Strategic planning for your school or district can take a variety of forms. In today’s show, learn how one successful district has tackled this process and how they are getting buy in from teachers on the vision during the second year of implementation.
Creating a Vision for Your School and Getting Buy In from Stakeholders
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher/e259
Date: February 22, 2018
Vicki: Today, we’re talking to Lynn Fuini-Hetten @lfuinihetten, Assistant Superintendent from the Salisbury Township in Pennsylvania.
Her district has done a lot of work with one-to-one teaching and learning. It has been a leader for quite some time, in excellence and implementation of using technology to teach.
But Lynn, right now, you’re excited about what you’re calling TL 2020. Tell us what that is.
Lynn: Good morning, Vicki. Glad to be here with you this morning, and having this opportunity to share with your listeners.
What is TL 2020?
TL 2020 is our teaching and learning initiative in Salisbury Township School District. We spent quite a bit of time visioning for TL 2020, and continuing to evolve our vision.
Most recently we have developed a profile of a graduate, which articulates knowledge, skills, and dispositions we want our learners to have when they leave Salisbury Township School District.
If we want our learners to have that — the knowledge, the skills, the dispositions — we know that we need to transform our classrooms. We also have adopted a set of learning beliefs to help us better articulate what we want our classrooms to look like in the future as we approach 2020.
Vicki: So Lynn, I know that we can’t go into it all here on the podcast, and we will certainly link to the resources, but tell us a little bit about the knowledge, the skills, the dispositions.
I am uniquely intrigued by the word “disposition,” because usually we talk about knowledge, often we talk about skills. But “disposition” is kind of a new concept for what we want in our graduates. So explain that a little bit.
Explain how “disposition” fit into this
Lynn: Sure, so “disposition” is really a different idea, and something we think is really important as we consider the whole child.
We spent a lot of time visioning, and we asked which dispositions were important, which ones our community values. We actually talked to all of our staff, parents, school leaders, students, community members. We shadowed students, and we asked them, “What do want this whole child to look like when they leave us?”
So in addition to the knowledge (core curriculum and digital literacy and financial literacy and some other ideas), and in addition to the skills (creativity, creating bravely, collaboration, critical thinking, communication) — we want these dispositions:
- We want our learners to be curious.
- We want them to be risk takers.
- We want them to be compassionate and caring.
- We want them to take risks and keep trying, so be persistent and be resilient, and to work toward their goals, whatever their individual and personal goals might be.
So we’ve created this pretty comprehensive profile of a graduate.
Vicki: Wow. You have learning beliefs. Tell us about some of those learning beliefs, about what you want your classrooms to look like.
Tell us about your learning beliefs
Lynn: Sure. So we actually learned through Education Reimagined. We read their white paper for transforming teaching and Learning. We’ve adopted some of their core beliefs. We identified five learning beliefs for us:
- We want learning to be competency based
- We want learning to be personalized and relevant and contextualized, so that might mean designing learning around passion for kids, making it authentic, making sure that they have purpose.
- We want our learners to experience agency, both our young learners and our adult learners (those teachers and leaders). And we characterize that through choice and voice in their learning, in their pathways.
- We want our learning to be socially embedded. We want our learners and their peers and educators and community members and family members to create relationships so that we can make learning a richer experience.
- Through that, with open walled learning, we can engage experts and technology and resources so that the learning goes beyond the classroom walls.
One way that we can exercise that is through our one-to-one initiative. All of our learners have a device. K-1 students have access to an iPad, 2-12 students have access to MacBook Airs.
That device is a vehicle for helping us realize our learning beliefs and making sure that we are transforming classrooms so that the learning is competency based and relevant and we can engage a lot of agency.
Vicki: OK. Lynn. This sounds like a lot!
Lynn: (laughs) It is!
Vicki: How recently did you adopt this, and where did you start? Because, you know, when you’re classroom teacher — and you’ve been a classroom teacher, you know what it’s like — we’re so focused on our day-to-day, and “I’ve got to teach this tomorrow,” that making these kinds of shifts can be challenging!
So first of all, when did you pass this, and then second, where did you start?
This is a lot to take on, so where did you start?
Lynn: Sure, so we spent 2015-2016 really doing the research.
We ran two parallel activities to do that research — the first one was sort of a comprehensive planning and strategic planning where any stakeholder who wanted to give input could.
The second one is what we called, “Innovate Salisbury Professional Learning.” We invited teachers to uncover the uncommon dots in education.
So we brought a team of about 15 teachers together. We created opportunities for teachers to use mentor texts — so anything related to Genius Hour, MakerSpace, gamification — a lot of most recently published texts through practitioners and facilitators in the education world right now.
Teachers looked at those texts, tried some projects, reported out, and some of that also shaped the vision, which was then delivered to our staff, in actually 2016-2017.
So, last school year, we spent a full year building a shared understanding of this vision. We had another professional learning cohort called “Leading Your Salisbury.”
And at the end of that year, we did some assessment, and we realized that we needed some more time to build this vision.
People need to understand, “What does this look like? What can it look like in an elementary classroom? What does agency look like in a high school classroom? How can we implement socially embedded lessons and activities? How can we open up our walls so learners can have personalized and contextualized experiences?”
So we’re actually in the second year of this vision, and we’re really spending significant time right now building a shared understanding of our vision.
Vicki: So, Lynn, tell me a story about something you’ve seen as a result of this, that you go, “OK, this is what it’s about! This is why we created this vision!”
Lynn: Sure, so I can give you lots of examples, although I also want to be really transparent in saying that we are very, very early on in this journey. We have a lot of heavy lifting to do. You’re right, our teachers have a lot on their plates. I think we are dipping our toes to move forward.
One example: We have a learner centered media station, and we have a series of courses that students can take. We produce our own cable television show. This year, we have added two internships, where high school seniors are getting credit for actually running this TV station.
So that’s pretty exciting, that these students will have the opportunity to collaborate with outside cable experts and also produce their work, along with the work of their cable TV team and their Salisbury (Falcon?) Network Team and their advisor. They’ll produce it for an authentic audience of community members.
Vicki: So Lynn, as we finish up, you’re speaking to administrators who are trying to cast a vision and get people on board with it. What is the most important thing you have learned in this process, about being successful with a vision and getting buy in from stakeholders?
What is the most important thing about being successful with a vision?
Lynn: Sure. I think we have to build that shared understanding, and we have to provide a lot of opportunities for conversation — both about the possibilities and also about the challenges and how to mitigate those challenges. Everyone has a voice, and we need to engage everyone’s voice so that we can all move forward together.
Vicki: Do you have one mistake that you hope people won’t make?
Lynn: Hmmmm. (laughs) I’m sure we’ve made a lot of mistakes.
I think we have to make sure that we value each individual and each role in this. We have to make sure that we really listen to our learners, that we really listen to our leaders, that we really listen to our teachers as we move forward so that everyone’s voice is valued.
Vicki: So, administrators and teachers, casting a vision for your school. Knowing “What do we want our graduates to look like. What do we want our classrooms to look like? What kind of environment do we want to have.?”
I think also this conversation about disposition is a fascinating one. I know that we’ve had it in many forms. When I was a child, they called it character education.
Vicki: I don’t know if it was, “We want you to be this,” as much as it was, “This is what good character looks like.”
Vicki: But we do need to have visions. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll always hit it. (laughs)
You want to be very careful, and aim for the excellence. Aim for the place you want your school to go, because complacency is really a sign of decay. We’re either getting better, or we’re getting worse. There’s really no in between there. We can’t be complacent. We have to strive for excellence. We have to cast a vision.
I think Lynn has given us a lot of ideas for doing that, so thanks, Lynn!
Lynn: Thank you very much. My pleasure.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Lynn Fuini-Hetten is the Assistant Superintendent in the Salisbury Township School District. Prior to her work in this position, Lynn served as Supervisor of Instructional Practice, middle school teacher, instructional coach, instructional support teacher and assistant principal in the district. In her current role, Lynn is responsible for professional learning for all staff, supporting curriculum development, supervising the district’s virtual learning academy (VAST), and managing federal programs. Lynn has been an integral part in the success of Salisbury’s 1:1 teaching and learning initiative – Teaching and Learning 2020 (TL2020). As a result of her work in the area of professional development, Salisbury Township School District was recently recognized nationally as a Project RED Signature District and an Apple Distinguished Program. Lynn was recognized in 2013-14 with a mini-grant from Learning Forward PA to provide professional development focused on leading the implementation of PA Core Standards for the administrative team. Lynn received a BS and an MS in elementary education from Kutztown University, principal certification from Penn State University, instructional technology certification from Kutztown University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership from Wilkes University. Lynn has taught undergraduate course at DeSales University. In May 2014 Lynn received the Wanda McDaniel Award from the Women’s Caucus of PASA (Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.)
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