When we sit at the table, we have a chance to listen, we have a chance to speak. We engage in the power of story. With this in play, we open the door for understanding; we create a space for empathy. We create connections. We create an opportunity for community. I had a chance to sit at two tables last Friday. I had a chance to speak. I had a chance to listen. I had a chance to connect.
At the first table, there were no kids. They were either still sleeping or just getting up. Fridays are late-start days in our district, and so, for that first, without-kids hour, we collaborate. It began as a normal, grade-level collaboration opportunity, Jenna, Maddie, and I were talking Performance design when our first guest showed up. Anna, one of our assistant principals, a regular guest, joined us, and we set to work, reviewing and discussing next steps in our journey. But there were more guests to follow. Unexpectedly, our district superintendent and building principal also showed up. Our principal joined the grade 9 team, and our superintendent joined our grade 10 team. The big boss was at our table.
Currently in the Cheney School District, we are working on establishing professional learning communities (PLC’s). The work has just begun, and our Superintendent, Rob Roettger, is leading the charge as we make our way through this important but challenging transition. As a leader, he is present in the work. And so, though unexpected, we were not surprised to find him at our table. In fact, we were quite pleased. The push for PLC’s was welcomed by our grade 10 team. In many respects, we were already there, so this direction, this work was largely just a continuation of what we had already been doing: coming together around student work to drive our decisions about teaching and learning. With Rob at the table, we were eager to share our work. We are proud of what we’re doing. And while we did touch upon and highlight what matched up with our district mandates, the conversation wandered down a different path. We got to talk about grades.
It was our assistant principal Anna’s fault. She pointed out the path, urging us to share our select-and-support grading journey. And so we did. Well, I did. Those who know me best, know I like to talk. Professionally, no one perhaps knows me better than Jenna and Maddie, my gradeless peeps. And while they did on occasion, get a word or two in, I ran with the ball while I had it in my hand. I have been wanting to have this conversation for two years, so I seized the opportunity. I think I even remembered to breathe, for during my run-of-the-mouth marathon, I did not pass out, and I only stopped because Maddie finally suggested maybe we take the mic away, and so, nearly forty minutes later, I stopped.
Of course, though it may have seemed, I did not talk the entire time. It was on some level a conversation. And at the end of that conversation, I would like to think that we had a chance to share our crazy journey, we had chance to make our case for why grading practices need to change. Of course, too, we offered that we have not arrived, that we have not found the answer, that we are simply chasing better, and it was a fulfilling moment for me when Rob said that he was stealing, “chasing better.” We spoke. He listened. We connected. Because…because we were at the table.
At the second table, there were kids. Many kids. And at that second table, we made our first formal efforts to create community with a new mix of members after the semester shuffle. Here are the things we discussed at our table during our first monthly Community Circle.
“Share a superstition.”
“How do you deal with stress?”
“I envy people who…”
“What is something that you could teach us?”
“What is the best/worst part about being a teenager?”
“What are you looking/not looking forward to as an adult?”
We had such a rich opportunity to share our stories on Friday. And while some of the kids still long for their semester-one families, many of them fell in comfortably with their new families on Friday. At the table.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns (our daily at-the-table talk).
…continue viewing The Book Thief.
…end with a Sappy Sy Ryhme.
Happy Monday, all. May you find yourself at your respective tables today.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.