One of the first things facilitator LaVonna Roth asked participants in her morning session was “are students in your school today similar to students a few years ago?” I was partnered with a first-year teacher from the Seattle area named Nick to exchange thoughts about this opening question posed to the group. Despite the obvious differences between us (regional, years of experience, position), we immediately agreed that students need to be stimulated to be engaged. LaVonna Roth shared that instruction today must captivate and challenge students. She discussed innovative brain power strategies to engage students that include using cross-curricular themes, differentiated instruction, and formative assessments. Although the poverty gap is widening in education, technology is more or less setting trends, and parent interaction is less, as educators we can still look at factors within our environment to increase student engagement. LaVonna emphasized the importance of nutrition and that students need to keep moving. Did you know that children perform the best academically in the class on the master schedule that follows PE? Other keys to student engagement are that children need learning to be fun, multiple ways to share and personally connect their learning, and opportunities to link new and prior knowledge. These strategies can easily be brought back for faculty to use not only in their classroom but with one another as well as during faculty and team meeting time.
Will School Reform Improve the Schools? Diane Ravitch
Wow, what an opportunity to listen to Diane Ravitch, author of the Death and Life of the Great American School System, speak about the current state of public education and the efforts to change. She understands and easily conveys the message that corporate reformers have no place in public education and that their intent to deregulate and privatize schools across the country will only produce winners and losers and not equity, a key concern in education today. I believe her message to us as educators is to stay the course, continue to value and teach the whole child and maintain the collaborative nature that exists between each of us.
P.S. Don’t forget that April is the month of the military child. What can your school do to support and honor military families?
—Janet E. Cerro, principal, Fletcher Elementary School, Cambridge, Vermont