Target 1 – Student-Centered Learning
FWSU students will engage in personalized 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.
In today’s educational environment, the most important thing a principal can do is to be in classrooms interacting with students and staff members on a daily basis. Without making this a priority, I am not sure how a school leader keeps a pulse on the quality of instruction, the school climate, and student learning. Being in classrooms is my favorite part of my job. I learn so much about pedagogy, behavior management, assessments, and my students from observing and interacting in classrooms. A mentor of mine once said, “It is often what you don’t see in a really great teacher’s classroom that is most telling!” This statement is full of wisdom and has made an important impression on my professional practice.
Engaging classrooms and responsive teachers do not happen by accident. It is the result of constant professional learning, high levels of collaboration, ongoing reflection, and a laser-like focus on student needs.
It can be challenging to put into words the qualities and characteristics of effective teachers and the classroom environments they develop. In the classrooms of the most effective teachers, learning is constant and respect is evident at all times. It can be seen in the relationships, in the rigor of the learning, and the relevance of the content and learning opportunities.
In many ways state and national testing creates a similar paradigm. Although test data is important, it is also what the tests do not assess and do not show us that is equally important! Tests do not measure important qualities such as respect, responsibility, compassion, service to others, perseverance, or collaboration. We are charged with preparing students for future jobs that do not yet exist. This requires us to remain focused on skills, competencies, and dispositions that will allow students to learn, unlearn, and relearn throughout their lifetime. It is an exciting challenge and a compelling reason to continue to look for those things we cannot always measure.
We are so fortunate to have so many effective, student-centered, and caring educators at this school. As the landscape of education in Vermont continues to change, our students will continue to be well-served, and I hope we continue to monitor those valuable qualities we cannot assess and those important components we do not always see.
Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount