I’m hoping this letter finds you and your families in good health and continuing to enjoy what is left of your summer break. Hard to believe that we’re just a few weeks away from getting back together as I know many of you have been around the district on and off since this past year ended. Sometimes it feels as if we just slow down a bit during June-August, but we never really stop. If you’re anything like me you may in fact be glad the summer is speeding by so that we can get all that much closer to ending this current presidential election cycle.
We just completed our first-ever DesignQuest ideation and prototyping challenge, which included two dozen teachers and administrators, as well as a number of other individuals, stakeholders, and students. I’m excited about the potential and will explain more during our all-staff opening session on August 30 (please note this will be in the Lee OAC this year) including the opportunities you can have to participate in this process.
As we head into this school year, I’d like you to keep the following question in mind: How do we learn most powerfully and deeply in our own lives? I know that if you spent some time pondering this question and reminiscing about the learning experiences you’ve had, you’d come to a realization that a lot of how we structure school, teaching, and learning is not at all similar to those experiences. Deep learning requires that we care about what we are learning, see relevance in our own lives, share a common interest with others, and have the opportunity to learn in a haphazard way, not just a fixed linear path. But most of all, we learn best what we apply in our lives.
When you think about it, learning is not rocket science; we’re all learners and we know what it means to learn. But the traditional structure of school is disconnected from this natural day-to-day learning process. Why is it that we (society as a whole) tend to ignore what we know about learning when we step through the school doors? This is why we as a district need to continue building a culture of design thinking that builds a learning community based on at least three simple questions:
- How might we change our current concept of “school” to take the focus off of efficiency and standardization and place it rightfully on deep, powerful learning experiences?
- How might we move away from an 1894 model of creating content “knowers” and replacing it with a model that provides experiences that encourage and develop “learners?”
- How might we build a culture and climate that promotes and supports risk taking, and learning from our failures, that’s centered on the principle of the “freedom to teach and learn?”
Think about it over the coming weeks and I’ll revisit these ideals in my opening comments on August 30.
Our back-to-school schedule is as follows:
Monday, August 8 – School administrators return; 1st Annual College Boot Camp for the Class of 2016 (12-3 pm); fall sports seasons begin this week; Regular Board of Education meeting at 7:00 pm
Monday, August 15 – Building office staff return and school offices re-open
Week of August 22 – Student orientations scheduled
Tuesday – 7th/8th Grades, 9-12 noon
Tuesday – 6th Grade, 6-8 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – East Lee Campus, 10 am – 2 pm
Wednesday – LHS 9th, 10th, 11th & 12th Grades, 9-12 noon
Week of August 29 – Staff preparations
Monday – New Teacher Orientation, 8 am – 2 pm, District Admin Bldg
Tuesday – All-Staff Opening Day (Note: Opening meeting in the Lee OAC)
7:00-7:50 am Optional Hot Breakfast, Lee OAC
8:00-8:30 am Welcome, Introductions, General Information
8:30-9:45 am Opening Keynote Session – How might we…?
10:00-11:00 am Association Meetings
11:00-11:50 am Lunch (on your own)
12:00-3:00 pm Building Opening Meetings & Preparation; Support Staff Professional Development at the ECC
Wednesday – “Rebel U” Administrator & Teacher Staff Development, 8 am-3 pm
Thursday – Teacher Planning and Preparation Day, 8 am-3 pm
All support staff not normally scheduled to work before students return are expected to attend the opening all-staff keynote session on Tuesday, August 29, and may submit a time sheet for 8:00-11:00 am (3 hours maximum plus the afternoon professional development session). If you have questions, feel free to contact Mark Provost or Teresa Neeb for clarification.
Rebel U for ALL administrators and teachers will be held this year at the Crossroads Conference Center just north of 68th Street on Clay Avenue in Cutlerville (http://rebelu.godfrey-lee.org/2016/location).
This year, our Tech & Media Team has combined with Teaching, Learning and Accountability to plan an excellent agenda filled with opportunities to learn new skills or sharpen old ones throughout the day. It’s also a great time to connect district-wide and share what you are doing or would like to do with digital technology, curriculum, and design-thinking tools this year. You can review the complete agenda including session descriptions at http://rebelu.godfrey-lee.org/2016/agenda.
Sign-in for Rebel U begins at 7:30 am and as always you should plan ahead for any potential traffic problems trying to get to US 131 and 68th Street. Lunch will be provided and you are encouraged to bring a digital device with you. Visit the RebelU website for any more details.
Buildings will be open on Friday, September 2 for anyone desiring to access your classroom and complete any last minute preparations for opening day. Students report Tuesday, September 6th following the traditional Labor Day weekend. Enclosed is a calendar for your convenience in planning the new school year.
I look forward to seeing all of you soon but in the meantime, enjoy the remaining weeks of summer.