An 8th grader was sharing during social studies class that her family has spent the last few years playing the License Plate Game, attempting to find all 50 states. “So a few months ago, we were down to 10 states,” she explained, “and my dad said that whatever state was the last one, we would go visit over spring break.”
“Last month it was down to two states: Hawaii and South Dakota. We got really excited because we figured that there was no way we’d see a Hawaii plate.”
Over the past 6 months, I’ve had the opportunity to co-facilitate a truly great professional learning program. It’s a partnership between the NJEA (teacher’s association) and NJPSA (principal’s association) to offer a series of collaborative opportunities for teachers and administrators to work together to refine evaluation practices. Too often, evaluation systems pit educators against each other: teachers vs principals. When true collaboration occurs, the system is refined, made productive, and ultimately reaches the intended goal: improving instruction for students.
We’re building on the idea shared by Randy Nelson: that collaboration is not just souped-up cooperation, but something altogether different. True collaboration amplifies the abilities of those involved, resulting in a better product than individuals can accomplish alone.
Last Monday, the first cohort came together to consider their current practices, unpack their expectations and belief, and commit to changes both teachers and supervisors can make to improve the system. They will meet again in December to review their work and continue planning. The second cohort is scheduled to meet at the end of October and begin their journey.
Labor Day was created to celebrate the contributions of American workers to the strength and prosperity of our country. I worry that we take for granted all that we have, especially in light of what is happening elsewhere in the world.
So as not to take it all for granted, I just made a donation to the UN Refugee Agency to support the millions of Syrian refugees struggling to re-start their lives. Here is Neil Gaiman’s video made in one of the camps last year (warning, it will make you cry):
And a very easy donation page can be found here (http://donate.unhcr.org/international/neilgaiman/)
It’s been a great summer. I’ve had the chance to criss-cross the US working with dedicated educators who — despite the challenges — are determined to do their absolute best for the students in their charge.
As Labor Day approaches, I often wax nostalgic about my days in the classroom or school district. But as I look forward to a fall line up of exciting work (Southeast, Midwest, West Coast, New England, Old England, China!) I recognize that we’re all in this together. Every school year is an opportunity to give it another try.
In the spirit of trying again, here’s a classic from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: