Last week we had our first day back to school for the faculty, and that first day is always a special time as we set the tone for the coming school year. I live by themes and inspirational messages as they carry me through the tough times. During our first year together at Cherry Street (two years ago), we used a simple theme of "Oh the Places You'll Go" from Dr. Seuss's famous book as an attempt to unify a campus to begin moving together on the same journey. The nice thing about that theme was that the journey in that book takes some time, and that inference could also be used about the journey we were beginning together. During our second year together, we used the theme of Champions. This was based on Rita Pierson's inspiring message that..."Every child deserves a Champion -- an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be." The YouTube video of her dynamic message can be seen here:
Every morning before school, our amazing media specialist, Story Lori, would play this song about Champions for our staff and students before the first bell rang so that we would recall, daily, our mission to be a student's champion. This song, called "Champions" was written for the Olympic Games and sponsored by Duracell.
I strongly believe that our teachers and staff need inspiration and unity as we begin this upcoming school year. It is a difficult time to be an educator. Crushing regulations and hyper-accountability have put our teachers in a pressure cooker of performance. While the mission is especially challenging in high poverty schools, our schools have the ability to be high performing schools if provided with the best resources--incredible teachers.
Our new theme for the 2014-2015 school year is #SpeakLife based on the song by TobyMac. We are focusing on the one thing that can make or break a classroom....the environment. The best teachers have strong classroom communities and cultures. You can walk into a classroom with a high performing educator, and you will be mesmerized because they weave a magic that captures their students' imaginations while at the same time they provide a structured and well-managed safe classroom where failure and struggle to learn are honored as part of the class community. According to Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, this trait is outlined as that ever important component 2A, Environment of Respect & Rapport. There are so many quotes that support this year's theme. For example, I have always heard, "They don't care what you know if they don't know you care." The thoughts about this approach to teaching are endless. With issues like bullying and cyberbullying escalating in our educational contexts, the #SpeakLife theme could certainly solve many issues if we tried to use it in every area of our lives. Check out the cool lyrics here below in a YouTube version of the song:
I never know what our teachers are thinking and if the things we do together resonate until they surprise me with wonderful emails or texts or notes. When I woke this morning, I received this amazing email from a new teacher on our campus. You can certainly tell from the tone of the message she is excited, and she has not only embraced the #SpeakLife message, but she has also brought it to her students. I have not included her name here because I have not had a chance to ask her permission to use her name in my BLOG, so I have left off her name. But you can see that good things are happening in her classroom. I have also added the video that she used parts of for her students. It is that same old bullying issue, and the symbolism in the video shows what can happen when children speak "life" to each other. What a FANTASTIC lesson for our children and for us ALL. Here is the email:
Here is the video she references where she showed parts:
So, as you go through your day, #SpeakLife, and know that we are speaking it at Cherry Street Elementary!