1. What role does school play in building students’ agency and identity?
Our school is big on student agency. Agency is one of our school five “Schoolwide Learning Outcomes,” in addition to written communication, oral communication, collaboration, and knowledge & thinking. Regarding identity, every student is required to build their own professional portfolio of their best work over their four years of high school. In this way they slowly assemble a picture of their academic/professional self.
2. How aware are you and your colleagues of the impact our choice of words have on developing students’ agency and identity? Can you give examples? Our school is quite aware, as we literally post choice words up in every classroom. It relates to our schoolwide learning goal of collaboration, and we have posters of sentence starters in every room, to give students effective strategies when it comes to working with one another in groups.
3. What would you do, if anything, to make using choice words a more conscious and accountable school wide practice if you were the school leader? I might conduct a staff meeting to collaborate on deciding which choice words we want to see and use more around our campus. After deciding on two or three, we would then brainstorm the best ways to market these choice words to the students, and effectively incorporate them into our school culture.
4. What could you do, if anything, to make the use of choice words a more conscious and accountable personal practice as well as one embraced by others on your site? Are those things within your sphere of influence? I already have the most important choice words for my history class (“Support your claims with evidence!”) made into a poster, and placed front and center in my classroom. I might now consider adding a second poster of choice words. That first poster is now several years old, and I will think of a newer phrase to immortalize alongside it on the wall!
5. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school choose words wisely?
1. When it comes to the concept of Do No Harm, I believe
When it comes to the concept of Do No Harm, I believe it sounds like the educational equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath! On the surface it sounds so obvious, but there do seem like there might be some instances when schools may in fact do unintended harm to students.
2. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in discipline policies and practices?
As a future school leader, I like the idea of reviewing all the rules to determine “is this rule a teaching tool?” If it looks like a rule is simply inflicting punishment, I would want to reconsider it to see if it could be improved to become more of a teaching tool.
3. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in program practices and initiatives?
With regards to programs, as a future school leader I would want to build a culture early on that built relationships between students. The better that students know each other (and their teachers), the less likely they will willingly inflict harm on each other and the school environment.
4. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in our professional development as a community of learners?
As a future school leader, I would stress the PD that helps teachers implement the absolute best pedagogical practices. While this may not seem related to the “do no harm” concept; it is. The more engaging the curriculum, the less likely that students will resort to inappropriate behavior, and the amount of harm being done will certainly decrease.
5. Is the concept of teaching students to “first do no harm” integrated into the culture of your school (or workplace)?
The motto at our school is “Trust, Respect, Responsibility.” I believe this is an attempt to get beyond simply not doing harm, and reaching for even loftier goals when it comes to behavior.
6. How does your answer to the previous prompt sit with you?
I agree with this approach, as I think the vast majority of people (teachers and students alike) already know they should “do no harm.”
7. Current sphere of influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more positive restorative place.
My school - Samueli Academy in Santa Ana, CA - has the following vision statement: “Equipping tomorrow's leaders to achieve college and career excellence through academic rigor in an environment of trust, respect, and responsibility.” So the mention of "respect" could be connected to the idea of "welcome." But I'm not sure if the average student would make that connection. That said, our campus welcomes visitors so often (fundraising tours, teachers observing project-based learning, “authentic audience” members), that students do often chat up the unknown adults who are visiting. I led a discussion with my Music Appreciation class about subgroups at school who may feel less than fully welcomed. A theme that emerged was the sense that perhaps students with better grades receive better treatment. The example given was the belief that guidance counselors only seek out students with the best grades to go on field trips to colleges. As a school leader, certainly I would want to be sure we are affording the same opportunities for exposure to colleges for all students. For now, I will have to inquire with our guidance department about the process of sending kids on field trips to colleges. It may well be an equitable process that some students are just yet fully aware of.
Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more welcoming place: