What Do You Believe?

The first week of school has ended, and I am happy to write that it was successful, despite all of the rain.  The week started out with two days of staff inservice meetings including my welcome-back faculty meeting.  I like to start this annual meeting with some type of whole-staff activity.  Some years, I will incorporate something fun or silly (like the year I sent the staff on a digital camera scavenger hunt around the building), and other years, I will try to create something motivational to get everyone revved up for the start of school.  This year, the focus was motivational (at least I was motivated!  I hope the staff was, too.)

A few weeks ago, I tapped into my professional online network (Twitter, MPC, and my blog) and asked the following question:

“I am looking for short and fun ideas or activities for my opening staff meeting. I’d like something to do with staff as a welcome back activity that will get everyone going, and that will start the year with a laugh or a smile on the teachers’ faces. Does anyone have any suggestions?”

I came across a video on LeaderTalk that lit the spark for me.  I focused on the word “Believe.”  What did I believe?  What did my teachers and other staff “Believe” about education and teaching?  I wanted them to reflect, so I created this slide show and shared it with everyone.

(Who slipped in that peanut butter slide?)

After sharing the slide show and watching the video at the end, I asked every staff member to write down what they believed in.  I did not set any parameters.  I simply asked them to write some personal belief statements and then turn the sheet over to keep these statements private.  I did not ask for anyone to share.

Next, my assistant principal and I led a discussion of Charlotte Danielson’s four domains as outlined in her book Enhancing Professional Practice:  A Framework for Teaching.  (This is must-read for all educators.)

We started with a KWL and we discovered that very few people in the room had ever heard of Danielson and her work.  Using a Google Document, we listed their responses to the question “What do you want to learn about Danielson’s four domains?” In addition, we asked the staff to work in groups to discuss “What defines exemplar teachers in the four domains of teaching?”

This really sparked an interest, and one teacher asked if I could purchase a copy of the book for them to pass around and read.  BINGO! That is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  I agreed that that was a terrific idea, and I suggested that I should buy the book for every teacher on the staff so we could hold monthly books talks.  That all agreed, so that is what I have done.  This will be a professional development focus for our staff this year, and we will discuss different sections of the book at our faculty meetings.

My AP and I also will be using the domains as a basis for our teacher evaluation  this year and next year.  The book will give us a common language about exemplar planning, class management, instruction, and professional responsibilities.

I ended the meeting with an activity suggested by Frank Buck in a comment he wrote to me.  I asked each person to write a letter to themselves, dated June 8, 2010.  They were to congratulate themselves on all of their successes over the course of the 2009-10 school year.  At first, I had a lot of confused faces looking at me until they realized that what they really were doing was developing goals for the year.  This letter was written on the back of the belief statements they had written earlier in the meeting.  When the letters were finished, each person sealed his or hers in an envelope which I collected.  I told them that the letters would be returned to them in June, and I hoped they would be able to celebrate all of the successes they wrote about.  In a sense, it is a time capsule to be opened in nine months.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the opening activities, and I think this helped us kick off the year with positive feelings.  A motivated, energized staff translates those vibes to their students, and I hope that has happened in our school.  From my point of view, it sure looked and felt like it when the students arrived on Wednesday.  Now, we need to sustain it for the whole year.


4 thoughts on “What Do You Believe?

  1. The School District of Philadelphia is using a modified version of the Danielson framework for observations this year, and I’ve been toying with how I wanted to introduce it tomorrow. I’m going to give everyone the framework, ask them to self-assess, and then talk about ways to move forward, but I also LOVE the idea of asking everyone to define exemplars. Just have to figure out where to work that in.

  2. Chris,
    I would love to see the school district’s modified version of the framework you will be using for observations. Is there anyway you can share it electronically?

  3. We have been using the Danielson framework for the last 5 years in our district. I like it a lot better than the old system of evaluation that we used to use. I like your idea of the book study. We have phased teachers in over time, and last year was the first year that my entire staff was using the Danielson framework. We have even developed a similar framework that we use with our support staff.

    The book is a great tool to use with staff during pre and post conferences. I ask my teachers to bring their copy of the book with them for the conference. When we discuss progress of the domains, we can easily flip to the book for clarification on any of the components. I’d be interested to hear how your book study progresses this year.

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