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Learning Communities

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On Tuesday of this week, I was invited to attend a Board of Education meeting at Wellsville Central School to share a bit about the professional learning opportunities I’ve begun to facilitate there. As my description of the year’s events drew to a close, members of the Board opened a thoughtful conversation about sustainability, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this. It wasn’t the fact that members of a BOE were…

On my Kindle this week: The Power of Collective Wisdom and the Trap of Collective Folly by Alan Briskin, Sheryl Erickson, John Ott, and Tom Callanan. Forward by Peter Senge. Highlights: “I believe there is no more telling indicator of the absence of collective wisdom that the inability to learn as we go. It is characterized by rigidness and dogma. It is characterized by low trust and the inability to talk about difficult subjects where…

Last week, I had a chance to catch up with Andrea Hernandez. As we began debriefing the Skype session I participated in with her students a while back and what has happened since, I found myself connecting to her professional experiences in ways that I didn’t expect. Her honesty and her willingness to reveal the challenges that she faces in her work impressed me more than she probably realized in that moment, and all of…

Here’s one of the problems with traditional forms of professional development: I’m invited to come in for a handful of days, kick up some dust, get people who are hungry for progress excited about the possibilities, and then…..typically for reasons beyond anyone’s control…… I leave. When I leave? Those possibilities often settle to the floor with all of that dust I was invited to kick up. How does this happen? It happens because the administrator…

Local teachers will tell you that you can tell who the fellows of the WNY Writing Project are by the light in their eyes. If you live in Western New York and you’re visiting me here, chances are you know what I’m talking about. You know who these people are, and you know how substantial and far-reaching that community’s influence is. I’ve spent the better part of my professional life longing to be a part…

I’ve been coaching in several districts over the last two weeks, beginning conversations with teachers who are thinking deeply about what student-centered learning communities are and what they can do at the start of the school year to begin establishing them. We’re realizing that transformation can begin to happen in simple ways. For instance, consider the different approaches taken by each of the teachers below. Which leverages the collective expertise of the group and enables…

The Beginning of a Writing Process, WNY Young Writers’ Studio 2010 It happens every year. “We’re only here because our moms made us come,” they told me. “We hate writing. Seriously.” Seriously? I wonder if most kids are given much of a chance to consider what writing really is anymore or why they would even want to do it outside of the classroom. And so I suggest that writing isn’t just about linear text. It…

I just finished the last of five very different but very meaningful “opening week” sessions inside of the schools that I work in long term. It’s inspiring to watch teachers begin the year by engaging in collaborative goal setting and planning for a year of individual or team-directed professional development, particularly when not so long ago, conversations like this seemed close to impossible. Everything from wonky scheduling to tight resources to lack of protocols to…

Alice came to a fork in the road.  “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland Many of us use the start of the new school year to refine our vision of the difference we hope to make in our buildings and in the field as a whole.  How…

She’s been a fellow of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio for three years now. Every August, she devotes a week of her life to the study of what learning communities are and how she’s grown as a result of her participation in ours. She comes back every other month throughout the school year. She visits our ning almost daily. She connects herself to those who can help her, and she reaches out to do the…