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. They start a personal learning plan for the student.

The personal learning plan (PLP) starts with student interests and favorite subjects, then continues with areas where the student or parent suggest student improvement. The result, different for each student, becomes a personal learning plan.

The conference meeting should be relaxed and comfortable, for instance, coffee, treats 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.

The most important result is a plan for the student’s success. It helps if the school program allows flexibility and choices as described 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 sets 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 prepares the student for the upcoming conference. The conference discussion should emphasize accomplishments.

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 school-parent partnership aims for student-management of learning 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.

School Transformation

by

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)