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Our superintendent is a visionary. He has asked the elementary schools in our district to "re-vision" what elementary school might look like. Who wouldn't love that challenge? I don't know how many times I've said, "If only I could create my own school. I would..." We began the process by looking at what was working in our present educational system and what we wanted to change. Ideas flowed back and forth.
Understanding the importance of community and wanting to strengthen relationships across grade levels, our principal proposed we restructure ourselves into vertical learning communities. Together, our staff built a vision of what that might look like. We have four learning communities: one community consists of K-1, and the other three consist of grades 2 through 5. The principal also knew that in order to make this work, the schedule had to be tweaked. Her next smart idea...a fourth special. This year, our kids will have music, art, PE AND STEM.
This configuration allows our staff to work together to do an even better job of personalizing education for our students. Learning communities are planning experiences where students will work across grade levels based on student interests and passions. Teachers will collaborate as they look at kids across grade levels. Together we will build our knowledge and skill base on how to better meet the needs of each community as a whole, instead of looking at just a grade level, or even just a classroom of students. Each teacher in the community has a stake in every single child. Relationships between students of different ages will be strengthened as they get to know each other better.
I am amazed at what I see happening in our school. Almost everyone moved their classrooms so that communities are housed together in the same hall. Moving your classroom is HARD work. Everyone pitched in to help. Teachers are working with new colleagues. Some are teaching new grade levels and new subjects. Every single person is taking a risk in one way or another. The change has breathed new life into our school. The excitement and energy are palpable. I am so excited for the new possibilities and opportunities that await both our students and our entire staff. This will be a year of trying new things and learning from our experiences as we work together.
The key word here is together. We know we can't do it alone. Together we will build something that is indeed, a "re-vision" of what elementary school can be.
I will continue to document our journey on this blog. I can't wait to see what happens next!