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I am relaxing for one of the few times after an action packed and fantastic weekend with my family.  We mixed in some apple picking on Saturday at Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and had a great afternoon.  Today we were very productive and cleaned my daughter’s room and the basement.  It was nice to not leave the house and get caught up on some laundry and cleaning.  We needed a break from the hectic day-to-day that we normally participate in.  It is a great feeling to spend quality time as a family and accomplish something while doing so.  We were able to watch television and play games together as we cleaned.  We were able to capture a few pictures of the kids.

I wanted to use this entry to reflect on an interesting piece that I read two weeks ago from The Harvard Business Blog titled Understanding Fear of Process Improvement s.hbr.org/VPnHYG .  In the piece it highlighted some of the effective ways to embrace fear of change to help create a culture of continuous improvement.  The example I want to focus on is how we should show respect to the people whose work will change by getting them involved in defining the improvements and how it relates to North Andover High School (NAHS).

At NAHS, we are focusing in on creating a culture of continuous improvement by using our morning collaboration time to build professional learning communities.  The two departments that I have had the privilege of working with spent time last week on mutually agreed upon essential standards.  Up to this point in the cycle teachers have been working in departments or in PLC teams (cohorts) to form ground rules and set SMART goals.  These areas have been safe places to start and not as threatening to the individual teacher.  As we move on to topics such as agreeing on essential standards and creating common assessments the foundation of each team will be tested.  I believe it is critical that we provide the structure and knowledge base that allows the teachers and department heads to define the improvements in their work.  As administrators, we need to be present and provide resources from wherever necessary to support the improvement in student learning.  We all need to be involved in defining the improvements in our own special way.  I had a great week observing four morning collaboration meetings.

I observed two department wide collaboration meetings and two individual team meetings last week.  I was impressed at the cohesiveness of all of the meetings and the focus on improving essential standards and common assessments.  I observed a History team of three document standards within the context of their existing common assessments.  They worked great together and agreed on five learning outcomes for students for trimester one.  Later in the week, each team in the department shared what they worked on in PLC teams.  During this exercise, the conversation turned to teachers agreeing on skill based standards that would be consistent throughout grades 9-12.  The standards would have different content embedded into them.  The history department knows that we will be going to a standards based reporting system in the future and wants to use their time to agree on the proper skill-based standards that will eventually have to be reported out on.  The conversation included references to the common core and 21st century skills development.  It was a pleasure to watch the department focused on creating what they want students to know and be able to do.

In the Science department, I observed a department meeting where all members took inventory of what they had for standards.  They were all clear on the template that the school is using to document standards.  It was decided that if members in multiple teams needed to touch base in other groups that they could do so during a future morning.  Everyone left the meeting clear on the expectation and with the resources needed to meet the expectation. On Friday, I had the pleasure of observing a Science team of two that was in the first stage of creating a common assessment.  They worked off of a previous assessment and identified questions that they wanted to focus on.  The team as outlined in one their SMART goal action items was going to introduce students to the school-wide rubric for writing.  They used their time to modify areas of the rubric to more accurately reflect the goals needed for writing in Science.  The team talked about what they would have to adjust in their practice to help the students meet the requirements of the rubric.

I remain impressed at the high level of collaboration that is being displayed on a daily basis at NAHS.  Every meeting that I observed had teachers and department heads defining the improvements in their practice.  The facilitators that ran the meetings all did a wonderful job as well.  I look forward to the opportunity to share more successes in our cycle of continuous improvement.  I hope we are able to stick to the cycle, revisit our goals, and continue to improve practice.  Have a great week!