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We Have A Plan, They Said…

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On a busy day back in December, I was in my office trying to get a student iPad to work. Another student who happened to be with me at the time noticed my frustration and offered to take a look at it.  Within about 30 seconds, he had the problem solved. Fifth graders never cease to amaze me.  I casually mentioned to him that we ought to put him to work around here! This seemed to peak his interest and he began to talk about how he often helps teachers and students with these types of situations. He is a techie. I told him how some secondary schools have a student run “geek squad” that does this very thing and I could see he was very intrigued by this.

I talked to my principal about it, and she suggested that we put the ball in his court so to speak. True ownership develops that way (I learn so much from her!) and she told him to  grab a crew, draft up a proposal, and return with a rough outline of how such a thing might run on our campus. And that was that. Soon winter break came, then January, and to be honest I completely forgot about the brief and casual conversation. And then one day…

I was at my desk working on some papers when the secretary walked in and said that a “group of fifth graders” was here to see me. Oh No. Now what?? Sentences like that, well, they tend to put a sort of damper on things. I walked out to see this same student, along with four others, and he said, “Hey Ms. Logue, remember back in December when you said I should put together a proposal for that tech thing? Well, I found a crew, and we have a plan…

For the next half an hour or so, the group met with my principal and me. They outlined their proposal and it went something like this:

  • We would have office hours during recess and also before school.
  • We thought about how students and teachers might go about requesting our help. First we thought of building a website, then a Google Doc, but finally settled on just a paper form with information to fill out and leave for us, in an envelope in the hallway. Why involve tech with those who are having tech troubles!!
  • We would troublshoot minor problems for staff and students, such as wifi, loading apps, cropping pics and such.
  • We would be willing to lead training for the staff (such as at a staff meeting after school) on various ideas for incorporating technology in their lessons and learning new apps and platforms. An “open” session which both teachers and students could attend.
  • We could go into classrooms to lead “large group” sessions, such as helping a class of students set up their digital portfolios on Google sites (a campus initiative) with their teacher, or to learn a new website, or movie making app.
  • We would make sure to maintain our grades and stay on top of our classwork, so that at the end of the day we could take five or ten minutes to go through the forms and divide up the jobs for the coming day(s).

We were so impressed! We asked them some clarifying questions, my principal showed the group the Best Buy Geek Squad image, and talked a little bit with them about branding. The group played around with some ideas for their own name and emblem, and settled on “Tech Stars” because our mascot is the Stars. They used a star for the A; here is their logo design:

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After school, we located an empty classroom we felt would be a perfect “office spot” for them, with a couple of desks, tables, and a whiteboard on which to brainstorm learning sessions they can hold with our staff.

Here is a video the students made so that we could introduce the new team to our school on the morning announcements:

Here is the flyer with their information. Staff and students will use this when they request their services:

Tech-Stars Flyer

We also set up a meeting between the Tech Stars and our campus technology liasian. He went over some basic “do’s” and “don’t” with them. Boy did they feel important! My principal had official (well, kind of) badges made up for them with their identifying information, complete with plastic badgeholders and lanyards. Here are some pictures of them in their meeting and receiving their badges. I love the looks of excitement and pride on their faces!

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And then we officially introduced the team at our staff meeting!

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I just can’t wait to see them in action, helping students, leading staff development sessions after school…and to think, I never thought I would hear from him again! I am blown away by the initiative and leadership shown by that student. We have no idea how this student-led initiative will pan out. It is new to us all. But I kinda think it’s in pretty good hands!

Two thoughts stand out to me as I reflect on this:

1. Kids do some pretty amazing things when we put the ball in their court.

2. School cultures that honor creativity and risk-taking make dreams come true every day.

 I am the luckiest AP around!

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Teachers and Students Leading Professional Learning

One of the unique ways we have found to support teacher collaboration and growth on our campus this year is through a weekly Staff S’more.  This started out as a one-way communication from admin to teachers, but we quickly discovered that this is the perfect vehicle for teachers to share their ideas, learnings, failures, and risks. It’s also a lot more interesting and has led to many more “conversation starters” than if it’s just admin to teacher. More information on how that came to be can be found in this blog post I wrote a while back.

Teacher Led Professional Learning

So we started off by approaching teachers and inviting them to write the weekly S’More. We were hoping teachers would be willing to share a little bit about what types of things they are doing in the classroom, or want to try, or just what’s on their mind. Soon, teachers began to ask if they could write an upcoming S’More, on a topic that they feel pretty passionate about. For example, next week a teacher will be writing on the topic of teacher burnout.  We are thrilled with the teacher ownership we are seeing in this! Our weekly Staff S’More has enjoyed tremendous success, with lots of views each week and conversations in the hallways that sound something like, “Hey I read your Smore article, can you tell me more about how you...”  It’s one of those rare things that just takes off right from the moment you introduce it and just seems to power itself.

Student Led Professional Learning

This week, one of our fifth grade teachers was working on her S’More feature, which is about Book Clubs.  She had some artifacts, handouts, and descriptions that she wanted to share with teachers along with her article. After a few minutes of discussing the content, she suggested the idea of having her students produce a video, in which they “taught the teachers” about how she implements book clubs. What a fantastically unique idea! Soon, I received the email below, a student-made video explaining to the staff how Book Clubs look in their classroom:

Here is a link to the final S’More for this week, our Book Clubs S’More, which includes the article written by our teacher, the student made video, corresponding instructional ideas from our principal, and additional articles, videos, and other resources that I curated which support the topic.

Throughout this year we have learned alongside each other through this S’More, on topics ranging from formative assessment, differentiation, performance assessments, technology, learning spaces, growth mindset, Genius Hour, math stations, guided reading, and so much more! And now, our plans are to continue to invite students to add to our learning through our weekly Staff S’More.  We are going to ask students to begin sharing their ideas, learnings, failures, and risks…right alongside their teachers. We truly believe that as a learning organization, we can exponentialy grow in our practice by listening to the voices of one another, and that includes our students.  We are very excited for this next phase!

Up Next

In a future S’More edition, our P.E. teacher Mr. Rob will share with the staff about the 21 Days Of Healthy Snacks Challenge, which he launched in his classes this week. He will ask some students to create a corresponding video share to with our staff about how they are engaging with the program. Is the message of healthy eating important to them? Why or why not? How are they implementing this at home, if they are? What challenges have they faced? What solutions can they offer?

I will keep you updated on our teacher and student-led professional learning journey as it continues to unfold this year! What unique ways have you found to infuse teacher and student voice within your learning community? We would love to learn from you!