the making of life and the development of a society.
MLK was a tireless worker for the rights of all women and men.
MLK was tireless worker to end poverty and its destructive impact on the development of society.
MLK was a great example of sacrifice and commitment to things higher than self.
All these attributes are found in other people, in famous and non-famous. Still, Martin Luther King stands out in America and across the globe as a unique figure in the historical development of mankind. As a family of billions of people over time, we are connected to big ideas and to inspiration by people we know close in our lives and by people whose lives have become global narratives. Their lives, words, images, and legacies serve us in sustaining ways. In all of these ways, MLK is important for children to know. In all these ways MLK matters to children.
As I get older in years I have taken to rereading books from our home’s many bookshelves. We are a family of readers and some books have kept a thirty plus hold on the mind. For various reasons, the works of Colin M. Turnbull are certainly among those texts in the keeper list. This rereading reminds me of the ever developing sense of identity we have. If we are lucky enough to live on in decades, we live different lives. My wife and I have lived the lives of teachers for the past thirty two years and we brought the books we read and their ideas through this pedagogical work. Recently in rereading Turnbull’s book, The Human Cycle, I remembered how deftly he describes childhood among the Mbuti people while comparing it to his upbringing as a well to do member of the English/Scottish establishment. His insights remain profound and resonate deeper than ever as I ponder how new trends in western education harken to the types of schools and society we should and can create for children.
Mbuti children grow outward through exploration and discovery and inward through using their senses to find who they are as individuals. Their physical, intellectual,and spiritual selves are not segmented into different compartments but rather are constantly interacting as they become their indivisible selves. Mbuti children experience intense early physical connection with their mother and have a deep sense of family togetherness that link them to people and place. Mbuti life is complete with mutuality and as the child develops and faces challenges, they are able to face them and grow as individuals. Mbuti children grow up among family who are part of and connect with the spirit of life itself and this is what they draw from to understand variation in people and to find resolution in conflict.
As we have entered into the twenty first century, now almost two decades in, many schools are recognizing skills or practices that seem necessary to survive and thrive in this modern day while also serving humans in any time and context. Many are calling them the 4Cs or more than 4Cs. They speak to the notion that not only do we need adults to be collaborative and creative but that childhood should be replete with opportunities for children to work together in collaborative ways rather than competitive ways and to learn from adult models who do the same. More and more we are creating opportunities for children and teachers to work together and connect themselves to the world around them. More and more we are trying to create school and classroom cultures that create conditions that allow children to work together while also allowing them to use all their senses and talents to find themselves as individuals. All of this work is emergent or re-emergent and is a far cry from the dividing, separating, and often dehumanizing contexts we have created in the name of school for many many years in western institutions.
Teachers have long worked within these constraining confines, some subverted them quietly and others reinforced them while most intuitively understand that raising children in fragmented, competition, highly standardized, factory like settings is not a natural condition for the human species. Still, Turnbull’s deep anthropological work does not glorify a native existence. It tells it like it is, but his comparison to the cruelty and distance of his own upbringing gives us all an easy opportunity to reflect on what we want and what we can design for children in terms of their learning environments. To this aim, I say Bravo to all our nation’s schools that are putting communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking first and a Bravissimo to those who add caring as a quintessential “C.”
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