It’s been a long time since my wife and I chaperoned over night school trips, but that is exactly what we did this weekend as we joined Warrensburg Central School Band Teacher Denise Foster, six chaperones, and 23 middle and high school band students for a New York City experience. The featured events were “Stomp” and “Spiderman” squeezed into a 24 hour period. Spiderman was spectacular, but it was “Stomp” and the post show interactive meet-and-greet session with Keith Middleton and Fritzlyn Hector that drove this reflection. What we learned from the two performers during the 30+ minutes meet-and-greet far exceeded our expectations as the simple question and answer period blossomed into a full-blown practice session. By session’s end, Keith and Fritzyn had all 23 students and willing chaperones doing a four-part broom act on a quarter note tempo. It was incredible, and a few students later commented the evening was one of their best experiences ever. Kudos to Denise Foster for making this all happen.
I try not to mix work with play (yes, chaperoning the trip was great fun), but fresh off a three-day Network Team Institute earlier in the week, I was tuned in to the question and answer period which offered pearls of wisdom (and a lot of laughs) that hold true in all walks of life, including Race to the Top and school reform. A 20-year successful run in Manhattan with national and world tours doesn’t happen by chance, and Keith and Fritz described some key principles that set the stage for Stomp’s success–principles that apply to life in general. Key take-aways were as follows: 1) Work hard, but have fun with the work. 2) Take care of your body. Nourish it with good food, rest, and time for reflection. 3) Follow the beat and pay attention to those around you. 4) Have ownership in all you do. 5) Practice together and often. 6) Have a sense of humor.
Since we’re in the thick of Student Learning Objectives (SLO), how would the “Stomp” principles apply to writing SLO’s? Well, first of all, work hard at them and relish the potential they offer to increase student achievement. Take solace knowing this is the first year for writing SLO’s and that we will all get better at it in the future. Also, stay current and look for the good work being done around you. Find those individuals and schools which are ahead of the pace and pay attention to how they are creating SLO’s. Have teachers own the SLO. It is tempting for central office or school leaders to write the SLO’s and then have teachers justify the rationale for such targets, but districts run the risk of compliance over ownership when teachers are omitted from developing the SLO’s. If we are to make SLO’s work in New York state, and as Ken Slentz said during training last week, SLO’s have never been rolled out at the scale they are in NY, we need to be certain teachers and principals have a vested interest in their creation. Finally, let’s do this important work together, and have a sense of humor and tolerance for the mistakes that are surely to be made as we learn together how to write quality SLO’s.