Target 1. Student Centered Learning: FWSU students will engage in personalize learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step: Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

Indicator of Success: Students and staff will apply existing knowledge to create original works as a means of personal or group expression.


Jonathan sat timidly, head bowed, at a round, blue cafeteria table, making himself as inconspicuous as possible while the other students and their families filtered into the gym and found their places in line for the traditional first day of school family breakfast. The room was electric with the chatter of reconnecting students. The polished floor squeaked with the sound of new sneakers and bright new school clothes and backpacks seemed to glow like ornaments on a magnificent holiday tree. Jonathan hung back, his newness to the school glaringly evident and his inability to speak virtually any English seemingly paralyzing.

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Through his Spanish-speaking teacher, Jonathan selected his breakfast, which now sat as silently and still as he did. He showed little interest in the milk, juice or fruit, but stared wonderingly at the warm glistening sticky bun that slowly released white icing over its edges in waves of repelling sweetness and oozed a slow moving molten river of gooey brown sugar from its base.  He leaned in, closed his eyes as if he were a young man about to receive his first kiss, and inhaled slowly through his nose, savoring the comforting and luxurious waft of bread and sweet.

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Slowly, and with surgical precision, Jonathan twisted and detached the sticky bun from his tray with one hand and lifted it to his lips. He gave a final nod of approval before sinking his teeth slowly into the bun like a gentle but equally grand version of Jaws. Immediately, his body melted into the back of his chair. His shoulders sagged and his body went limp. All except the ear-to-ear smile cemented on his face. His legs protruded straight forward, relaxed. He didn’t chew for at least half a minute. Rather, you could see his tongue removing the sugar from the bun in almost effortless motions. Finally, he swallowed.

I soon learned that Jonathan had never seen or eaten a sticky bun before. I got as much pleasure out of watching him enjoy it as I might have if I had swallowed it myself. In that moment, despite all of his obstacles — a new school, a foreign language — he was completely immersed and engaged in the experience of something new. He was taking a risk and loving it.

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As the first day of school went on, I continued to think about Jonathan and his experience that morning. I thought to myself, “Isn’t this exactly what we want teaching and learning to be like every minute of every day? The first bite of the sticky bun!”

I told this story to a group of Fletcher teachers a few days later and invited them to share their “sticky bun” moments from the start of school. When had they observed students so completely savoring something new? What made that particular learning so appealing to them? How can we make all of our teaching and learning moments that engaging?

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The conversation prompted the idea that we would occasionally share “sticky bun moments” at our staff meetings. These are opportunities for staff to share proven strategies that they have used that resulted in student engagement beyond their wildest dreams. The moments that ooze success and drip relevant, personalized sweet learning.

Born out of one student’s experience with breakfast, sticky buns have become the bar for student engagement in Fletcher.



Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

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