Fahari's Weekly Staff Memo: 12/15/2014 - 12/19/2014
A Message from Fahari's Principal: Stephanie Clagnaz, Ed.D.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
Dufour or Ross - who are you listening to?
Rick Dufour has studied and written about professional learning communities for more than twenty years. In his work, he highlights the differences between traditional schools and authentic professional learning communities. Key elements of a professional learning community versus a traditional school are:
- the relentless focus on student learning rather than what was taught
- authentic collaboration
- focus on results
- the persistence and hard work necessary to make it happen
Dufour tells us:
“School communities must stop making excuses for failing to authentically collaborate….in the end, building the collaborative culture of a professional learning community is a question of will. A group of staff members who are determined to work together will find a way….we must stop assessing our own effectiveness on the basis of how busy we are and instead begin to ask, “Have we made progress on the goals that are most important to us?” If we fail to demonstrate the discipline to initiate and sustain this work, then our school is unlikely to become more effective. The rise or fall of the professional learning community depends on the most important element in the improvement of any school - the commitment and persistence of the educators within it.”
In addition to Dufour’s published books and articles detailing what we need to do to help more children to be successful, we have philosophers among our very own. Our UFT chapter leader and social studies department chair, Warren Ross, is often heard challenging each of us as he asks, “What bus are you on?” Ross encourages us daily to “Get on the positive bus.” He is often seen walking the halls in a lively and animated way encouraging students and staff to stay positive and encouraging each of us to continue to make it happen.
Interestingly, Ross and Dufour deliver the same message. Dufour uses words like persistence and determination; Ross claps it up with the children, encouraging them to get 3s and 4s…”nothing less”; he challenges us to question whether or not we’re on the “positive bus”. I hold these gentlemen in equal esteem and encourage each of us to take our pick. Each helps to guide us in getting us to where we need to be. One of their messages is common: HARD WORK! Listen to Dufour or listen to Ross...their messages are equally important. Stay on the positive bus. Persist. Work hard.
Where is your team in the area of persistence and commitment to analyzing where students are doing well?
Have team meetings become a place where we are allowed to wallow in self-serving discussions rather than continuing the hard work of focusing relentlessly on students who have learned and our response to those who have not learned?
Are teammates adhering to the messages of Ross and Dufour or are teams creating their own narratives about why we can’t get this done?
As we continue to develop as restorative practitioners, this week I’d like us to think about one of the foundational ideas behind restorative practices. We often think about restorative justice in its concrete manifestations-- restorative circles, restorative conferences, affective questions, and affective statements. However, what I find offers each of us the most potential for transformation of practice, is the adoption of an overall restorative stance and way of thinking about human relations. What does this mean? One of the central ideas of behind restorative practices is the Social Discipline Window:
The social discipline window presents a framework for people in positions of leadership and authority to think about they relate to the individuals they have power over. This has significant implications for the way teachers relate to students in their classrooms, for teacher leaders as they guide their peers, and of course for school leaders. How does the social discipline window connect to our understanding of restorative practices and leadership-- two ideas we have spent much of this year thinking about? Here is Ted Wachtel of the IIRP:
[The social discipline window] describes four basic approaches to maintaining social norms and behavioral boundaries. The four are represented as different combinations of high or low control and high or low support. The restorative domain combines both high control and high support and is characterized by doing things with people, rather than to them or for them. The fundamental unifying hypothesis of restorative practices is that "human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them." This hypothesis maintains that the punitive and authoritarian to mode and the permissive and paternalistic for mode are not as effective as the restorative, participatory, engaging with mode (Wachtel, 2005).
One of the key ideas highlighted here is that people in positions of power--teachers, teacher leaders, and formal school leaders-- are restorative only when they provide high levels of control and with high levels of support for the individuals/groups they exercise power over. One of the characterizations I’ve heard of restorative practices is “Jared, are you talking about not holding kids accountable for their behavior?” or “Are you suggesting we don’t have consequences?” My answer is always, “Not at all.” Failing to hold students accountable or establish consequences for undesirable behavior would place us squarely in the “permissive” box, which would undermine our goal of being restorative, and would create an unsafe school environment. Similarly, an environment where consequences are given without addressing the root causes of the undesirable behavior or worse without the provision of the support that the child or individual may need moving forward, creates an environment where individuals are less likely to meet with success.
What I described above is the theory behind restorative practices. But what does this look like in a classroom? This week I observed the following in a 6th grade classroom. When I walked into the room, the class was about to transition to group work. I noticed three young men, standing off to the side. Each of them appeared angry, and I immediately understood that they had been misbehaving prior to my arrival. The teacher walked over to them, addressed their behavior, and then did something restorative. After discussing their behavior, he invited them to join him in a small group. For the next 15 minutes the teacher supported the students as they worked on the assignment, and did not discuss anything other than the task at hand. No mention of their prior behavior at all, just the work the group needed to accomplish. The students responded in kind. No anger towards the adult. Just hard work, and lots of questions about the text. Why is this a prime example of restorative practice? Note that the teacher addressed the behavior by first moving them to a different part of the classroom and then addressing their behavior (high control). The teacher then followed this by a) letting what had happened earlier in the period go and b) shifting to supporting the students in their learning (high support/nurturing). No circle needed for this example of restorative practice.
This week let's think about our obligations to the people we have power over. Where does your practice as a teacher, teacher leader, or formal school leader, fall in the Social Discipline Window? What improvements in learning, productivity, and desirable outcomes would be possible if we provide high levels of control/structure and high levels of support/nurturing to the individuals we lead? That’s what it means to be restorative.
Thanks for all that you do.
Assistant Principal for Administration and Culture
Family Engagement Updates
Open Houses and December Family-Teacher Conferences
On Tuesday, December 16th we will be hosting our 1st of many Open Houses to recruit for the 2015-16 school year. This 1st Open House is welcoming Parent Coordinators and Guidance Counselors from our neighboring elementary schools. They will be learning more about our dynamic community to share with their graduating students and families entering middle school. Please welcome them into our community, as you do best, and allow them to see the remarkable, transformative work that we do with students everyday!
Family-Teacher Conferences will take place this Wednesday, December 17th. As a reminder, please see below some best practices for conferencing with families.
Approaching Family-Teacher Conferences
1- A two-way conversation
The family-teacher conference is an opportunity for parents to learn about their children’s progress in school and for teachers to gain insights into their students’ home and community lives. Parent perspectives on student strengths and needs, learning styles, and habits can help teachers shape their instructional methods.
2- Emphasis on learning
Research shows that family engagement is most effective when it is “linked to learning.” An important goal of family-teacher conferences is to develop strategies to support student learning at school and at home. Teachers should be prepared to discuss the academic progress of their students and provide strategies and resources to support students at home. Seek solutions to problems collaboratively with students and families.
3- Opportunities and challenges
The tone of family conferences should be balanced so that all involved understand what the student is doing well and what he or she can improve upon. Achieving this balance sends the message that our school values student strengths and has high expectations for all students.
4- Use a timer to keep track of conference time. Let families know upfront how much time is allotted for their conference. Make follow-up appointments when necessary.
As always, please reach out to me for support in best serving our students and families.
Happy conferencing! :)
~Ms. Clarke, Director of Family Engagement
Technology and Data Updates
Tech Tip of the Week: A Few Tricks and Shortcuts in Windows
1. Zoom in and zoom out in your internet browser. In any internet browser, if you hold Ctrl and press the “+” sign it will zoom in on the browser. Conversely, if you hold Ctrl and press the “-“ sign it will zoom out on the browser.
2. Delete an entire word. Instead of deleting a single letter, pressing Ctrl + Backspace will delete the entire word behind the cursor. This makes deleting text quicker if you screw up a whole word. This works in MS Office, Google Apps, and Gmail.
3. Cycle through open programs. Holding the Alt button and pressing Tab continually allows you to cycle through currently open programs. If you want a more stylish method of cycling through open programs, holding the Windows button and pressing Tab continually also allows you to cycle through programs. Both methods simplify switching back and forth between open programs.
The Midterm of Quarter 2 is Friday December 19, 2014. Teachers, PRIDE classes have been added to your gradebooks and the assignments for these classes have been generated for marking period 2. By December 18, 2014 all PRIDE grades must be finalized in Datacation. Midterm quarter 2 progress reports will be mailed home Tuesday, December 23, 2014. The progress report consists of PRIDE grades, reading levels and a message from Dr. Clagnaz. PRIDE grades reflect measures of student performance and the values to which we hold our scholars.
Progress Reports - Important Dates:
December 18 -All PRIDE grades are finalized in Datacation for the midterm of quarter 2.
December 19 - Progress reports submitted to Dr. Clagnaz for review.
December 23 - Progress reports mailed out to all families.
Director of Data, Technology and Testing
Next week's schedule updates
Will it be an A or B week?
We will be following an A schedule next week.
Who Will Be Out?
Monday, December 15th, 2014
Crystal Fernandez (AM out)Shana Minto
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
Burcin Yoruk (PD)
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Kim Hunter (PM out)
Thursday, December 18th, 2014:
Stephanie Clagnaz (Offsite work day)
Tamara Destine (PM out)
Friday, December 19th, 2014
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014:
Board Meeting - 6:30pm @ Fahari Academy
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Friday, December 19th, 2014
Midterm - Quarter 2
Fahari Holiday Party
200 Fifth - 200 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY - 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014
Early dismissal - 12:45pm
CRITICAL DAY - (No PTO may be used)
Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - Friday, January 2nd, 2015
Monday, January 5th, 2015
CRITICAL DAY - (No PTO may be used)