Work continues with my group on our challenge question: How can we, as a school, use restorative justice with technology to develop a strong and supportive culture that leads students with positivity and reinforcement? I facilitated our first conference call, using Doodle to match schedules and UberConference for the call itself. We met Monday and agreed to meet weekly to work through our project.
This particular week was focused on interviews and research. As my school is a little different, we agreed I would take on research to help me learn more about the process, and because I would not have access to scholars or teachers from my site. The rest of the group agreed to ask questions at their site. Using information shared from our first week, I went to work on research and will have my findings for the entire group soon. I have also shared feedback on the questions that are being asked through our shared Google Doc. I am enjoying the level of collaboration and support amongst my group!
I am using a similar process at Compass Charter Schools as we work on our Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs). We have a group who is working on our LCAPs, using Workplace by Facebook (our Intranet) as the place for online collaboration. I shared a homework assignment for the team this past week: review our 2017-18 Planning Survey Results, 2016-17 LCAP Goal Recaps and the LCAP goals for next year. This is in advance of meeting in person next Thursday for the day. We will spend the day reflecting on this past year, aided with our Goal Recaps, and plan for next year, aided with the 2017-18 Planning Survey Results. This is a first for the organization, as one staff person developed the plan in the past before sending it to the Board of Directors for approval. This new process will give more voice to our staff and truly allow us to create goals for the upcoming year that everyone understands and supports.
This process speaks to my leadership style. I believe it is important to listen to the entire organization and our stakeholder groups before making a change in the organization. The same process occurred last year, when we rewrote our mission and vision. With the vision, we spent a month using Google Docs to rewrite our vision statement. This was after an in-person retreat where we spent 90 minutes to create our mission statement, both of which were after a series of surveys which went to all of our stakeholder groups seeking input on who we are and who we want to become. What came out of this work? For our Guiding Principles, we agreed to and the Board of Directors adopted:
"Our mission is to inspire and develop innovative, creative, self-directed learners, one scholar at a time."
"Our vision is to create a collaborative virtual learning community, inspiring scholars to appreciate the ways in which arts and sciences nurture a curiosity for life-long learning, and prepare scholars to take responsibility for their future success."
Core Values: Achievement, Communication, Integrity, Respect, Teamwork
These Guiding Principles speak to our school's commitment to preparing scholars for the future with 21st Century Skills. As I shared in my Blog with our community when we rebranded from Academy of Arts and Sciences to Compass Charter Schools in March, "You see, a compass is a tool which helps guide us. We have always believed we were guiding our scholars on this educational journey, so why not call us what we are - your scholar’s compass. It made sense. And we hope you agree. Compass Charter Schools is your school of choice, which guides your scholar’s on this journey and is here to help prepare them for their future. "
How we operate speaks to our mission, vision and values, as a virtual charter school with a robust online education program, supported by our credentialed teachers. We are the school of the future, using technology to deliver the curriculum and supporting that delivery with virtual sessions hosted by our teachers. We are bringing the learning alive through project-based assignments. And everything we do is with one aim in mind - ensuring our scholars are prepared for tomorrow. What I am most proud of, though, is our strong desire to hear from our scholars, parents, staff, and community, to find ways to enhance what we are providing our scholars. Afterall, that is why we are here. To support them, and to prepare them to be successful.
The first week of EDL 655 has been busy and intense. There is much to learn in this course, with its focus on design thinking, social media, personalized learning, and more. In this first week, we were placed into groups for our group project. I am very excited to be part of Group 2 with Elise Harp, Ryan Horton and Ryan Irvan. We are using a Google Doc to collaborate and have decided our project will be on school culture with a focus on restorative justice.
I will admit, this is a new topic for me. Not school culture ... the concept of restorative justice. As I shared with my group, I am the CEO for my charter school with little classroom experience (the only experience I have is that of a substitute teacher when I lived in Michigan), and my charter is exclusively virtual which does not really lend itself to much discipline (other than some plagiarism claims, which all schools, including universities, experience). So in addition to contributing to my group, I will be spending some time learning more about this concept of restorative justice. This is something I have also offered to lead in the group - the gathering of our research, as it will truly help me understand the topic and allow me to better support my peers in the group.
This week I shared my story with the group, and using my own lack of understanding on the topic, asked questions to not only aid in my understanding, but hopefully the understanding of some of our end users, such as parents and the community. We may all be in the same boat if we do not come from the education space. There are seven 21st Century Learner Outcomes, and I believe I am showcasing critical thinking and problem solving, as I need to learn this topic to be able to fully support my team. I have shared my growth opportunity and am taking full advantage of the resources we are coming up with to study and learn about restorative justice. I can see this as a powerful tool, too, for scholars to interact with their teachers and peers at Compass Charter Schools. What we need to do is ensure they have a safe space to ask questions and ask for help to understand a topic. It can be scary, and it was for me too. How can a school leader not know about restorative justice? I owned my shortcomings, shared that with my peers, and am taking the steps to learn. We have to make sure our scholars can also do the same without fear. It is intimidating – I can speak to that firsthand.
This idea of seeking help is something that will ensure our scholars are prepared to be successful in today’s global society. There is an abundance of resources across the globe and to be prepared means to know how to access these resources. There is not a standardized test to show mastery for some of these topics. Mastery comes from knowing how to ask the right question of the right individual. Mastery comes from understanding the answer and being able to apply it to the topic at hand. When I watching the video "The People Verses the School System" I could also put my head down and think, how far we have come in so many fields, except the field of education. I remembered my first cell phone and now the ability to text from my watch. And yet, the classroom looks the same for so many. That is not the way to ensure our scholars are prepared.
I take this to heart, too, knowing the mission and vision for my own school is to prepare self-directed learners, one scholar at a time, who are prepared for their future successes. They will only be prepared if they can think critically. They will only be self-directed if they know how to understand the right question to ask. There are so many examples from this past week alone on this area. I met with my charter authorizer, who asked a question of a peer and received a response. I said to her, that was not the right question to ask. We have to know what to ask to be successful.
This first week has truly been an eye-opener. I have some learning to do, and need to prioritize my days and weeks for the next two months to ensure I can learn and apply that learning here in this course, and in my personal and professional lives.
What a spring! My second course of 2017 at San Diego State was Professional Learning and Growth Leadership, with Nancy Frey (SDSU professor) and Alex Gonzalez (HSHMC Technology Coordinator). I thoroughly enjoyed this particular course, as professional development is one of my passions.
This particular course focused on professional development for organizations and growth leadership for individuals. It was eye-opening to truly reflect on some of the training needs for Compass Charter Schools, as we worked through the various assignments in the course. I started thinking about one area of need, and ended up with something completely different - training on data analysis. The assignments really helped focus the more immediate needs of the organization as opposed to what I believed were needed.
We used a few new technology pieces, such as Flipgrid, in the course, to aid in our learning and reflection. It was great to interact with my peers through this tool as we talked through learning and growth. I also ended with a final product which I do believe can be used at Compass Charter Schools in the upcoming year, and will be of benefit to those we serve, our scholars.
It is truly rewarding to be able to learn with my cohort, my peers! Thank you Alex, Nancy, and my cohort, for the start to a great final semester at SDSU!
It’s May! Is it just me, or has this year been flying by? I suppose that’s what happens when you have so many wonderful things happening. April was a busy month for Compass and things are not slowing down anytime soon. We have a lot to celebrate throughout the month of May!
First, please join the Compass staff and I this week to celebrate National Charter Schools Week. We’ll be sharing important facts about charter schools and the positive impact they have on so many families across the country, and right here in California through our school. According to a 2016 nationally representative survey from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, parental support for charter schools is strong. In fact, 80 percent of parents of school-aged children support allowing parents to choose which public schools their child should attend. Also, the report showed that more than 70 percent of parents favor having a charter school open in their neighborhood. According to one of our surveys, 93 percent of our scholars and families believe we are committed to their success, and I can assure every scholar and parent, we are.
I invite you to join the National Charter Schools Week celebration by sharing pictures and videos with us, using #CharterSchoolsWeek. Please share why you enjoy being part of Compass Charter Schools!
Our next major celebration is when we celebrate our wonderful teachers, during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12. Our 54 teachers dedicate countless hours to supporting our scholars and their families, and it’s time to celebrate them! We will be honoring California Day of the Teacher on Wednesday, May 10 and hosting a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday, May 11. We invite our scholars to send thank-you letters to their teachers, and join us on social media throughout the week, using #ThankATeacher, to share their favorite memories about their teachers.
Our final major celebration is when we celebrate our amazing staff, during Classified School Employees Week, May 21-27. The theme is “Everyday Heros” and I could not agree more, our staff, including those we have recognized earlier this month (teachers) and earlier this year (counselor) are our heros. We invite scholars to join us on social media throughout the week, using #CSEW2017, to share your favorite memories about the staff who have been your hero.
As we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, National Teacher Appreciation Week, California Day of the Teacher, and Classified School Employees Week, I also invite you to join me in giving back to Compass. In March, we launched our Annual Fund to increase and enhance our engagement opportunities for our scholars. I have started my ongoing, monthly gift to Compass and would like to personally ask our community to join me in giving back as we celebrate throughout this month of May. Join me with either a one-time or monthly gift to help Compass serve our scholars!
This year Compass has made some incredible changes to improve our programs and continues to move onward to better support our scholars and their families. I would love to hear from you and encourage all of our stakeholders (scholars, learning coaches, staff and community) to complete our 2017 Planning Survey. I also invite you to share feedback with us through the suggestion boxes on our homepage, or directly with me. I am truly thankful to the teachers, staff, scholars and families who dedicate their time and resources to make Compass Charter Schools a great success. This month is a time to recognize all of our hard work, so let’s celebrate!
J.J. Lewis - a blog sharing the journey throughout SDSU's MA.EL. program.