Focus on the three Cs for a bright new year: Children, community and communication

While I’m not typically a resolution-maker, there’s something about a new year that invites reflection. As I contemplate what I want to accomplish in 2015, rather than focus on individual resolutions, I think about what informs and energizes our work: children, community, and communication.

Children

Several decades ago, past NCTE president and award-winning educator Yetta Goodman coined the term “kidwatcher”—a simple term to describe the potent understanding that the most effective teaching is responsive. We understand how to respond to students—what to teach them and how to teach—when we carefully observe and listen to them one-on-one, in group settings, through our conversations with them, and, of course, as we collect and analyze the “products of their learning:” their literary essays, mathematical problem-solving, science projects, public presentations about their history research, and so on. We become responsive educators as we gather and thoughtfully examine multiple pools of data across disciplines and formats. Kidwatching should inform our every instructional move.

Community

More than ever, I’m convinced that the only reform that actually works is a community-based, collective-impact approach to supporting our students and our schools. As a community, we don’t shy away from the difficult questions. We are working hard to be responsive, transparent and accessible to our community when asked tough questions – like what we are doing to support and advance our long-term English Learners, to afford equity and access for all students when it comes to college-prep coursework regardless of zip code or demographics, and to ensure that each and every student is treated as more than a test score.  We face tough issues head on, not with blame or victimization, but with deep resolve that as a community we will collectively work to create solutions and overcome any challenges that stand in the way of our children succeeding. We are clear as a community that we are working for a common outcome that can never be captured in a single test score. We commit with unwavering resolve to create conditions in which all children become actively literate, contributing, participating members of society who make a positive difference in the world.

Communication

As an advocate of community schools, I know our connections begin with clear and effective communication; indeed, as clinical psychologist Harriet Lerner once wrote, “Our conversations invent us; through our speech and our silence we become our smaller or our larger selves.” Every day, we strive to set aside our own biases and really listen to each other—to our children and to our colleagues, especially to those with opposing points of view. We listen with open hearts and minds and can become co-creators of the communities we serve. Our aim, always, is to continually act and speak from our highest and best selves. When we truly listen to one another, we can then work together to create a vital community that supports us all.

Children, community, and communication inform and energize our work every single day. May our refocused approach in the new year enable us to extend, refine, and deepen this important work. And, in this way, may we build a vibrant learning community that encourages intellectual curiosity, fosters compassion, and enables us always to place our beautiful children at the center of all we do.