An essential component to a strong learning community is transparency – everyone, from students to teachers and parents, business and community leaders, needs to be able to see and understand what students are learning, how and why. And the start of the year is a good time to think about how you can cultivate advocates for personalized learning.
Champions likely already exist within your community, but how can you identify and engage them? For guidance, I consulted with some experts, including Brad Ray, superintendent of Garfield School District 16 in Colorado, Brett Grimm, assistant principal of curriculum and instruction at Lindsay High School in California and KnowledgeWorks Chief Learning Officer Virgel Hammonds. Here are four recommendations based on their experiences.
Focus on making connections
Most individuals within your community, parents and leaders alike, are invested in the success of students. “It’s not difficult to get people to want to be involved,” said Grimm. “We have specific personnel to do this work: an assistant principal who does a lot of work with pathways, internships and sits on advisory boards. We also have a work-based learning coordinator whose whole job is to reach out to partners and community members, to get them involved, to follow up with our kids doing internships.”
Don’t count anyone out
Hammonds stressed that even those who want to help may not know how. “If they don’t have kids or a connection to the school, it’s hard for them to see how they can be involved,” said Hammonds. “But when we’re an open book about our goals as a district, we’ll find more ways to tackle universal challenges together. There are many organizations within your community – find out what they’re trying to address, whether it’s inequity or opportunity or something else, and how you can support each other.”
Create clear goals, together
According to Ray, “by creating strategic goals with the board of education, building administrators, community and staff, you are left with clearly articulating those goals and budget to implement, measure and achieve them.” When everyone has a hand not only in the creation of strategic goals, but a stake in ensuring their success, community members will take an active role in realizing the outcomes that you want.
Invite your community not only to work with you – but to celebrate with you
Ray shared that learners and educators bring everyone together, either at their school or somewhere within the community, to celebrate the semester-long learning projects the students have engaged in. “We partner with local business and industry experts to be involved in the planning, delivery and celebration of the learning,” said Ray. “For a project on habitat and ecosystem control, for example, they partnered with the Division of Wildlife and hosted their culmination at the park and pond downtown.”