• Keeping Learning at the Center

    Posted by Jen Miller-Arsenault on 12/12/2016 12:00:00 PM

    I subscribe to the Responsive Classroom listserve.  Last week I received an email from them with the subject line Engaging Middle Schoolers During the Holiday Season.  The article contains a number of timely reminders and tips that are relevant for all of us.  Among them is a reminder that many of our students are overwhelmed or saddened by the upcoming holidays and breaks; maintaining a predictable routine is one of the best things we can do to support our students and channel their emotions and energy during this time of year.  Being thoughtful about the questions that we pose during Morning Meeting and TA is also important; we want to ensure that our questions are inclusive of all students.

    School delays and cancellations can add to the general air of distraction and disruption, as I am sure many of you are experiencing right now, as can big snowfalls during the day and indoor recesses due to extremely cold temperatures.

    I encourage you all to take a few minutes to read the articles below.  They are succinct, eloquent, and timely.  I especially appreciate the reminders in Keep Learning Going During Holiday and Vacation Times.  During my first year of teaching I learned the hard way that it is critical to stick to routines, maintain high expectations, reinforce success, and keep the learning going during both holiday times and the end of the school year.  May you find these articles timely and helpful as you and your students keep learning at the center now and throughout the school year. 



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  • Feedback from WCSU Inservice Day on August 24, 2016

    Posted by Jen Miller-Arsenault on 9/27/2016 9:30:00 AM

    As I am working hard to organize the upcoming WCSU inservice day on October 7, I am revisiting the feedback that so many of you provided after the WCSU inservice day on August 24.  I want to share the highlights with you and let you know how your feedback will inform our future work.

    First, 145 of you responded to the general feedback survey.  Overall, the quantitative responses were positive: 80% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the objectives were relevant to their practice, 77% of respondents agreed that the design and structure of activities met their needs as learners and helped us achieve our objectives and 92% expressed a commitment to continue the work at the building level.

    Themes emerged in the qualitative data, too, but there were also some stark contradictions.  Overall and overwhelmingly, participants clearly expressed appreciation for the level of choice that was embedded in afternoon SLO sessions and the opportunity to interact with grade/subject alike colleagues from across the school system.

    Many participants indicated that the most useful part of the inservice day was the success analysis protocol because it was authentic, personal and celebratory.  At the same time, others felt that the success analysis protocol was contrived.  On a related note, some people expressed appreciation for meeting in the same groups as last year for the success analysis protocol and others said that they are ready to begin to build relationships with new groups.  A lot of people expressed appreciation for the health care presentation and felt that it was important for all of us to hear the same message at the same time; others felt that it was depressing and irrelevant.

    Finally, many people acknowledged the talent and expertise of our staff.  I, for one, remain grateful for and humbled by the knowledge and skills of our staff and for folks’ willingness to step up and share their knowledge and skills with their colleagues.

    Regarding the feedback on the SLO sessions themselves, folks responded to the survey 453 times!  I am still analyzing the results and figuring out next steps, but some themes are very clear.  Overall, folks expressed appreciation for the time to learn more about the work that was done this summer, to engage in collaborative conversations with colleagues and to consider their practice in light of our core knowledge standards and transferable skills.  To sum it up, I’ll quote one respondent: “I have a lot to learn, but I feel that I am on the way.”

    The objectives for our inservice day on October 7 include: Deepening our sense of community PreK-Proficiency, analyzing data to inform instruction and further developing our shared understanding of student learning outcomes, standards, performance indicators and proficiency across the school system.  While the objectives will not lend themselves to an “ed camp” structure this time, there will be plenty of opportunities to connect with grade/subject alike colleagues to build on the work that we started together at the beginning of the year.

    The plans for the day are coming together, but as of this post they are not quite done.  Nonetheless, I encourage you to check out the October 7 page of our WCSU Inservice Days 2016-2017 Google site sooner rather than later.

    Thanks to all of you who completed the feedback surveys last month.  While we can’t always respond to every suggestion or critical comment, we do read your feedback carefully and consider it each time we make plans to get together as a supervisory union in service to our students.

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  • Relationships First

    Posted by Jen Miller-Arsenault on 9/2/2016 3:50:00 PM

    I am taking advantage of a few quiet moments on a Friday afternoon to catch up on some professional reading.  As such, I just opened up the September 2016 issue of Educational Leadership and feel compelled to write. 

    This issue of Ed Leadership is entitled Relationships First and the first article is about the importance of establishing positive relationships with students during the first few weeks of the school year. 

    Rick Wormeli, of Fair Isn’t Always Equal acclaim, writes: “Although we can build positive relationships throughout the school year, the first weeks are crucial.  They set the tone and conditions for the year ahead, creating a more effective teaching and learning enterprise for everyone.  James Comer, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, often declares, ‘No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.’  This connection is especially powerful for students who struggle.” 

    I am struck by the investment that Washington Central Supervisory Union and our schools have made in the Responsive Classroom, the Teacher Advisory system and Restorative Practice.  Implemented with fidelity, authenticity, respect and a bit of awe and wonder, these systems lay the foundation so that all of our students achieve our WCSU Student Learning Outcomes. 

    I wish you all a fabulous start to the school year!

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  • Welcome!

    Posted by Jen Miller-Arsenault on 8/19/2016 5:15:00 PM

    Welcome to my blog!  I am looking forward to using this forum periodically to communicate with you in service to our WCSU students.  Stay tuned for more soon.

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