Powerful Learning

As we begin October, I am in awe of how much has been accomplished already. In all of our learning spaces, students have reviewed and been practicing routines and procedures intended to develop habits as caring, safe and productive members of their class and school community. While establishing community and developing learning habits has been and will continue to be a primary focus, students have also been immersed in academic experiences growing their skills as mathematicians, readers, writers, speakers, scientists, historians, citizens, artists, singers, musicians, and fitness enthusiasts. Our school focus this year is on powerful learning experiences that promote the students’ active participation in their learning. Our students have demonstrated that they are up for the challenge!

When not working with students, our teachers have been busy collaborating to develop a shared vision for learning, goals for improvement and plans for powerful learning experiences. This important work began during teacher work days before school started, has continued during teacher planning time and after school meetings, grounded our work on our professional development day on September 21st and will be the primary focus of professional development opportunities throughout the year. At Back to School Night, I introduced our focus on powerful learning experiences and active student participation in their learning. Our multi-age and open classrooms are a perfect match for these two concepts. In addition, they are aligned with our school division vision, “All learners believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel, and to own their future.” Parent-teacher conferences begin next week. A key to the teacher’s ability to plan powerful learning experiences is knowing each child, his/her interests, passions, learning preferences, etc. Your input is invaluable as you know your child best. If you haven’t already scheduled time with your child’s teacher, contact him or her to do so.

While at a professional conference a couple of weeks ago, I heard Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D speak. A scientist, who studies how children learn, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek and a colleague have recently published a book titled Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children. Her presentation affirmed much of work at the state level to define the Profile of a Graduate, broadening expected outcomes for high school students beyond mastery of content knowledge to include critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and citizenship. For the past two decades Albemarle County Schools has infused these skills in the Division’s mission, School Board priorities and in the related practices in curriculum, assessment and instruction that guide teachers’ in the development of learning experiences that develop Lifelong Learner Competencies. The back cover of the book describes Becoming Brilliant as providing, “a framework for how we should be teaching children in and outside of school.” I am eager to read the book and invite you to join me. The goal of this shared learning would be to engage families in shaping and achieving our shared goals for our children. We discussed this idea at last week’s PTO meeting and those present indicated that they too would like to read the book. We decided to create a book club which will meet on the first Tuesday of each month during the regularly scheduled PTO meetings. Please consider joining. Look for an invitation with more details in this week’s folder.