Good morning Murch Families,
Last week we had three days of Leadership Academy where the tone for the year was set, the vision secured, and the knowledge imparted. What follows is a brief explanation of what we at Murch are committed to for the 2021 school year and beyond.
The U.S. education system was not designed with the goal of whole-child education, or with a comprehensive understanding of the science of learning and development. In fact, it was designed using biased “research” conducted by those in power to justify false and oppressive ideas about which students are capable and deserving of high-quality schooling. These deeply racist, sexist, classist, and ableist ideas created a structure whose foundations we are still wrestling with today as we attempt to solve the problem of our profoundly inequitable education system. To confront and dismantle the systems, structures, practices and mindsets that continue to limit the endless potential of our students, we can use the science of learning and development as a lever for equity, instead of a tool of oppression.
DCPS and Murch Elementary school are committed to becoming a whole-child centered school system guided by anti-racist principles.
When we say we are utilizing a “whole-child approach”, we are saying that we will acknowledge and respond to the overall learning and development needs and opportunities of students–not just their academic needs.
A Framework for Transformational Change
Educators are given the critical and challenging task of creating classrooms and schools that truly support each child and their holistic development—so students will know their worth, discover their interests and passions, and develop their skills, competencies, and identities. Unlike prescriptive models and curricula, Turnaround for Children’s Whole-Child Design Blueprints meant to be used as a visioning tool—supporting educators to look through the lens of whole-child development and design and take action toward the change they seek. The framework’s components and core practices together make up a way to think about, organize and integrate practices that are aligned with the ways the brain learns and how children develop. Practitioners can choose any entry point, but in all pathways, we must directly confront and address institutional oppression and discrimination based on race, class, language, disability, or gender that has long prevented too many students from living the lives they choose. We also know that this required redesign will only be successful if we leverage and include the voices, assets and experiences of the entire community—educators, students, families, and communities. Together, we can create learning settings that are rich in protective factors, that promote wellness and protect children from the damaging effects of stress all at the same time.
Start with a shared vision and commitment.
First and foremost, a school is grounded in its purpose—implicit or explicit. It sets the stage for school redesign by anchoring goals and priorities, creating shared direction, and defining what success will look like. Setting a whole-child purpose often means redefining historic notions about the outcomes schools aim to achieve. Academic success is one important outcome, but equally critical is building students’ cognitive, personal, interpersonal competencies and identities. Beyond simply having a vision and mission statement that talks about holistic development or equitable outcomes, a school truly committed to a whole-child purpose organizes its time, resources, commitments, and energies accordingly. It makes tough decisions to prioritize work that may not be measured on evaluations but is in the best interest of their students and community. Ultimately, a whole-child purpose is ingrained in every aspect of school design—from curriculum to assessments, the structure of school scheduling and spaces, staffing and professional development, data review and progress monitoring, and more.
Create a context full of safety and belonging.
We know that for learning and development, context matters—and school and classroom environments are especially critical contexts as they are where students spend an enormous and influential portion of their lives learning about themselves. A supportive school environment is physically, emotionally, and identity safe, while creating a strong sense of community and belonging. To create a true sense of safety and belonging, there must be a shared, authentic commitment to respecting, valuing, and giving power and voice to all community members—students, staff, caregivers, etc.—practicing inclusion even when it is difficult. This means designing the school culture itself together, as well as prioritizing mechanisms of support and repairing relationships, instead of only discipline, when challenges inevitably arise. As all voices are invited into the conversation, it is especially important that those with power are aware of how their identities and relative impact the conversation.
Shift to relationships –among teachers, students, leaders, families -as the foundation.
Positive developmental relationships are the “active ingredient” in any effective child-serving system, characterized by emotional attachment, joint, reciprocal interactions, progressive complexity, and balance of power. It is not simply about being friendly or caring, but knowing, respecting and valuing the background, interests and goals of students and families, while holding high expectations coupled with adequate supports that convey belief in students. Importantly, these relationships also buffer the negative impact of chronic stress. A focus on relationships is especially important for students who are more likely to be impacted by implicit or explicit bias. The centrality of relationships should extend beyond student-teacher relationships, to those between and among teachers, leaders, staff, families, and other community stakeholders.
Set students up for success by integrating knowledge, skill and mindset development.
Designing towards a whole-child purpose requires transformation, not simply tinkering around the edges of existing systems. Effective shared leadership and ownership facilitates this type of change in schools, as all staff are empowered to drive towards meaningful, shared goals and are supported to continuously improve. The spirit of shared leadership and ownership goes beyond defined or formalized leadership roles in schools. It encompasses a mindset of collective responsibility and strives to build a collective sense of efficacy among all stakeholders through inclusive decision-making and capacity-building. Effective shared leadership and ownership also honors the highly relational aspects of how change happens.
Turnaround for Children , 2021
Back to School Night
We are scheduling this for Thursday, September 9th. Format is currently TBD. The time will be from 6:00-8:00. Both grade level and large group presentations with administration are being planned.
All school level communication will be posted on Murchschool.org. Information created by me will be in my blog, “Straight from Mr. C”. Please check regularly for updates to both the webpage and the blog.
Lists for all grade levels will be posted on the webpage (murchschooo.org) aby the end of this week.
Resource Class Rotations
We learned a few lessons from having resource classes taught virtually. Students will be on half-term rotations before they switch to the next resource class. This means students will have each resource class for roughly four weeks before the switch. They will have each resource class two times, one in each semester. The rotations are:
|August 30 – September 29
|January 5 – March 5|
|September 30 – November 4
|March 6 – April 6|
|November 8 – December 13
|April 7 – May 19|
|December 1 – January 25
|May 20 – June 22|
Arrival and Dismissal
Students in grades K-5 will begin to enter the building at 8:35 AM. There will be designated spaces for each grade level to line up. These will be published on the website prior to August 30th as well as adults being able to assist and point you in the right direction on the first day of school. Pre-K will line up on the playground on Davenport and enter through the main doors on Davenport starting at 8:40 AM. Students will be dismissed between 3:15 and 3:20 (Grades K-5) and 3:10 (Pre-K 4). They will be dismissed form the same location they line up in the morning and will not be able to leave until the teacher makes eye contact with the appropriate adult who is picking the student up.
Follow Murch School on twitter @Murchschool
Have a great day!