On January 6th, Parker’s first ever Rock n’ Roll Book Fair was held at the Burlington, Massachusetts Barnes & Noble. To bring more of the school and Reading community to the event our music teacher, Aaron Clark, ELA teachers Steve Olivo and Brian James, and their leading vocalist (me!) came out of talent show retirement and performed a five song set for our adoring, adolescent fans. The event brought hundreds of dollars to the aid of the Parker school library.
This past weekend I spent the day with a different kind of community. Four fellow Parker educators and I attended the School Reform Initiative’s annual winter meeting in New York City. Despite mother nature’s greatest efforts to thwart travel roughly 200 educators from across the nation came together to share student work, classroom dilemmas, and best practices with the goal of “strengthening our commitment to educational equity and excellence.”
Rich experiences come from sharing work with educators both within and outside our school systems. With the unassuming eyes and ears of my assigned Critical Friends Group, or “CFG,” I was able to openly discuss the challenges facing my eighth grade team and school with our FLEX writing initiative and received the type of thoughtful feedback that comes with fresh eyes and more diverse perspectives from beyond our own school walls. A session with fellow facilitative leaders also proved fruitful, helping all of the participants look inward, identify our strengths and goals, and set action plans for one another.
On the bus ride home I found my mind swimming with different ideas to share with fellow teachers back home as well as personal charges to strengthen my 8th grade team, school-based CFG, and school as a whole. I started my action plan today, asking teachers (and administrators) to brainstorm and share new ways in which we can include students in the school’s community and development. It is my hope that we will take one or two of our ideas and implement them in the near future after more carefully developing the idea through an SRI protocol.
The day after the book fair my rockin’ colleagues and I received a number of compliments from students and teachers who were surprised and impressed by our willingness and confidence to step into the limelight and share our personal passions. With CFGs, a culture of sharing and critical, constructive feedback aims to strengthen our confidence in our teaching practice and better our schools and its educators. Now that’s something we can all jam to.