Friday, February 7, 2014

Our Cultures of Thinking Journey

During our last PD session with Ron, our CoT team had time to reflect on our "journey" with creating a Culture of Thinking. 

Once upon a time, in 2008, the Scotch School staff read the book The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. We were inspired and motivated by Wagner's ideas of changing schools with the changing times and closing the achievement gap between schools. His thesis introduced the "Seven Survival Skills"- the skills he deems necessary for success in the twenty-first century workplace. We were hooked and wanted our students to have these skills to be strong problem solvers and critical thinkers but we found ourselves asking, "how?"

In September of 2011, we found our answer. Four Scotch teachers and the principal attended the first in a series of PD sessions with Ron Ritchhart on creating a culture of thinkers. We had no idea what to expect that first day... we didn't even have the book yet... but we were hooked. We quickly wanted to bring the visible thinking framework to Scotch. Throughout the year, we began to try routines and share our excitement with anyone would listen. Slowly, there was a "buzz" about visible thinking and the changes we were beginning to see in our classrooms and the conversations we were hearing from our students because of our focus on powerful language in the classroom. We also visited Way Elementary in Bloomfield Hills, a school that has embraced the Visible Thinking framework. In the spring of 2012, our Cultures of Thinking leadership team expanded to 12 and the team attended a week-long session with Ron Ritchhart in the summer and visited Way Elementary again in the fall. 

During the 2012-2013 school year, there was a greater buzz around visible thinking and the leadership team began sharing more with PLCs, the PTO, and with the whole staff during PD sessions. The team took it one step further and began sharing at the district level with others teachers, the Parent Communication Network, the Teaching & Learning Community, school board members, the school improvement team and Roosevelt Elementary. The leadership team met monthly to share artifacts, reflect, and continue our plan to spread the culture. We were beginning to see and hear a difference as we walked the halls at Scotch.

At the start of the 2013-2014 school, we began feel a momentum change with Cultures of Thinking, as there were many changes to our staff. We were faced with the struggle of moving the current staff members along while trying to introduce the cultural forces and routines to our new staff members. We devoted the first half of the school year to spreading the culture once again and the staff did a book study of Making Thinking Visible.

Now, in March of 2014, our journey is continuing and we have made great gains. Teachers all over the building are trying routines, planning units of study that incorporate visible thinking, and shifting the language in the classroom to promote a culture of learners and thinkers. 

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