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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guthrie CSD’s Graduate Profile (Part 4)

By Nelson Coulter

The BUSINESS of school is LEARNING!  You may be getting weary of hearing this mantra, but it is worth remembering (and reminding others of) daily.  We often get busy and distracted in schools, doing a gazillion things that are not really focused on LEARNING.  At Guthrie CSD we have made some serious decisions about what that learning should actually look like for our students.  We have attempted to define the learning of our students to be something that goes far beyond knowledge and skills (both of which are voluminously articulated in the state curriculum).  The stakeholders of Guthrie CSD have agreed that perhaps the most powerful learning for our students exists in ways of thinking and ways of behaving.  Thus, our focus has moved toward educating our students in a more holistic and meaningful way.

This is the fourth of a five part series of articles intended to clarify the Guthrie Graduate Profile, which has emerged from community- and school-based conversations that have been ongoing in Guthrie for the last year.  Below are the five pillars (dimensions) of the Guthrie Graduate Profile:

v  Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers
v  Effective Communicators
v  Persons of Strong Character
v  Productive and Valuable Team Members
v  Compassionate and Responsible Citizens

The dimension that will be discussed here is that of our students becoming:

Productive and Valuable Team Members
They are/can/have:
      Good leaders
      Self-aware and self-managing
      Work collaboratively with persons of different beliefs, interests, backgrounds, and cultures
      Engaged and accountable
      Authentic and transparent
      Effectively use tools and technology for collaboration

Guthrie CSD stakeholders have a clear understanding that our students (unless they become hermits) will work in teams for the rest of their lives.  Those teams might be families, churches, workplaces, communities, etc., and they will assuredly be populated with others who may look, think, and act differently than themselves.  Thus, at Guthrie CSD we have deemed it immensely important that our students develop a strong degree of emotional and social intelligence.  They must understand themselves and their own beliefs in a profound way.  As well, they must learn to “read” and listen to other people carefully, developing an understanding of the perspectives, thinking, and behavioral motivations of others.  Associated with these deep understandings is the idea of acceptance of and tolerance for diversity – diversity of thought, diversity of interests, diversity of backgrounds, of culture, of beliefs.

Beyond these understandings and bases of interaction, we aspire for our Guthrie CSD students to learn the value and power of being fully engaged in endeavors bigger than themselves.  Embedded in that idea is the belief that to work/live/play effectively with others implies a personal responsibility for being fair, transparent, honest, and authentic in those interactions.  

And finally, we believe at Guthrie that our students can only be responsible and valuable team members if they have well-developed skills in the use of the “tools of the trade,” whatever that trade or collective endeavor may be.  Being able to learn (and unlearn, if necessary) how to use a wide range of communications and job-specific tools will be critical to the success of our students, no matter where they end up working and living.

Guthrie CSD is deliberately educating our students to be successful, happy, and productive in the global marketplace or in any setting in which they choose to live and compete.  Choosing MORE for our students is proving to be a very interesting and energizing endeavor.  However, we have decided that if we want the best for the futures of our students, we must invest our best efforts/thinking in the present. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guthrie CSD’s Graduate Profile (Part 3)

By Nelson Coulter

The BUSINESS of school is LEARNING!  At Guthrie CSD we have chosen to be proactive and intentional about the kind of education we deliver to our students and the kind of powerful learning they experience. 

This is the third of a five part series of articles that will provide some clarity about the Guthrie Graduate Profile, which has emerged from community- and school-based conversations that have been ongoing in Guthrie for the last year.  Below are the five pillars (dimensions) of the Guthrie Graduate Profile:

 v Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers
 v Effective Communicators
 v Persons of Strong Character
 v Productive and Valuable Team Members
 v Compassionate and Responsible Citizens

Part 3 of this series we will focus on the Graduate Profile dimension of:

Persons of Strong Character
We intend that our students are/can/have:
       Healthy habits and lifestyles
       Persevering toward achieving personal goals
       Honest and trustworthy
       Assertive and competitive

We have determined that in order for our students to achieve their/our highest aspirations for them, they must understand how to live healthily.  This means that they must understand that personal nutrition and fitness has several dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  We intend to guide our students to an understanding that their personal health and happiness are their own responsibility (not that of others, or their government) and that each of us makes informed (or uninformed) decisions on a daily basis that contribute in some way to that health and well-being.

At Guthrie CSD we also plan to design learning tasks that teach our students how to persevere, how to be resilient, and how to be relentless in their own learning and growth.  This means that we must teach them how to take risks, yet not to fear failure.  Powerful learning often comes from trying very hard, yet failing, then trying again, until you get it right.  The world’s greatest musicians, athletes, and business people know this reality by heart (and hard experience).

Guthrie CSD is also committing our resources and professional efforts toward facilitating within our students a deep respect for honesty and trustworthiness.  We intend for our students to learn that with those two character traits comes a personal responsibility to “own” one’s decisions and behavior, to say what you mean and mean what you say, to make promises frugally and honor them unerringly.  In short, our intention is to create within our students an understanding that a person is only as good as their word, but those that are as good as their word are worth their weight in gold.

Finally, we intend for Guthrie CSD students to learn how to “play hard” at whatever task/endeavor they deem worthy of their time, effort, and energy.  We intend for them to learn how to win with modesty, to lose with dignity, and to understand that all people experience both winning and losing in life.   Competing honorably and fairly make for a substantive life experience (and ill-gotten gains are, in fact, cause for disdain rather than celebration).  As well, we plan to teach our students how to understand at a deep level what they believe in and value, and to be willing and able to articulate those values assertively (yet without offensiveness or disrespect).

Some would say that we are dreamers to believe that there is enough time in the school day or years in a child’s life to make these kinds of learnings a reality.  At Guthrie CSD, we have chosen to emphasize these kinds of learnings as it is our intention to graduate students fully armed and prepared to compete in the world marketplace of work and school and life in a way that will make them the gold standard in any setting in which they choose to live and serve.

At Guthrie CSD have chosen MORE for our students (not less), without apology.  Does this educational approach require heightened effort and investment on the part of the adults?  You bet.  However, we deem it worth every ounce of that extra effort and investment. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Embedded Professional Development: Team Learning at Guthrie CSD

By Nelson Coulter

For the last three years, Guthrie CSD has embarked on an interesting model of professional development.  On three days during each school year, both the instructional staff and the students come together for collaborative learning, during the school day.  The underlying driver in this model is that each person on the campus, regardless of age, is a LEARNER.  As well, an assumption in this model is that the learning of the adults in the organization is just as important to the health and well-being of the school as is the learning of the students.

On October 4, 2012, Guthrie CSD instructional staff and all students (Pre-K through grade 12), gathered to learn about the Guthrie Graduate Profile (GGP).  The GGP is a model of the intended skills, abilities, and knowledge for which the Guthrie community aspires for each of its graduates.

The key dimensions of the Guthrie Graduate Profile are:

  • Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers
  • Effective Communicators
  • Persons of Strong Character
  • Productive and Valuable Team Members
  • Compassionate and Responsible Citizens
The agenda for the school-wide learning on October 4, 2012, consisted of the following:

1)  JagFirmations - members of the group share affirmations for individuals or groups among the GCSD family who are doing extraordinary things on behalf of the school 
2)  Acceptable Use Policy Overview - presented by student Ashton Gilbert
3)  Guthrie Graduate Profile (GGP) Overview - presented by superintendent Nelson Coulter
4)  GGP dimension of Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers - presented by secondary teacher Danny Sloan
5)  GGP dimension of Effective Communicators - presented by secondary teacher Janie Canales
6)  GGP dimension of Persons of Strong Character - presented by elementary teacher Aleshia Withers
7)  GGP dimension of Productive and Valuable Team Members - presented by principal Kevin Chisum
8)  GGP dimension of Compassionate and Responsible Citizens - presented by counselor Lynn Hill
9)  GGP– Rubric Overview - presented by elementary teacher Buffy Wilson

Making a collective commitment to producing graduates that possess the skills, the behaviors, and the ways of thinking expressed in the GGP alludes to an important mindset of the stakeholders of the Guthrie CSD.  That mindset is one of choosing more for Guthrie students than solely academic instruction; rather, it is a commitment to the development of the students as whole persons, each possessing the qualities and skills that will make them successful in future school settings, in the world of work, and in life.