Visits Galore

Wow! What a week!  I feel like I can finally start to catch my breath – in the last 5 school days we’ve hosted 4 visits.  Folks in all sorts of job roles in our district are visiting and each visit was different.  We’ve had so many great questions and conversations from these visits that I just wanted to share a few.

Folks from central office have joined our visits each day – these are the division leaders from Instructional Services – leaders in curriculum departments, leading online learning, summer school, new teacher programs, and leaders from Department of Information Technology – those who work to select, support and maintain our incredible network, software and equipment.  These folks have such an integral role in the work we’re doing and it’s wonderful to have them out to see what the work has led to in our classrooms.

We’ve had teams from schools visit – sometimes a few teachers who are interested in moving their teams forward, sometimes leadership teams who want to see what this would look like for all of their students, sometimes it’s a few teachers who have questions and fears about what this might mean for their work and their students.

Combine a mixture from each of these groups – and you will see who our visitors have been.

We’ve opened every visit with a short overview of our (quick) journey – remember, we only started our application for this process one year ago.  We talk about some of the logistics and our school wide actions, we talk about relationships and how that impacts the work we’re doing.  Trust is key.  We answer questions and head out to visit classrooms.

Usually we can see differences in these first few steps – the questions folks ask often tell us where in their journey they are.  Starting the journey – the questions are almost always about logistics.  Ours were too.  When those logistics are taken care of, the conversation turns to instruction and professional learning for teachers.

Then we visit classrooms – teachers and those who work in open, sharing schools often head out on their own (with a map) and interact freely with teachers and students.  Those just beginning this journey often want to travel around with one of us as a guide, ask us questions and hesitate to head into classrooms, choosing instead to peer in from the doorways.  Building the trust in our schools needed to walk into each other’s rooms is so important for growth and change.

Neither of these is a bad thing.  We have been part of this journey at all steps of readiness over the last year.  I think our transformation was accelerated based on the work we’d done ahead of time (relationship building and school wide focus on critical thinking) and we currently have teachers and leaders at all levels along this journey.  I think one of the most beneficial parts of these visits is connecting with teachers who are thinking similarly AND with those who are a few steps ahead.  Teachers, administrators and folks from central office can connect and follow up later with these teachers and administrators when the work gets hard.

One of my favorite stories came out of a visit from teachers at a neighboring high school. They visited to check out the work our social studies teachers were doing. They learned from, connected with and went back to plan and try out some of what they learned.

We did the same thing when visiting our colleagues at another high school.  We spent the afternoon figuring out how to do what we learned from them and how to put it into place at our school.  Seeing changes right away is so uplifting and makes the hard work (and exhausted feelings) totally worth it!

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