Kids Want to Go to School

As a life-long educator, there is one thing I know: kids want to go to school.  Sadly, thousands of Haitian children never have the opportunity to attend to school because they cannot afford it. To this day, children of Haiti live lives of complete impoverishment.  With little to no way to help themselves recover from this poverty, hope arises from Education. Talented, smart Haitian children want to go to school.

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Friends of Haiti provided this girl with school supplies and tuiton

School opportunities in Haiti are different.  The government provides no funding whatsoever to rural schools.  Any rural schools are private and run on student tuition fees only.  This means children who want to go to school, often cannot simply because they cannot afford it.

This and other social issues need our attention.  Over the past five years, a small group of Canadians have been working to ease some of the suffering of Haitians and support them in achieving a more fulfilling life.  This has lead to the creation of Friends of Haiti (Canada), started in 2015

Friends of Haiti is a small group of Canadians  who want to help our friends in Haiti with education, healthcare, sports, housing, entrepreneurship, and dreams.  Living in Canada, we have so many opportunities and an abundance of support to achieve goals.  To see others living in desperation is so difficult.  We now have a way to send direct help and support.  Living a life that is productive and meaningful all starts with education.

Along with 4 other Canadians, I feel privileged to be a part of this grass-roots, organization.

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Lori and Yvrons in Lavanneau Haiti 2015

 

Besides education we help our friends in Haiti with  healthcare, sports, housing, entrepreneurship, and dreams.  Living in Canada, we have so many opportunities and an abundance of support to achieve goals.  To see others living in desperation is so difficult.  We now have a way to send direct help and support.  Living a life that is productive and meaningful all starts with education

Homes in Lavanneau, Haiti

Children of rural Haiti, they dream of going to school

Sadly, many families cannot afford to send their children to school.  Our initiative aims to provide funds to the poorest, most under privileged children of Haiti in order to attend school.  We know that by supporting youth in reaching their dreams of becoming nurses, teachers and lawyers we must get them to school.

The future of Haiti

A new home for Ednor, with Friends of Haiti Team members and sponsors Carolin, Dave and Mr. Gabe

Over the past five years, extensive humanitarian work has been done to develop Friends of Haiti (Canada).  Friends of Haiti is a small group of Canadians who want to help our friends in Haiti with education, healthcare, sports, housing, entrepreneurship and dreams.

 

The main team of five are based out of Alberta and B.C.  The team travels to Haiti once a year to achieve our mission.  During the year however, the focus is on fund raising.

Heading to the goat market to purchase goats for schools.

Maxeau, our Haitian Coordinator brings school supplies to the children of Marbial

We are very privileged to have a Haitian coordinator who works tirelessly to bring hope to Haitians.  Maxeau Pierre, a law student living in Jacmel, coordinates our efforts from Haiti.

 

We are pleased to report that to date, 98% of all our funding goes directly to our cause.   Minimal Administration fee of 2% is used to send funds and support Maxeau in administrative work in Haiti.  We do this work because we care.  Help Haitians help themselves. Please join our Facebook page Friends of Haiti (Canada).

Mission accomplished, all ready for Sept 7, 2015. First day of school.

Friends of Haiti endeavors to support children in achieving their goals by sending them to school.  Your donations will help a child by:

Paying school tuition; tuition varies depending on the age of the student

                  $25 USD per year for ages K-6

                   $50 USD per year for ages 7-9

                   $30 USD per month for high school

                   $100 USD per month for university

Purchasing required school uniforms;

                  $25 – $50 USD per year depending on the age of the student

Purchasing required backpacks and school supplies

up to  $25 USD per year

98% of all our funding goes directly to our cause.   Minimal Administration fee of 2% is used to send funds and support Maxeau in administrative work in Haiti (gas, bank fees).

100% of our humanitarian trips and costs in Canada are directly paid for by our team members.
Donating is easy!  Please go to www.southwoodchurch.ca and click “give online”  In the paypal notes please direct your donation the Friends of Haiti.

 

Are You In the Club?

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in t...

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As I continue to understand the work of  J. DOUGLAS WILLMS, SHARON FRIESEN, AND PENNY MILTON in their 2009 report What Did You Do in School Today? I am understanding more specifically the notion of Social Engagement.  For quite some time now, when we talked about engagement, we were all referring to academic or intellectual engagement.  Social Engagement; defined as “meaningful participation in the life of the school” in a lot of ways is the first requirement needed to influence the success of academic and intellectual engagement. 

The outcomes of social engagement defined as having: “Friendships, social networks, sense of belonging, self-confidence, and often enjoyment of school'” I believe are the key factors, the initial purposes and our first point of school.  It’s always interesting that we mostly know “what” to do in schools.  The trick is to know how!  How do we support students in developing friendships, building social networks, developing a sense of belonging, developing self-confidence and enjoying school?  Great questions!

I think we have been working quite specifically and purposefully on the outcomes of Social engagement.  We participate in the Alberta Government Accountability Pillar to measure our growth and success.  I will probably forget a few things here, but here are some of the things we do:

  • Self-confidence:  set goals, work on them and review them.  Differentiation to support all students in being successful.  Understand learner profiles to properly support.  Develop report card comments that are strength based, rather than deficit based.  Use restitution, rather than punishment, whenever possible.
  • Friendships and social networks: keep some friends together in classes, encourage a variety of learning opportunities including small group and partner time, specific friendship groups/clubs focussed on social skills development during class time and at lunch, 27 minute unstructured play time at lunch, cross-grade activities in the school, buddy classes, “fun” noon-time clubs.
  • Sense of Belonging: monthly school assemblies, school tee-shirts, clubs, teams, student helpers, classroom meetings (morning meetings), Touchstone for specific students, culturally diverse celebrations and learning.
  • Enjoyment of school: know your student!  Have fun!  School wide activities such as pajama day, sports day, assemblies, new initiatives such as drum fit, recognition of personal successes.

Perhaps if I think longer, I could add to the list.  But, more importantly, what can you add to the list?

For more on the complete What Did You Do In School Today report by the Canadian Education Association click here http://www.cea-ace.ca/programs-initiatives/wdydist

How to Increase Social Engagement At Your School

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in t...

Image via Wikipedia

As I continue to understand the work of  J. DOUGLAS WILLMS, SHARON FRIESEN, AND PENNY MILTON in their 2009 report What Did You Do in School Today? I am understanding more specifically the notion of Social Engagement.  For quite some time now, when we talked about engagement, we were all referring to academic or intellectual engagement.  Social Engagement; defined as “meaningful participation in the life of the school” in a lot of ways is the first requirement needed to influence the success of academic and intellectual engagement.

The outcomes of social engagement defined as having: “Friendships, social networks, sense of belonging, self-confidence, and often enjoyment of school'” I believe are the key factors, the initial purposes and our first point of school.  It’s always interesting that we mostly know “what” to do in schools.  The trick is to know how!  How do we support students in developing friendships, building social networks, developing a sense of belonging, developing self-confidence and enjoying school?  Great questions!

I think we have been working quite specifically and purposefully on the outcomes of Social engagement.  We participate in the Alberta Government Accountability Pillar to measure our growth and success.  I will probably forget a few things here, but here are some of the things we do:

  • Self-confidence:  set goals, work on them and review them.  Differentiation to support all students in being successful.  Understand learner profiles to properly support.  Develop report card comments that are strength based, rather than deficit based.  Use restitution, rather than punishment, whenever possible.
  • Friendships and social networks: keep some friends together in classes, encourage a variety of learning opportunities including small group and partner time, specific friendship groups/clubs focussed on social skills development during class time and at lunch, 27 minute unstructured play time at lunch, cross-grade activities in the school, buddy classes, “fun” noon-time clubs.
  • Sense of Belonging: monthly school assemblies, school tee-shirts, clubs, teams, student helpers, classroom meetings (morning meetings), Touchstone for specific students, culturally diverse celebrations and learning.
  • Enjoyment of school: know your student!  Have fun!  School wide activities such as pajama day, sports day, assemblies, new initiatives such as drum fit, recognition of personal successes.

Perhaps if I think longer, I could add to the list.  But, more importantly, what can you add to the list?

For more on the complete What Did You Do In School Today report by the Canadian Education Association click here http://www.cea-ace.ca/programs-initiatives/wdydist

 

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So What is Visible Learning Anyway?

So What is Visible Learning Anyway? Thoughts and Understandings From a School Principal

As with most fall meetings, this fall started off with direction setting meetings, visions, missions and re-establishing what we are about.  It was during these meetings that the notion of Visible Learning, as described by John Hattie came across my radar.  What was this Visible Learning?

So, I ordered the book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement and cracked it open when it came. Wow, the book is not what I was expecting and not like I have ever seen before.  I find it is not a book you can read cover to cover, it is more like a reference book.  I gleamed information out of it and let it set until today when I participated in the Visible Learning webinar through The Leadership and Learning Center, facilitated by Douglas Reeves.

Visible Learning is now beginning to take shape in my mind, I am beginning to understand new information and think about applying it in my own context.

Lightbulb moment: Changes in teacher practice effect changes in student learning (Douglas Reeves).  Okay, maybe not a lightbulb moment but a critical thought none-the-less.  Even today, as we were working through some behaviour issues with elementary aged students, could it be that if the teacher changes the approach and the practice, perhaps the students behaviour would change as well?  Let’s focus on the teaching (and I mean teaching, not teacher), rather than on the behaviours.

English: A teacher teaching something in Da Ji...As stated by Douglas Reeves: Linking specific teaching strategies with specific student results is Visible Learning.  As mentioned in the example above, would there be a way to incorporate specific teaching strategies and measure specific results? I think so.  The key at our school is that I think we are very good at identifying what is wrong and what we need to be different.  I think we know what the preferred state would be.  I think we have many resources and teaching strategies (perhaps too many) but I DON’T think we know how to measure the effectiveness of specific strategies.

In regards to the teaching strategies, our goal has been to focus on those high impact strategies.  I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new John Hattie book Visible Learning for Teachers to ensure our understanding and implementation of high impact strategies.  As a side note, feedback (d=.72 effect size) is a high impact strategy I previously blogged about (see Feedback or Feedforward).

As mentioned in The Walk-About we have our observations in place – in other words, teachers are observing teachers each day.  We now need to make those observations systematic, objective, and precise (Douglas Reeves).  We need to observe for high impact strategies and the effect they are having on student achievement.  We need to gather specific data about specific practices.

Our goals with Visible Learning are:

1.  To raise awareness.  ex:”This is what feedback and engagement look like in our school and in your classroom.”

2.  To set targets. ex:”Now that we have this information, what are we going to do with it?”

3.  Practice. ex: “Last month my feedback to students consisted primarily of ______ and this month it consists of_____”

4.  Measure the effects of our practice.  “This teaching practice, resulted in this improvement (or not)!

5.  Keep what works, get rid of the rest!

Perhaps through Visible Learning, our understanding of what quality teaching really is will become more specific, objective and precise resulting in a greater understanding of knowing why we are doing what we are doing in the art form called teaching.

Leadership Lessons… Ten Ideas to Take From 2011 into 2012

As 2011 draws to a close, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what I have learned about leadership and being a Principal.  There were many things learned, however, there are key things learned that I want to remember and apply to 2012.  Not in any particular order, here is my top list of being a great leader and great Principal.

1.  Communication is King, Communication is Key

Communication

Image by P Shanks via Flickr

I can’t say it enough, in enough different ways; that is my motto.  If there is something I really really want people to know, I need to say it often, in many different ways and in many different formats.  Same goes for me, if there is something you really really want me to know, tell me often, tell me in person, and by email.  There are non-effective forms of communication in schools with the top 2 being Over the PA System, and At An Assembly.  I find if you make announcements or give important messages in these 2 ways, perhaps 10% of the people will actually hear and understand.  Then there is the long range of ways of communicating until you get to the most effective; being one on one or with a small group of people face to face, with them taking notes.  If they don’t take notes, a follow-up email is necessary.  I also think it is important to remember, just because I said it, doesn’t mean they learned it (or even heard it for that matter!).

2.  Just Because I Said it, Doesn’t Mean They Learned It

I find that I often tell people “how” to do things… how to write report card comments, how to conduct parent meetings, how to work with a student, how to organize a classroom…. and the list goes on.  However, just because I said it, doesn’t mean they learned it.  In fact, doesn’t mean they learned it, heard it, get it, understand it, believe it!  I find if I want people to learn something new, I have to teach it!  (wow, amazing concept for an educator). Tried and true teaching strategies work for adults too.  Don’t just tell an adult how to ride a bike, teach them.  Show them, help them, support them, let them try it, encourage them, listen to them, answer questions, applaud, cheer and celebrate!

3.  Back it Up

Not your hard drive, your words!  I find that backing up my ideas, thoughts, and initiatives with current, quality research found in reputable literature is the way to go.  I am fond of saying “This isn’t Lori’s thing, or Lori’s way,” this is because we know this is best practice and it is proven good and right for students.  This is based on research and backed by data, the way we do it in our school is specific to our content, but what we do is tried and true.

4.  Let Others Do

I often have teachers and staff approach me and say “Can I do this?”  If the “this” is in any way reasonable and safe it’s always worth a try.  Remember riding the bike?  How will they learn if they don’t try?  My job in this is to talk it through; make sure it is the best try (don’t hop on a bike that is too big or too small or has a bent rim and wonder what you did wrong) and then support the outcome, whatever it may be.  A word to the cautious: “Can I do this,” is quite different from “Can WE do this.”  See #1 – communication.  Then sort out the WE.

5.  Listen

There are people in my school who are experts at what they do.  The book-keeper, administrative secretary, custodian, tech specialist, all know things that I do not know.  Appreciate them. Appreciate their knowledge and expertise.  Let them help!

6.  Be Aware

Be aware, be where the people are.  I find that many things in a day can pass me by if I don’t leave the office.  Just walking around the school, walking outside of the school, walking into classrooms brings an awareness of the goings on, the successes, and the challenges.  How can I improve on things if I don’t know what needs improving on?  Having people tell me is one thing, seeing things for myself is a whole new “Ooooohhhhhh.”

7.  Follow Up

Following up on things I say or things I ask is a necessary way to add meaning to what I do.  For example, if I ask teachers to read a chapter in a book or watch a webinar and I never go back to it, ask about it, talk about it, then really it wasn’t that important in the first place.  I find that what you focus on shows people what is important, and what is important is what improves.  Unless I follow-up, really I am just making weak suggestions.

8.  Change Your Mind

It is an exhilarating feeling to know you can change your mind at any moment.  Usually not on a whim, but when you learn or realize something new that would be more productive or effective.  You know the old saying, “Doing something over and over the same way and expecting different results is ….(you fill in the blank).”  Don’t do things over and over the same way unless you can’t think of a different way, or its working exceptionally well.  Over the years, with all the mind changes, we have developed into a team that is flexible, progressive and growing.  Trying things in a different way on a different day is the example of growing and changing.

9.  Be Gracious, Be Kind

There is no reason I can think of to be anything other than gracious and kind with all of the different people you meet and work with.  People like to be thanked, people like to be treated in kind, courteous ways.  People who are treated this way are productive, happy people.  And, the word gets out…. before you know it people will WANT to come and work with you!

My moms class picture. Martintown Public School circa 1950. My mom is middle row far left.

10.  Have a Sense of Humor

Life is stressful, work is stressful but it is true that everything goes a lot easier when you can laugh at yourself and laugh about things.  From a person that has the ability to let people get under her skin, not owning, not exasperating, lightening up helps get a person through any day.  Luckily I work in a school and I am blessed to be able to talk to, enjoy, laugh with all of the little people who come through the door of the school everyday.  In the end, they don’t really care about the budget, or the regulations, they just live in the moment.

A Final Note: Live in the moment, enjoy the children, if you don’t like the choices you made today, you are in luck!  You can wake up tomorrow and make different ones!  What choices will you make today?

Leadership Lessons… Ten Important Points

As 2011 draws to a close, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what I have learned about leadership and being a Principal.  There were many things learned, however, there are key things learned that I want to remember and apply to 2012.  Not in any particular order, here is my top list of being a great leader and great Principal.

1.  Communication is King, Communication is Key

Communication

Image by P Shanks via Flickr

I can’t say it enough, in enough different ways; that is my motto.  If there is something I really really want people to know, I need to say it often, in many different ways and in many different formats.  Same goes for me, if there is something you really really want me to know, tell me often, tell me in person, and by email.  There are non-effective forms of communication in schools with the top 2 being Over the PA System, and At An Assembly.  I find if you make announcements or give important messages in these 2 ways, perhaps 10% of the people will actually hear and understand.  Then there is the long range of ways of communicating until you get to the most effective; being one on one or with a small group of people face to face, with them taking notes.  If they don’t take notes, a follow-up email is necessary.  I also think it is important to remember, just because I said it, doesn’t mean they learned it (or even heard it for that matter!).

2.  Just Because I Said it, Doesn’t Mean They Learned It

I find that I often tell people “how” to do things… how to write report card comments, how to conduct parent meetings, how to work with a student, how to organize a classroom…. and the list goes on.  However, just because I said it, doesn’t mean they learned it.  In fact, doesn’t mean they learned it, heard it, get it, understand it, believe it!  I find if I want people to learn something new, I have to teach it!  (wow, amazing concept for an educator). Tried and true teaching strategies work for adults too.  Don’t just tell an adult how to ride a bike, teach them.  Show them, help them, support them, let them try it, encourage them, listen to them, answer questions, applaud, cheer and celebrate!

3.  Back it Up

Not your hard drive, your words!  I find that backing up my ideas, thoughts, and initiatives with current, quality research found in reputable literature is the way to go.  I am fond of saying “This isn’t Lori’s thing, or Lori’s way,” this is because we know this is best practice and it is proven good and right for students.  This is based on research and backed by data, the way we do it in our school is specific to our content, but what we do is tried and true.

4.  Let Others Do

I often have teachers and staff approach me and say “Can I do this?”  If the “this” is in any way reasonable and safe it’s always worth a try.  Remember riding the bike?  How will they learn if they don’t try?  My job in this is to talk it through; make sure it is the best try (don’t hop on a bike that is too big or too small or has a bent rim and wonder what you did wrong) and then support the outcome, whatever it may be.  A word to the cautious: “Can I do this,” is quite different from “Can WE do this.”  See #1 – communication.  Then sort out the WE.

5.  Listen

There are people in my school who are experts at what they do.  The book-keeper, administrative secretary, custodian, tech specialist, all know things that I do not know.  Appreciate them. Appreciate their knowledge and expertise.  Let them help!

6.  Be Aware

Be aware, be where the people are.  I find that many things in a day can pass me by if I don’t leave the office.  Just walking around the school, walking outside of the school, walking into classrooms brings an awareness of the goings on, the successes, and the challenges.  How can I improve on things if I don’t know what needs improving on?  Having people tell me is one thing, seeing things for myself is a whole new “Ooooohhhhhh.”

7.  Follow Up

Following up on things I say or things I ask is a necessary way to add meaning to what I do.  For example, if I ask teachers to read a chapter in a book or watch a webinar and I never go back to it, ask about it, talk about it, then really it wasn’t that important in the first place.  I find that what you focus on shows people what is important, and what is important is what improves.  Unless I follow-up, really I am just making weak suggestions.

8.  Change Your Mind

It is an exhilarating feeling to know you can change your mind at any moment.  Usually not on a whim, but when you learn or realize something new that would be more productive or effective.  You know the old saying, “Doing something over and over the same way and expecting different results is ….(you fill in the blank).”  Don’t do things over and over the same way unless you can’t think of a different way, or its working exceptionally well.  Over the years, with all the mind changes, we have developed into a team that is flexible, progressive and growing.  Trying things in a different way on a different day is the example of growing and changing.

9.  Be Gracious, Be Kind

There is no reason I can think of to be anything other than gracious and kind with all of the different people you meet and work with.  People like to be thanked, people like to be treated in kind, courteous ways.  People who are treated this way are productive, happy people.  And, the word gets out…. before you know it people will WANT to come and work with you!

My moms class picture. Martintown Public School circa 1950. My mom is middle row far left.

10.  Have a Sense of Humor

Life is stressful, work is stressful but it is true that everything goes a lot easier when you can laugh at yourself and laugh about things.  From a person that has the ability to let people get under her skin, not owning, not exasperating, lightening up helps get a person through any day.  Luckily I work in a school and I am blessed to be able to talk to, enjoy, laugh with all of the little people who come through the door of the school everyday.  In the end, they don’t really care about the budget, or the regulations, they just live in the moment.

A Final Note: Live in the moment, enjoy the children, if you don’t like the choices you made today, you are in luck!  You can wake up tomorrow and make different ones!  What choices will you make today?

Professional Learning Communities…

A new Landaff teacher in the 1940s watches as ...

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It is said by the Dufours  that successful PLC’s are the one, single most powerful force in creating school improvement and increasing student achievement.  This sounds simple, but…  Teachers and school staff cannot participate in and achieve high functioning PLC’s themselves, it is contingent upon me as Principal to provide teachers with the tools, skills and capacities to perform as high functioning PLC’s.  To this end, here is what I know, what I do and what I think….

Beginning

Our PLC’s began several years ago by grouping teachers together to meet once a week to talk about students…. simple as that.  Quickly I realized that to get to the guts and deep understandings about student learning, and to create engagement and participation by all teachers, we needed a protocol.  This led to the next two years of PLC meetings, with a protocol or meeting format, with requirements for engaging in discussions about student progress and by incorporating teaching and learning strategies to support students.  We were doing our meetings, as mandated, and we were learning together.

Next

It’s a dangerous thing to read books and articles because I quickly realize what I do not do and what I do not know.  This realization spurs me into immediate action to change and do differently.  Luckily, I have a staff who accepts that I constantly change my mind, change how I want things done, and constantly look for a better way.

This fall was no different.  Beginning this year our PLC’s had three teachers in them.  I chose three so each teacher would have a voice, have a chance to participate and have time to talk and listen.  More than three I feel is too many because inevitably someone will not have a chance to be heard.  I also choose to have multi-grade PLC’s.  This is for a variety of reasons.  Mainly so that the meetings do not turn into grade level meetings talking about planning and prepping.  However, we are finding many hidden gems and benefits of having multi-grade PLC’s.

The case for multi-grade PLC’s:  I like PLC’s with teachers from different grade levels.  I find that this grouping allows teachers to be exposed to curriculum and teaching styles and skills from different grades.  This assists teachers in incorporating strategies they many not otherwise.  For example: when a grade 3 teacher talks to a kindergarten teacher and realizes the strategies and resources a kindergarten teacher uses to support their learners, this often enables the grade 3 teacher to think about how to use these strategies in their own classrooms.  Multi-grade PLC’s results in the opportunities for teachers to share knowledge about students they have taught in past years.  This type of PLC also builds capacity in teachers.  When a grade 3 teacher looks at a writing sample from a grade 1 student or grade 5 student, they build their understandings of how students develop from year to year.

Bringing PLC’s to Life

A variety of twists and turns with budgeting and staffing led to the opportunity to have teachers supported with an additional staff member after the year had begun.  As I am steadfast about this PLC work and I know that what you give time and energy to is what improves, I devised an idea to bring PLC’s to life.  What I mean by this is that now teachers have a chance to observe their PLC teaching partners as they teach.  Once every six weeks, a teacher will be provided with the “additional teacher” so that they can leave their classrooms and observe their two other team members for half a day each.  To make this meaningful, we have worked together as a staff on many occasion to build our understandings of the purpose of PLC’s and also have formative assessment.  This led to a PLC Observation guide which supports teachers in “looking” for certain things while they observe.

PLC Observations   Click here to take a look at our PLC Observation Guide.

Following the week of PLC Observations, the team members meet together to debrief, explain their learnings, ask questions or “wonders” and set a teaching goal for themselves for the next six weeks.

Where We Are Today

Last week I had the opportunity to watch a webinar presented by Solution Tree featuring the DuFours and AllthingsPLC.com.  This opened and challenged my thinking about how we will move the PLC’s into more everyday ways of being and working.  I bought their book Learning by Doing and am just beginning to read and think more about how to continue to grow and develop into High Functioning PLC’s.  On my previous post The Walk-About I detailed one of our next steps we are adding to our processes. 

Where We Are Going

The path we are going down is the pathway to ensure that each student is appropriately programmed for each day.  We seek to understand our learners and their learning needs.  We strive for Personalized Learning that provides an appropriate, purposeful and engaging education for each child, each day.  Our work in PLC’s supports us in understanding what students need to learn, how we will know when each student has learned it, and how we will respond when a student experiences difficulty.

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