The Beginning of the School Year–What’s on top?


I love the beginning of the school year! Despite the craziness of meeting students and parents, settling everyone into class and ensuring that teachers have everything that they need, there is a wonderful sense of contagious“freshness” that pervades everything we do.  I like to remind myself how lucky we are to work in an environment where you start afresh every twelve months. Students move up a grade, teachers have new faces to greet on the first day back, new goals are set and there is a sense of positivity with everyone  looking forward to the year ahead.

At our place, the talk this year is a lot about “alignment and congruence” –setting goals together, working collaboratively, keeping things consistent, moving forward as a learning community. As a leadership team, one of our aims is for all of the stakeholders to be “rowing the boat in the same direction” and we are working hard to develop actions that will enable this to happen. Over the years, two sets of research have impacted my beliefs and consequently my actions, around this issue. The first  is the work of Prof John Hattie from my own home country of New Zealand. His meta-analysis of research

about what aspects make a difference to student learning, has become well known around the world. However one of the outcomes of his work is his conclusion that there are greater differences in effectiveness for student learning within a school than there are between schools. Although it seems amazingly simple, it is very hard to ensure that every single student in a school is receiving what they need to meet their needs. Learning and growth can be occurring in one class but not in all.

The second article that I took particular notice of recently was written by a veteran teacher who decided to shadow a student for a whole day, observing what they did and how they were taught. The veteran teacher’s “takeaways” were very thought-provoking but my wondering from such an exercise was how aligned were the expectations on that student as they moved from class to class and lesson to lesson, or were they expected to learn differently according to the adult in front of them.

Leading a school where learning is the focus, where students are the center of all that we do and where everyone is heading in the one direction seems to me to be the most effective way to go. Let’s get going!

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