Start the Year Right

Starting The School Year On The Right Foot

A rewarding way to begin the school year starts with a conference with three people: student, parent and advisor. An advisor means the school has an advisory program or students are with an elementary teacher most of the day.

The conference is best scheduled before the formal school start date, or during the first week of school. Many of the conferences will be in the evening to fit parent work schedules.

At the conference (scheduled by the advisor) parent, student and advisor become acquainted and establish communication means, such as a home or work phone number or email.

The personal learning plan (PLP) starts with student interests and favorite subjects, then areas where the student or parent suggest improvement. The advisor notes the two—interests and improvements—for later reference. The result, different for each student, becomes a personal learning plan.

The conference meeting should be relaxed and comfortable, for instance, coffee, a cookie and a comfortable chair, not a kindergarten chair for the adults. The conference creates an easy conversation with the parent who knows their child best and is recognized as such.

The most important result is a plan for the student’s success. It helps if the school program allows flexibility and choices as I wrote in School Transformation. Goals, projects and classes become the path to success.

The final step schedules periodic times for the advisor to meet with the student for progress and adjusting for problems. The parent and advisor set a date for the next conference to review progress. The school ideally has set one or two calendar dates midyear and an end-of-year time for conferences.

Subsequent conferences should be student-managed as in, “ Mom and Dad, here are the goals we set and what I worked on. And here is how it went.” Role-playing the conference with the advisor ahead of time helps the student with the upcoming conference. The conference discussion should emphasize accomplishments.

The initial and later conferences help the student understand accountability. The conference recognizes the importance of the parent and the means of two-way communication. The partnership aims for student management of their schooling and the importance of responsibility.

The beginning of the year conference validates school-parent partnerships with the student’s progress at the center as it should be.

Wayne B Jennings, retired teacher, principal and author of School Transformation.

Innovation Sources

Innovation sources: the following is a partial list of organizations thought to promote progressive education. I omitted others considered primarily training or commercial outfits. There may errors of omission or mischaracterization, but the list shows how many organizations promote progressive approaches.

  1. Advancing  Whole-Learner Education
  2. Alternative Education Resource  Organization
  3. Atlantic Rim Collaborative
  4. Buck Institute for Education
  5. Center for Collaboration
  6. Center for Mental Health in Schools
  7. Center for Reinventnig Public Education
  8. Centre for Personalized Learning
  9. Communities in Schools
  10. Competency Works
  11. CTQ Collab
  12. Deeper Learning Network
  13. Digital Badge Program
  14. EdSurge
  15. Education Evolving
  16. Education Reimagined Lab (Note: check link to Transcend)
  17. Education Reimagined
  18. Edutopia
  19. Experiential Learning Depot
  20. Future Lab
  21. Future Ready Schools
  22. generation Learning Challenges
  23. Getting Smart
  24. HundRed
  25. iNACOL
  26. Innovation Sources
  27. Institute for Educational Leadership
  28. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning
  29. international Society for Technology in Education
  30. Just Ask Us
  31. KnowledgeWorks\
  32. LeaningForward
  33. Maker Faire
  34. MindShift Education
  35. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
  36. Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  37. NewTech NetworkNext
  38. Next Generation Learning Challenges
  39. OBESSU Organizing Bureau  European School Student Unions
  40. Open Way Learning
  41. Problem-based Learning
  42. Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
  43. Reimagine School
  44. Reinventing Schools Coalition
  45. Remake Learning
  46. ReSchool Colorado
  47. Spark-Y
  48. Transcend
  49. UNICEF
  51. Up with Learning
  52. Yellow Hats League

School Transformation


Wayne B. Jennings Ph.D.

Key Points:

Four Goals for K-12 Education
• Active, responsible Citizenship
• Productive, satisfying careers
• Lifetime learning
• Personal fulfillment

Seven Problems of Present Schooling
• Disengagement rates of 60 %
• Dropouts (one million per year)
• In-school dropouts
• Achievement gap between poor and middle class
• Suspension levels
• Limitations of the classroom model
• Curve of forgetting

Four Attempts at Fixing Schools
• 100 million each: Miami, Philadelphia, Newark
• Federal grants (millions)
• 1000s of workshops, seminars, books
• Abundant Consultants
• But: Disappointing results

Features of our New Era
• Technology: (more to come, e.g. AI)
• Families have changed
• Race, gender equity and preferences
• Many others

Four Key findings about how the Brain Learns
• Input: the more the better
• Experience: opportunities to test one’s wings
• Feedback: essential to refine learnings
• Safety: lack of anxiety, unconditional positive regard

Nine Basic Principles for Transformed Schools
• Personal learning plans
• Advisor program
• Trust and belief in youth
• Student-directed learning
• Vision, team building, commitment
• Supportive creative team
• Partnerships (many kinds)
• Choices: students and teachers
• Technology
But, (what to do with resisters)

Some Brain Compatible Learning Activities

• Project-based, place-based ventures
• Outdoors, escape from 4 walls
• Community resources (rural also)
• Service experiences
• Field trips, local and extended
• Sparks
• Interdisciplinary
• Exchanges, schools, rural, urban, ethnicity
• Reflection
• Photography, video tape, editing
• Drama, debate
• Fine arts, practical arts
• Sports, recreation
• Oral and written history
• Writing: stories, newspapers
• Internships, Shadow studies
• Decision making, democracy, PP
• Learned expertise, geniuses
• Exhibitions, public presentations
• Restorative practices
• Pupil-teacher planning
• Student as a resource
• Camping
• Competencies (Badging)

My Book: School Transformation

After 60 years with schools and the gathering of 7,500 reports, articles, notes, conference handouts and the experience as a teacher, principal, and university teacher, I’ve written the book, I always planned about different and better ways of schooling.

The book, School Transformation at 450 pages with 500 footnotes (on the bottom of the referenced page), and written without jargon for the general public, educators and policy makers. It has stories, quotes, my experiences and famous but little known items, that new generations would have seen go viral.

I’m getting a good reaction, some calling it the education book of the century. It will stimulate a new way of thinking about our outmoded system. They say only I could have written it because of my base of experience and references. I’m certain it will excite you.

School Transformation is available from Amazon.