Fahari's Weekly Staff Memo: 10/09/2015 - 10/16/2015
A Message from Fahari's Principal: Stephanie Clagnaz, Ed.D.
How can you enhance the J-Factor in your classroom?
Doug Lemov’s teaching about the importance of joy in the classroom continues in the Teach Like A Champion Field Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2012). He writes:
A Joy Factor activity is an activity for celebrating joy in the work of learning as members of a high-achieving class. Joy can be loud or quiet; it can be individual, small group, or large group oriented.
Five Kinds of Joy
Games, including challenge, play, and competition
Us and Them (activities that make students feel like part of something)
Drama, song, and dance
Suspense and surprise
Each member of our instructional staff should assess his/her implementation of the Joy Factor. As Lemov reminds us, “the Joy Factor is a key driver not just of a happy classroom, but of a high-achieving one. As Disney’s Snow White was aware, people work harder when they enjoy working on something and punctuate the work with moments of joy.”
- Where are you in the implementation of the Joy Factor in your classroom?
- What is your next step to make the J-Factor more evident?
On Culture with Jared Roebuck - Assistant Principal
The work of educational philosopher Patricia Carini and the Prospect School’s Descriptive Inquiry processes are the basis of our work this year at grade team meetings, which are dedicated to looking closely at individual students. In these conversations, teachers, counselors, and members of the culture team carefully consider a student using a protocol that is grounded in description. Why is this important? And what does this make possible?
According to Carini:
“What I want to say . . . is that it takes vigilance –- hard, recursive work – and it takes educating ourselves in the largest sense of the word to keep alive this awareness of human complexity. It takes an active attunement to the fullness of passion in each person, to the driving desires of each person to make and to do, and to the strong, basic need of each of us – and all – to be valued and valuable” (Carini, From Another Angle)
Descriptive inquiry aligns with our work in restorative practices in that they are both grounded in valuing and caring for the individual. When we take this stance as teachers, and as a community we create space to open new ways of seeing.
Last week, these two threads of our work converged around one of our most vulnerable 7th grade students. As a 6th grader, the student had poor attendance at the start of the year. We later found out that he was gang affiliated. On another occasion he was arrested with gun possession charges. By working closely with his family, we were able to make progress in pulling him away from the streets and closer to school.
As this year began, we saw the return of old patterns of behavior. His attendance was once again a concern. His academic performance was declining. In response, the 7th grade team elected to make the student the subject of our weekly Descriptive Inquiry meeting. We used the framing question: “How can we get this student to become more engaged in school?” Throughout the conversation we described in detail his physical presence and gesture, connections with others, and disposition and temperament. Through this process of careful description, we saw the child in new lights and came to ideas about re-engaging him in school. This was the work of adults committed to seeing this student succeed. Yet there was more to come.
The following morning during daily circles, a group of 7th graders came to circle with a concern. Rather than move forward with the planned activity, they asked to share with the group what was on their minds. The students had seen a video of the student being bullied by older kids in the park. They were concerned that he had become gang involved again and wanted to know how they could help. They used our circles to share what they knew about the student with adults. Soon after the circle, we retrieved the video from social media and immediately met with his family. They had no idea what had occurred and his mother cried while watching the video. Working with Ms. Clarke and Ms. Yoruk, we were able to put some steps in place to support the family in pulling him back from the streets.
What strikes me about this story is convergence of adults and students determined to see this student for who he is and to act with urgency and compassion in caring for him. Our work in both restorative practice and Descriptive Inquiry allows such actions to be possible for our community. Through this, we move closer to what Carini identifies as “basic need of each of us – and all – to be valued and valuable.”
Good on us Fahari.
Thanks for all that you do,
From the Desk of Traci L. Douglas, Assistant Principal
When I say “Skedula, you say fun!” Navigating our online Gradebook, Skedula, may seem intimidating to some; however, the portal is actually very user friendly. Our Ops Manager, Bev Parsons, is developing an expertise with the system and is available to support any/all staff members with logging in, adding an assignment, etc. Please sign up for office hours with Bev in the staff lounge if you haven’t already.
As we prepare for our first cycle of Progress Reports, please remember that these reports provide families with a short but significant check-list of two items:
student progress aligning to F&P standards (comparison of expected reading level to actual reading level at various points in time over the course of the school year)
student proficiency aligned to our PRIDE values in the areas of homework completion, classwork completion, participation, effort, intervention/enrichment effort and participation, etc.
Teachers should be collaborating with their grade team and departments to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the PRIDE rubric so that student proficiency grades are aligned across content areas. A “4” in one ELA class must mean the same as a “4” in another ELA class, on all grade levels.
Please note that all PRIDE grades must be entered in Skedula by EOB on Tuesday, October 20th.
Family Engagement Updates
As Family Conferences approach and we begin to work towards our year goal of Student-Led Conferences for students and families, please see below some commentary on Conferences from ASCD, a publication on Educational Leadership:
Our middle school students, like most, struggle between wanting adults to make decisions for them and wanting to wrest control from those in charge so they can be responsible for themselves. We want our students to learn to exercise choice, take responsibility for their learning, and do their best work. We saw an opportunity to help them reach these goals by implementing student-led conferences, enabling students to be directly involved in their assessment process.
At times, what parents hear at home from their child is quite different from the picture the advisor paints from teachers' reports. Parents are then in the difficult position of either believing their child or the teachers. This generally placed them and the teachers on the defensive, blocking open communication and better understanding. If a student joined the conference, he or she often played the silent partner or a martyr chastised for little effort. Some students were truly surprised by the description of their progress.
All of these factors increased our frustration with traditional parent-teacher conferences. Last year, after reading literature on student-led conferences (Guyton and Fielstein 1989, Hubert 1989, Little and Allan 1989), the 7th grade team decided to try a new format for our second conference in the spring.
We've found that student-led conferences do a better job of meeting the needs of the young adolescent and increasing student-parent communication. They give students, parents, and teachers a better picture of who the student is, what he or she has achieved, and what the student's future goals may be.
This is just some of the overwhelmingly positive research available on Student-Led Conferences. It is confirmation that we are moving in the right direction towards doing what is best for our kids!
Next week, you will receive a basic protocol for running our upcoming Family Conferences on October 21st. Please reach out to me or your Teacher Leaders if you have any questions. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to providing the best educational experience for our students and families!
Ms. Clarke, Director of Family Engagement
This week's schedule updates
Will it be an A or B week?
We will be following a B schedule this week.
Who will be out this week?
Please check the daily schedule for coverage updates*
Friday, October 9th, 2015
Alyssa Reyes (PD)
Barbara Pacheco (PD)
Sacha Dent (PD)
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
Thursday, October 15th, 2015
Traci Douglas (PM OUT, PD)
Shana Williams (PM OUT)
Friday, October 16th, 2015
Monday, October 12th, 2015
Holiday - Columbus Day
School Closed - No school for staff and students
Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
P.R.I.D.E grades due in Skedula
Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
Parent Teacher Conferences
@ Fahari Academy - 2:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
October Board Meeting
@ Fahari Academy - 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
(Please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org)