THE #FWSU STORY: Won’t You Be My…Partner? The Potential of Partnerships

A classic photo of Mr. Fred Rogers
Mister Rogers    .

I was recently talking to a colleague about a professional learning opportunity she had attended. She mentioned the presenter had noted that some of the terms we use in education can inadvertently set a less than welcoming tone in our work together on behalf of students. This presenter suggested we use the term“partner” to describe those collaborations on behalf of learners and learning. I found myself returning to the idea of partners and partnerships again and again during meetings and my own professional reflection time. What is it we could learn about being “partners” that could shift and strengthen our approaches to larger collaborative efforts? Throughout these thinking expeditions, a musical backdrop emerged: Fred Rogers singing “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood… 

A beautiful day for a neighbor…”

Mr. fred Rogers, “won’t you be my neighbor”

We talk a lot about collaboration as essential in education because IT IS. And in addition, as we move to embrace more “future ready” ways of thinking about education, we talk about more rapid cycles of change through co-creating and then co-curating models and approaches, rather than going through multi-year development and implementation processes, all in an effort to be more nimble in our work on behalf of our students. And it’s all really hard. Because of the complexities of change, having a partner to share meaningful work with is not only rewarding but necessary. When individuals and groups seek to partner together on behalf of improving the learning lives of students, they can make the most of their assets and resources.

“So let’s make the most of this beautiful day…”


In education, we are fortunate that we have multiple sources of partnerships. Schools and teachers partner with parents and families to improve learning. School communities partner with businesses and organizations at various levels. Teachers partner with teachers to address student learning needs.  Teachers partner with students to create and curate learning opportunities.  Despite the myriad of collaborations in education, not all of them are successful. Partnership is a term that implies a closeness and a personal investment in the work. The word actually comes from the Latin “partitionem” which can mean “a share or sharing.” To have a share in something implies tremendous investment. In partnership, aspiration and inspiration can join together to create that “share” and propel us forward to achieving goals that a single individual would struggle not only to move forward, but to achieve, scale up, and sustain.

“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you…

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you…”


One of the most critical components of collaboration is shared beliefs. In order to make an investment in a partnership, a strong belief that things can change for the better is necessary and is often how partners find each other and partnerships begin.  In his analysis of the kinds of practices that have the greatest impact on student learning, John Hattie found that “collective efficacy” has a 1.57 “effect size” on student achievement.THAT. IS. HUGE. Collective efficacy is defined as the belief that “by doing things together, you can make a difference.” Working with people who share your beliefs is so important.

“Since we’re together…”


So how can we develop partnerships and make the most of collaboration? The answer is deceptively simple: by learning together. What makes these alliances so strong is not coming in with answers, but sharing the questions, curiosities, and possibilities that allow us to learn and grow together.

Here are resources to help partners learn more about the information and ideas shared in this post:

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE FWSU STORY: Eight Days in China: A Principal’s Reflection

As we sat in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon awaiting our flight, the gate area began to fill primarily with people speaking Chinese. This was not a big surprise as we were about to embark on a 16-hour flight to begin our eight-day journey in China. At that point, I remember thinking that I probably was not going to understand much of what was said around me for a while. I did not realize how real or powerful that thought would prove to be.

A bustling street corner in Xichang
A bustling street corner in Xichang

We arrived in Chongqing at about 1:00 AM on Monday morning and settled in for a brief sleep before continuing our travel to Xichang early the next day. I ate breakfast and decided to talk a brief walk down the street for my first experience in China. The neighborhood was bustling as people headed to work and dropped off their young children at school. As I walked, it became very clear that I stood out among the residents of this section of the city. It was probably somewhat my imagination, but it seemed that every person on the street was staring at me. I know for a fact that I couldn’t understand a word that anyone was saying or read a single storefront sign.

For the first time in my life, I was obviously the different one. I thought about how some of our students back home might feel the same way in our relatively homogeneous school population. I thought about our students who struggle with reading. For some of them, our written words must be as confusing as the Chinese characters in store windows and on street signs that I couldn’t read. As I walked back to the hotel, the idea of empathy ran through my head.

BFA Fairfax flag
BFA Fairfax Principal John Tague unveils a gift with Rachel McIntyre and Superintendent Ned Kirsch

Now don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying that my voluntary eight days in China as an outsider in any way equate to an understanding of people with no choice regarding the ethnicity, ability, or another characteristic not in their control. I knew that I would be leaving China and returning to my world where everything is pretty comfortable. In the meantime, I got a glimpse into a world where I was different from most everyone else. It helped me to appreciate the perspective of our students who are unlike their peers. It helped me to understand that being different helps you empathize with others. It helped me to understand that our students need exposure to situations such as this to broaden their horizons and better prepare them for the world outside of Franklin County and Vermont.  And this all happened during a ten-minute walk on my first morning in China.

A view of the city
A view of the city

As we toured China during the rest of the week, we met with school officials. It turns out that they want the same thing that we do — the opportunity to interact with a different culture to develop a better understanding. School officials wanted to send their students to our school and welcomed our students to visit theirs. We had sent a group of our students to China the week before we visited and know that it was a life-changing experience for all of them. Next semester, we hope to have three Chinese students attend BFA Fairfax.

We need to figure out how to send more students abroad — not just to China, but to a variety of countries throughout the world and to other parts of the US. Over the years, we have had students travel to France, England, Costa Rica, Greece, and Puerto Rico. It’s complicated because the trips are teacher dependent (“Mr. So-and-So always takes us to…”) and relatively unpredictable (“we’re going to England in April”). It can be a burden on that teacher who always has to plan a trip (and what happens if they ever retire?)! The short lead-time for the trips makes it financially difficult for some students to participate.

I ate some amazing food in China!
My trip to China would not have been complete without experiencing the incredible food!

In 2019, we will have a group of teachers work to develop a system that makes international travel predictable, meaningful and affordable for BFA Fairfax students. If a student knows when they enter high school that a trip to Spain will be offered during their Senior Year, they can plan accordingly. It has to be a system that is not dependent on a particular teacher. The Spanish teacher can’t be responsible for every trip to Spain. Other teachers will need to take their turn-perhaps the Spain trip can be ahistorical journey led by a Social Studies teacher. Once the system and structure for a trip is established, shifting the focus should be relatively easy. As the work of this group progresses, we will share details here.

So that’s what I learned on my trip to China. I met some great people, learned so much about Chinese culture and history, ate fantastic and exotic foods, and got to see pandas. We visited large cities(Chongqing has 35 million and Chengdu has 30 million) and small cities (Xichang has just 3 million people). We spent a lot of time in airports and also rode the “Bullet Train.”  It was an eye-opening adventure that I hope to help our students experience. 


John Tague is the High School Principal at BFA Fairfax. You can follow him @jtague252 


The tip-off of the 2018-19 BFA Fairfax basketball season is just around the corner, and the BFA Athletic Department is pleased to welcome two new members to the high school basketball family.  New junior varsity coaches Patrick Greene (boys) and Leslie Lamoureux (girls) are two experienced and highly skilled coaches who bring fantastic ideas and energy to our programs. We’d like to take this opportunity to introduce them to our school community.

Patrick Greene – JV Boys Basketball

Can you tell us about your coaching experience?

I have coached at all levels of basketball over the last 10+ years. Most recently, for the past four seasons, I have been an assistant coach for JV & Varsity at a DII high school in Providence RI where we made the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 seasons. I also coached the #1 ranked JV in the state two seasons ago (14-1). In addition to that I have been coaching for a well known, highly competitive AAU program in RI for the last 6 years, competing against the top competition throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

What are you most excited for this season?

Being in a new environment and getting to know all of the players and their families. I love being in the gym with the team for practices and games. Watching the players improve over the season, seeing their confidence grow, and teaching them things they might not have known about the game to start.

What will success look like for you?

Every team I coach I always measure success the same way; how many kids come back the following season. Everyone wants to win games, everyone wants to be successful and especially nowadays there is a lot of pressure on coaches, players, and all involved but if a player comes back the next season it usually means they had fun, felt challenged, learned some life lessons, and generally enjoyed the experience. To me that’s success.

Do you have a favorite sports memory?

Last year I was asked to “help out” if I could with a middle school CYO team. When I arrived to the tryout I was the only coach in a gym of 30+ kids much to my surprise. I had to run a tryout on the fly, make three teams, and head coach one of the teams. The team I coached ended up going 12-2 and had the #2 seed in the state playoff. We rolled through the playoffs and ended up beating the #1 seed in the state finals (a very good city team that beat us by 17 during the season). We won the state title and went on to represent RI in the “New Englands” in Hartford, CT.

Leslie Lamoureux – JV Girls Basketball

Can you tell us about your coaching experience?

5 years coaching high school girls basketball at Keene High School in Keene, NH.

What are you most excited for this season?

I am excited to see what the season will bring. Working with a new group of girls and in a different environment can seem a bit intimidating but this athletic program has welcomed me and I feel truly blessed to be a part of it.

What will success look like for you?

1. Building and working together as a team/program  2. learning how to become a better teammate 3. to of course HAVE FUN! ….all three I believe will lead to a successful season.

Do you have a favorite sports memory?

I played basketball at Norwich University. At one of our away games, the gym (at Simmons University) was located in a lower part of an athletic building, where we needed to take an elevator to get there. When the doors opened, we noticed a team was already practicing on the court. It was the San Antonio Spurs getting ready for their game against the Celtics that night! We were able to get a few autographs on our shoes. Quite the memory!!!

THE FWSU STORY: Teaching Young Children Self-Regulation for Resilience

For young learners, it is important to take a break and relax during the school day.


Children in Miss Sweet’s class take 3 minutes each school day to lay down, relax their muscles and practice breathing in through their noses and out through their mouths.  It sounds simple but it requires practice! Many children try to pant or do quick breaths, those are not relaxing breaths.


These children are doing the Drain Breath.


Ask your children about the different breaths they’ve learned to create calm and balance in their busy day of learning. And it’s not just for children – adults can benefit from these techniques as well.


Self-Regulation is an important skill for young learners as a tool for maintaining social-emotional awareness and resilience.

Stay connected with all that is happening by visiting the Georgia Elementary Preschool Program blog

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Return From China Learning Experience

Students and teachers are settling back in to daily life at BFA Fairfax after returning from a whirlwind week in China. It’s hard to imagine that just last week we were on the other side of the world.


We were graciously invited by Spiral International to be ambassadors for international exchange in which we visited six schools in three cities in five days. We were even able to reunite briefly with students in Chongqing and Chengdu who had previously participated in our summer cultural exchange program.  


Students and staff were very warmly welcomed to each school. We were invited to participate in  round table discussions with administration, morning exercises, flag raising and traditional fan dance ceremonies, dance lessons, paper cutting, kung fu, and a friendly basketball match all before lunch on Monday! We were treated to lessons in leaf pressing, calligraphy, and we are still humming the tune we learned about the kapok tree (in Mandarin). Students shadowed classes in physics, politics, psychology, mathematics, and of course English.

Though our days were full, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore numerous museums, the famous Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, and downtowns Chongqing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou.

Our students made BFA proud. They were adventurous eaters, resilient travelers, and cultural ambassadors who reminded us constantly of the human connections which we all share.

Global Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals #teachSDGs


THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Students Celebrate International Education Week with Cultural Read-Aloud

A collaboration between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, International Education Week aims to promote the exchange of learning world-wide, promote programs that prepare Americans for the global environment, and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences.
Fletcher’s school-based leadership team members each selected a children’s book that reflects an international theme. Some of the books celebrated education specifically, while others shared cultural experiences. At a whole-school gathering, each reader presented a one-minute “book talk” about their chosen story and students then selected the book they wanted to hear. Following the read-aloud, the books each became available to students and staff in the school library.
“We came together to celebrate and appreciate our similarities and differences and learn about others,” instructional coach and leadership team member Denette Locke said. “In this small way, our world became just a little bit smaller for our students.”
“Every time I learn something new about a different place or different people I feel like I know them a little better and get more and interested in how things are different in other places,” sixth grader Monica King said. “I also learned that even though we do a lot of things differently around the world we are mostly the same.”
Fletcher’s cultural read-aloud was a registered event with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs. The books that were read included, Waiting on the Biblioburrothe story of how library books are delivered by donkey in another country, as well as Tikki Tikki Temboa playful tale of Chinese culture, among others.
“Our school’s leadership team understands that we are a small, rural school. At the same time we provide a tremendous amount of individual attention, we also recognize that our size and geographic location can be culturally isolating for our students. We have a responsibility to bring the world to students in an effort to help them understand, respect and problem-solve with others,” special educator and leadership team member Sarah Tucker said.
“In addition to the cultural aspects, ” Tucker said, “this type of literacy-based learning also reminds our students that they can easily learn about, and connect with, people and places around the world through the great literature they have at their fingertips at school. It’s a good reminder that you can visit people and places across the globe without leaving Fletcher.”
International Education week takes place simultaneously with American Education week.
GOAL 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.






Chris and Jackson

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

The FWSU Story: Friday…November…

Each day on the FWSU Story we try to communicate exciting news and information about our schools and students. This has been our goal every day for the past seven years.  But what really make our schools dynamic are the day-to-day learning opportunities and interactions that occur without much fanfare.  They are the heart of our schools.IMG_3450

It could be students listening to their teacher read a story…IMG_3451

It could be a team of educators planning for the next “big thing,”…IMG_3453

)r a group of friends enjoying lunch together… IMG_3454

Or a physical education class learning basketball skills…IMG_3456

Or getting ready for recess…IMG_3457

Or checking out the daily assignment on Schoology… IMG_3458

Or tinkering with circuits in an Innovation Lab…IMG_3459

Or collaborating on a project…


These opportunities and interactions are what make our schools special.