Embracing Change With Two Schools in Jacksonville Beach, Florida

What an honor and pleasure to work with educators who have dedicated a large piece of their lives to the fulfillment of children!  And all the better when I find a group well rested after summer, ready to dive back in, not only to the work of the upcoming school year, but with a passion and enthusiasm to try new things, to meet the needs of change and innovation in the “can do” spirit that made America great and that has been a true measure of human accomplishment for thousands of years.

photo 1Today was just such a day, working with a combined team from Beaches Episcopal and Discovery Montessori in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  Both are smallish pre-school through 6th grade programs with finite resources but big imaginations for what the future of learning might be, and a willingness to meet the challenges head on, recognizing that change might be uncomfortable, but that discomfort is not an excuse for the stout of heart and sure of mind.

We reflected on times of peak learning in our lives and on the roles and opportunities for teachers to take on the mantle of educator-leader. We found that vision and mission statements might contain ambiguities because we are collegial when sometimes we should be more critical…in a collaborative way.  We pondered who, in fact, are our primary customers, and how we build a solid value proposition for them in a time when consumers increasingly buy for value, not legacy. We asked “what if” questions and in just a few minutes, teams of teachers from across the silos of grade level and subject area pitched ideas about:

  • Rotating teacher-partners to increase the frequency of collegial observation and feedback.
  • Teachers leading faculty meetings.
  • Holding frequent debriefing sessions from teachers who have gone on school visitations, dramatically increasing the number of those visitations, and combining school faculties to “share in the sharing”.
  • Throwing out last years’ syllabus…every year.

And much more.

photo-1In my side bars with second year HOS Martha Milton of Beaches Episcopal, we talked about the need to create a vision of pedagogy, curriculum. and instruction before building strategies for the use of time, space, and money.  I toured the school and found hallways lacking only a wall covered in Idea Paint in order to become an active learning space and classrooms that might become wonderfully active as they acquire moveable, writeable furniture.

I am a real optimist; it is hard not to be when spending a day with dedicated teachers and an enthusiastic leader who are ready, in fact eager, to take a risk and grow as people and as teaching professionals!  Off to St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Boca Raton tomorrow.  Hard to keep up with all of the work and people I encounter; what a blessing and learning experience for me!

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