Last school year, we went through the intense and important process of developing our school vision or, what we refer to as, our shared WHY.
You can see from this statement, one of our core values is inspiring passionate learners. We very clearly value life-long learning both for students and the adults in our community.
Last spring, to help support this part of our vision, we kicked off the first annual Taylor Mill Leader Summer Book Studies. I gathered a list of books teachers had requested or I was interested in reading and did a quick introduction of each at one of our morning huddles. I also established the ground rules:
- You can sign up for as few or as many books as you’d like.
- We will buy the book(s) for you.
- You will participate in the book study.
- If there is a book you’re itching to read and discuss and it’s not on the list, you can add it.
These rules are simple but important. They model the value of individualized learning and teacher choice. We all are more engaged when we are a part of the process and have an authentic voice. They put the money where our mouth is. We want to put these valuable resources, the books, in the hands of our teachers and staff members. So we pay for the books. They also value commitment over compliance. It is very clear that this was in no way mandatory. And most importantly, they require us to be a community of learners. This is where the impact really gets going.
While developing and buying into a powerful collective vision is invaluable, we also understand and discuss the importance of us being a collective community of learners. How else will we ever move forward on our path to greatness if we are not committed to continually challenging ourselves and each other? We know the importance of being life-long learners AND being a COMMUNITY of learners. There is value in one, exponential power in the latter.
There is one additional rule I included:
- Each book study will be led by a Taylor Mill Leader (aka teacher, staff member, in other words… not me.)
This was an awesome opportunity for our staff to stretch their wings and gain leadership experience. Were they a bit uncomfortable stepping up and agreeing to lead? Without exception. After all, who wouldn’t be? This was a first for all of us. We had no idea what the response would be, what obstacles there would be to overcome, or how reading and collaborating throughout the summer months would play out in reality. Were they excited about this chance to lead? Again, without exception. They were energetic and passionate about what this would mean for their own growth and, even more noteworthy, they were driven by how they could impact others.
Leaders emerged and showed they had the commitment to being uncomfortable and courageous in order to help us all grow as passionate learners and collaborate as a community. They met as a leader team and planned the beginning steps. They discussed logistics, inspiration, and supported one another in how to kick off their book studies. Some of the smaller groups decided to meet in the traditional face-to-face fashion. The larger groups decided to hold their book studies through the free app, Voxer. Some wanted to start right away, others decided to hold off for a bit. The meeting ended with us starting our own Voxer group for book study leaders so that they were able to collaborate and game plan throughout the summer.
We had twelve different book studies going on last summer, all teacher-choice and teacher-led.
Staff members from various roles, teachers, secretaries, instructional assistants, counselors and administrators, were involved. And what was one of the neatest things to witness was when others outside of our school, after hearing about the book studies, started asking to be involved. We had district staff, teachers from other schools, teachers and administrators from other districts, teachers from across the country (who heard about it on Twitter), and even some authors get involved. (Shoutout to Dave Burgess for agreeing to join and being super active in our Teach Like a Pirate study!)
The positive energy around these studies was palpable. By teacher request, we created a Flipgrid to share take-aways across book studies. Each study helped create community within and around our school while helping our leaders become connected to others they may not typically collaborate and learn with. Our leaders came away with deep, reflective thinking and new ideas to incorporate into their role for the new year. There was no doubt that our students would greatly and directly benefit from these efforts.
What is happening this year? We have twelve new studies getting ready to kick off and all indicators point to amplified awesomeness! We started the list of possibilities several months ago, gave all of our staff access, and again invited sign-ups and leaders. You can view the list HERE. Some of those outside educators who joined last year have already reached out to us asking what we were leading this year and if they could join again. #YES
For educators, summer months are, of course, for enjoying those lazy, warm days of rejuvenation while losing track of the calendar. But if you are a #TMGenius Leader, summer time is also an incredible opportunity to learn, lead, and amplify like a genius.
How can you take advantage of the summer and create a community of learners and leaders in your school? How can you amplify your school culture over the summer? What book studies would you join or add?