Many hands make light work. That’s a rule I learned growing up in a relatively large family of six children and a family dog. My mom stayed at home, and she somehow managed to keep the house spotless and the children well-fed. Granted, outside of severe weather postings, we weren’t allowed indoors unless it was time to eat or getting near bedtime. Six children and dog made for busy days and nights in our house, and my mom relied on everyone to help carry the load. Okay, some of us did more than others, and I guess my sisters would say I was in the “others” category. In any case, we shared the load and lessened the burden on mom.
Schools, districts, regional agencies, and state education departments are much like families as well, and each does a better job when people share the burden-particularly during this era of reform. Change can be burdensome. It is unsettling, unfamiliar, and most often, unwelcome. Race to the Top is about change, and some of its components are unsettling, unfamiliar, and unwelcome. However, there are also excellent elements of RTTT which can surely ready children for lifelong success and self-directed learning, including the emphasis on Common Core Learning Standards and Instructional Shifts, Data-Driven Instruction, tools to define and inform teacher and principal evaluation, and, dare I say it, Student Learning Objectives.
This past week, our Network Team held two full-day Lead Evaluator sessions for our region’s school and central office administrators. We know our audience members well, and there always is a social buzz at our sessions even though the sessions are RTTT-mandated. Our focus was on understanding and using the Student Learning Objectives (SLO) Guidance Document to begin the arduous task of identifying which teachers will need SLOs, the measures and evidences required, and so on. We also had our colleagues do a mid-year implementation assessment on the extent of instructional shifts in literacy and math occurring within their schools and classrooms. In spite of the uncertainties and varied levels of expertise and readiness around the topics, the days were well received and confirmed my belief that many hands make light work. People left feeling better about SLOs, and my Network Team colleagues breathed a collective sigh for a good day’s work.
Back to team work, one school district administrator during our first session shared with me a tool being used in his district to help staff understand and use SLOs in their schools. He gave me a hard copy and will be sending me the digital document so I can share it with all district administrators in the region. In another example of sharing the burden, I contacted a school principal prior to the workshops for help in designing templates administrators could use to organize their SLO information. I knew a template was in order, and this particular principal tends to stay two steps ahead of the curve in all she does. With her assistance, we were able to create a quality template that served its purpose well during the training sessions. The power of many hands.
I so love the African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” In essence, it reminds me anything that truly matters in our world requires shared responsibility and team work. Many hands working together can make light work of the load, and so it goes with school reform. As we trudge through the change process, let’s be mindful of sharing best practices and being there for one another.