Want to see how a school can go from 0-60 in a short period of time? Think you have obstacles that are difficult to overcome? Read on!
As my readers know, Julie Wilson invited me on to a team working with Ortiz Middle School in Santa Fe, NM, a recognized underperforming school with an extremely underserved student population. Julie and I have been honored to facilitate visioning and team building activities since the late summer with a cohort of passionate 6th grade teachers who want to change how we “do” school, but who, by their own admission, really did not have a sense of what that meant. There have been some stutter steps in the last few months; as Julie preaches, there is some “storming” before “performing”.
When Julie and I were there in September we observed a lot of “same as always” in the classrooms, with a few incipient brushfires burning. The main feedback we gave: students are still largely sitting in rows or groups, stuck to their seats, for 50 minutes, politely raising their hands one at at time. We asked “How might we get some movement and energy and engagement by ALL the students into the room?” And we impressed on the team: stick with it; build your team; start to work as a team with shared vision, not as a group of individuals; help, share, learn together. And it is only the end of the first quarter!
So yesterday we got this email from Debra Parke, one of the two outstanding team leaders:
I wanted to share what Paige did today. She moved the furniture to her office and along the walls and students worked to build a Cartesian plane on the floor of her class, working in self defined groups based on their ability to graph, and created four figures with string, stickers and tape. It was amazing to watch the students work on this project.
Our team meetings have become productive and creative as team members other than (the team leaders) now take turns facilitating the meeting. The team is planning an interdisciplinary unit with Joaquin and Josh taking the lead as it is focused on Ancient Greek Mythology. There is a plan forming for a parent night culminating event to showcase the work.
The team has come together – as we met, ALL members voiced input. Those who have been less talkative or non-participatory stepped up (perhaps it was the video clip James showed at the beginning of the meeting about how LeBron James’ team lost the NBA title- even though he was a superstar, they could not be all they could without team work — it was an inspirational moment). Evan is asking to hear what Joaquin has to say, Paige asked Aida to share her thoughts as Aida was waiting her turn patiently, yet showing excitement at showing an idea.
It was an exciting place to be today.
I feel like a co-coach whose underdog team just beat the league champs; and know that by the end of the year this team is going to BE the league champs. As I have posted before, and in what has become a standard wrap up in my keynotes, there is a difference between “great” schools and “leading” schools. Ortiz is a long way from being great by objective measures, but they are sure leading in many ways!