Musings from an Awesome Day!

Walking around the building today, I had a few interactions that for me highlight why Athena is a phenomenal place to work and learn. I would like to share them with you all…
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1) Math Teacher Analysis – I dropped into the math department for official business (actually, I heard there were cookies).  Ellen, Lisa, Eric, Erick and I have a really invigorating discussion about the changing nature of education, what failure means (and doesn’t mean), systematic approaches to school improvement and a bunch of other great stuff.  I use the word invigorated intentionally.  I came away truly inspired by the passion for our students that these great educators have. I learned much, and am glad to work with people willing to shoot straight with me.
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2) Music Teacher Genius – During PLT time yesterday I travelled to the Music wing for a conversation with Brian King, our new Band Director and instrumental teacher.  Brian had invited a friend, Jared, who is a veteran teacher at Hilton to come and co teach a lesson with him in order to provide him with feedback on how Brian can improve his own instruction.  I also had the opportunity to watch Brian work with a group of his students on scales… I am not a music guy by any stretch of the imagination! But I know what great teaching looks like.  Brian will likely not be thrilled that I am sharing this, but I was thoroughly impressed with the inner drive for personal growth that led to him inviting Jared to give him feedback.  I believe that the willingness to be critiqued by ones peers for the purpose of personal growth is an incredible way to guarantee that you improve. I’m looking forward to hearing the result of this personal growth in upcoming concerts and productions.
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3) Art Teacher Creativity – Fourth period today, while wandering the halls I stumbled upon George Howell’s art class working on Pottery.  The environment in the class was the epitome of creativity.  Students were working on pottery and in all stages of the creative/developmental process.  Students were working with passion, enthusiasm and determination.  Mr. Howell was moving from student to student providing targeted feedback on how to improve the quality of the pottery, while inspiring his students to express creativity at the same time. I took some video and will post a collage of the student work on Facebook later tonight.  My take away from this brief drop in was that students at Athena have an incredible opportunity to develop all aspects of their brain.  The creativity was not random or completely free formed, but structured and scaffolded in a way that truly seemed to free the students to express themselves well.
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4) Incredible Work Ethic: Everyone one here is so focused on personal and professional improvement.  The work you do, each and every day is so important. Erick commented that he has never seen a time in his 24 years as a teacher when his colleagues were working harder.  That is a huge complement to the entire staff.
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5) Making Time for the Right Stuff: Over and over I hear teachers saying that they would like more time to work together. With that in mind, I want to reiterate, that the PLT time we spend this year is not intended to be “just another thing” to add to the mountain of work.  We hope that it is a major chunk of time that can be allocated to doing work that you already do because you are great teachers.  This should not be meaningless hoop jumping… rather it should be 16 hours (throughout the year) of time allocated for you to work with your peers on your own professional development.  The focus should be on the following: a) Collaboration with peers, b) looking at real assessments in a relevant time frame, c) dialoguing about how to help students improve their skills.  If it becomes anything else we need to realign.  We are allocating a huge chunk of time to this… we want to to be worthwhile and authentic. If it isn’t… tell us and lets work together to fix that problem.
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Okay,this has been a long post. Thanks for reading.  Final thoughts… I love it here. You are an incredible staff and faculty.
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