Monday, February 4, 2008

Our Themes

Walking down memory lane to celebrate a decade of learning and growing together at Chets Creek has me reflecting on the school themes that have lead our way. Each year, the school’s leaders reflect on where we’ve been and where we have yet to go. A grasp of the present with a foot into the future, they decide on the theme that will define our year.

1997-1998 Building a 21st Century Learning Community
1998-1999 Team Up for Success
1999-2000 Aim High Take Flight
2000-2001 Hitch Your Wagon to a Rising Star
2001-2002 Putting the Pieces Together...Puzzle Paradise
2002-2003 To Infinity and Beyond
2003-2004 Mission Possible
2004-2005 Lights, Camera, Action...It’s Showtime!
2005-2006 Blazing the Trail... 100% or Bust
2006-2007 Performance Drives Success... The Race is On
2007-2008 Dreams Begin Here

The theme weaves its way as an integral part of everything we do. From the teacher’s first day back which focuses on a theme based relationship building celebration to the student’s first wow day back after a long summer break, to the PTA family night themes, to decoration adorned classrooms, to communication tool headers, titles and themes. Embedded in all we do, you’ll find our theme.

Each new year, we embrace the opportunity to touch the lives of the children we teach and to prepare them for the 21st century global marketplace. We have 180 days, not a day longer, to make this vision a reality.

In year one, we focused on creating the 21st Century Learning Community we would want our own children to be part of and one in which we would ideally want to teach. The teaching staff collaboratively labored over our school’s vision, mission, and learner expectations, one that would prepare our students to compete in this fiercely competitive global marketplace.

To make it all happen we had to Team Up for Success. It would take every stakeholder in this community to prepare our students. Our founding leader began by building horizontal and vertical learning teams who met weekly to articulate and implement our vision, mission, and leaner expectations. We teamed up to create diagnostic assessment that we used to prescriptively plan whole group and small group instruction which continues to be a cornerstone of our success. The communication tools included the Memo to staff each Friday with public celebrations, theConnection, our parent communication tool from the principal each Friday, the classroom newsletters sent home each Monday from the teacher to the parent, and our positive postcards. We had created quite an extraordinary team.

We were a good school. But, we wanted to be great. We formed a Leadership Team and studied Jim Collins text, From Good to Great. We had to Aim High and Take Flight into the America’s Choice School Design to study, implement, and reflect on best practices in education. We had a moral obligation to make sure that not a single child would be left behind. We were preparing each student to meet the standard, and our expectations for student learning were high. We would soar into the future.

After becoming an America’s Choice School setting up a Leadership Team, establishing coaching positions, and implementing Writers’ Workshop, we knew we had Hitched Our Wagon to a Rising Star. Each teacher arrived back on the first day to a brand new red Radio Flyer wagon full of books to refocus on living life as a reader. Students and teachers each read and reflected on 25 books.

The America’s Choice components were all being implemented. Now, we had to Put all the Pieces Together in Paradise. We worked to hone our skills and align all instructional practices. We concentrated on meeting the Zones of Proximal Development for every student. We had the pieces that others wanted to see; we had become a flagship school who could be a model for others.

We were inundated with visitors--just the way we like it--as we went to Infinity and Beyond. We were sharing our best practices with educators across our nation. But, in this year, we were saddened to lose approximately 300 students as a new school opened in our community. This eased our overcrowding a bit but affected our overall hearts and scores. We slipped a few percentage points in reading and writing and knew we would have to recommit and refocus as we started a new year.

Our Mission was Possible. We could make sure that every student succeeded—that every student could attain mastery. We had 180 days to make this happen, and we knew that this was no dress rehearsal. We put all assessment scores under the spyglass and refocused on getting students appropriate internal and external safety nets. By the end of the year, we were showing gains once again. Mission accomplished!
In the spring of 2004, our America’s Choice National Conference was held in Hollywood, California. Before weeks end, our theme had been decided, it was time for Lights, Camera, Action...It’s Showtime. Rolling out the red carpet, we focused on building relationships, having fun, bringing joyfulness into our classrooms. We celebrated the people who were behind the scenes, all the cast members, and the stars. We had an Oscar winning year!

We galloped into an amazing new year as we were going to Blaze the Trail...100% or Bust! We were set to lasso in the small percentage of students that had not yet reached mastery on the state standards and we were going to continue to analyze data, dig our heals in deeper to content learning and instruction, and focus on safety nets. We weren’t going to rest until we had 100% of our students at standard.

We were reaching more of our learners, ready to race into the future--Performance Drives Success...The Race is On. We rallied around relationships, revved up the risk-taking, and raced toward radical results. We crossed the finish line with great success.

Over the last decade, our learning community had created a magical kingdom, Dreams Begin Here. Our imagineer learning leaders had created a cast of students that were self-directed learners, complex thinkers, effective communicators, collaborative workers, quality producers, and community contributors. Our dreams had become a reality! It's been a magical decade of learning and growing and I can’t wait to see what’s in store as the next decade begins. I know it will be the journey of a lifetime!

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