Here’s how a network works.

Our Teaching-Learning-Innovation team is in its second year of learning with the WASA ILN. Lots of letters there. Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA). Instructional Leadership Network (ILN). We are learning with and from leaders around our state. Our two primary learning leaders are Dr. Jenni Donohoo and Dr. Peter DeWitt. Learning leaders is a good way to describe their work with us. So is learning challengers. Here’s a challenge from Peter DeWitt that sticks with me:

In our own shop, we are working with our principals and assistant principals. Our work is centered on Leading Collective Efficacy and our source material is Leading Collective Efficacy by Jenni Donohoo and Stefani Arzonetti Hite. We next meet again with our building leaders in early November. Peter’s challenge has me pondering.

I’m pondering the exact questions Peter posed. Do we all know why we’re learning about CTE? Is there a problem? What is the problem we’re addressing? Do we have the skills to address the problem? And are we, as the PL people, providing what is needed to address the problem?

This is the power of a professional network. Smart, experienced people ask other smart, experienced people questions. Pose challenges, in the context of the focus. And then smart, experienced people reflect, to make sure that the thing is indeed the thing. I think the thing is the thing, but who am I? I need to find out of others see the thing as the thing. The thing, in my opinion, is the loss of a sense of efficacy by some, or a lot, of teachers. That what they do, when they do it, produces the outcome they seek. The past 3 years have provided a fertile environment for efficacy to be diminished. Putting it mildly.

So when we gather to learn together next, with our smart, experienced building leader people, we’re going to lean into Peter’s challenging questions. And we are having that important and powerful conversation because of our work in a professional learning network.

Thanks to WASA, Mike, Chris, Jenni, and Peter!

Ritualize Reflection and Revision

Recently, our superintendent mentioned the book Street Data by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan. Then at a meeting with people who evaluate assistant principals and principals, the book was mentioned again. Each mention came with glowing reviews. So, I got the book. Put me in the glowing review camp. This blogpost will center on the ritualization of reflection and revision. Given that I’ve highlighted passages on just about every page, this is just where I’m going to start with my personal reflection and learning.

Excellent book.

As I’m assuming with everyone who reads things and thinks about things, I apply my experience. I apply my experience as a teacher, principal, and now assistant superintendent. And oddly enough, as my career rolls along, now in its 39th year, I’m astonished how much I don’t know and need to learn. This book helps me on that learning journey.

Here are just three ideas about the ritualization of reflection and revision. My teacher experience flat tells me how simple and powerful these ideas are, and on the off chance that anybody reads this blog, or reads this book, please consider these three ideas.

The premise. “Centering student voice doesn’t mean we stop giving feedback, but it does mean we shift our role from expert lecturer to expert coach, charged with the cognitive apprenticeship of students. Reflection and revision are two of our strongest tools in this regard and help students at the margins accelerate their skills over time.”

Favorite classroom move/idea number one: Begin a class period with time for students to reflect in writing and/or a turn and talk: What did you learn yesterday that stuck with you? What’s a concept that still feels confusing?

I picture this one in my math classroom. It’s pretty typical to take kid questions at the beginning of a math class. I like this idea better. Reflection and conversation.

Favorite classroom move/idea number two: End each week with a reflection protocol: What did I learn this week? What’s one thing I feel proud about? What’s one thing I’m still struggling with? Have them share their responses in small, ongoing peer groups and close with each student giving the peer to their left or right an appreciation.

Also picture this one in the context of a secondary math classroom. I LOVE the question, “What’s one thing I feel proud about?

Favorite classroom move/idea number two: Provide students with graphic organizers and structured protocols for giving each other feedback on their work. Teach them to sandwich feedback! “What I loved about this piece of work was … One question I had was … One suggestion I have is …”

One of the advantage of being a more senior educator, I was able to teach in a whole bunch of content areas. I love this move/idea in the context of both ELA and Social Studies classes.

I’m about halfway through the book and can’t wait to continue reading, learning, unlearning, and growing!

School Walk

This morning, we made another move to our new, latest normal. Our junior high building leadership team hosted a school walk!

The protocol for this walk is from NSRF, developed by Edorah Frazer and adapted from the work done by Steve Seidel.

Leaders pair up and walk through the school and classrooms:

  • What do you see?
  • What don’t you see?
  • What do you wonder about?
  • What do you think this school is working on?

Then the groups return and call out thoughts relative to the above inquiries. The building leadership captures the input without comment. When all have had the chance to share, then the building leaders reflect on that which they have heard. What was a surprise? Was it interesting? What is new?

Then the group talks about the implications for education and debriefs the protocol itself.

The observations, comments, insights, and learning were rich and profound. To a person, we were thrilled to see kids learning and engaging with teachers who clearly were engaged with the kids. It felt, sounded, and looked fantastic.

We learned a lot about ourselves over the last 4 years. We have brought the challenges into clear focus, and this school, with its gifted leadership and passionate educators are getting after it.

Please let me know where I can join you in your learning.

Monte Syrie hits another home run. Check out the image below.

In a lot of ways, I’m a simple guy. I like seemingly simple ideas. This idea might appear to be seemingly simple. But look a little more closely. It’s elegant. It’s nuanced and has layers.

With the invitation to engage in a support cycle, the student chooses where they/she/he enters the conversation. And of course, the list of entry points provides a lovely roadmap for a student to consider where he/she/they are in the personal learning process.


The list also highlights the array of tools a professional educator can bring to a student’s learning.


And man, the opportunity afforded a student and a teacher for a RICH learning conversation is stunning. The list is a script. A brainstorm. Conversation starters, icebreakers, etc.


And don’t get me started on, “Please let me know where I can join you in your learning.”

I’m going all the way back to Horace Mann when I consider the impact of that invitation.

“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.”

It’s not hard to imagine a kid being inspired and motivated by this process.