I felt ready for the first real race of the season. By ready, I mean confident. I knew I could complete the race and I knew what my pace would be, almost to the minute. The run had already taken place in my head and existed there like a Platonic Ideal Form; the actual run would be anticlimactic in some sense. Being the principal of Westside Global feels quite a bit like running that race. We began the year with a high degree of confidence. Having successfully completed the final year of the Middle School Assistance Program (MSAP) Federal grant, we were prepared to focus on sustaining the gains we had made both academically and thematically.
We’ve wasted no time. Our teachers have plunged into Common Core implementation in a way that makes sense for our school--deep collaboration, planning common lessons, observing each other, offering actionable feedback and sharing student work; then repeat the process in a virtuous circle of improvement.
We also believe in saying no. We’ve said no to the prepackaged material, “expert workshops” and other Common Core fads, so that we can focus on what’s really important and meaningful for student achievement.
We’ve insisted this year on integrating technology in all aspects of our practice. Every student at Westside now has an LAUSD gmail account which gives them access to Google Drive where they routinely collaborate with teachers and each other, providing commentary on writng projects or sharing information on blogs. To help us in this endeavor will be the addition of 50 new Chromebook computers purchased with MSAP funds which will supplement our media lab, library computer lab, existing computer carts as well as an assortment of available iPads.
Our compact size as a school and our desire to make significant contributions to our student’s lives allows us to be nimble and responsive to whatever the data is telling us. We are willing to innovate and try things that others cannot. We are constantly grappling with the essential question: “How do we best support students within the school day who are struggling AND provide enrichment to those who are already experiencing success?” We’ve been able to design a matrix where teachers in core subjects at the same grade level can strategically team teach with the assistance of other support staff such as our Intervention Coach, Resource Specialist and Resource Aides in the classroom. In response to students who need more gentle reminders to join the team, we”ve created Homerooms where an adult can track progress or offer academic assistance at the beginning of the school day. For students who wish to take leadership roles, we have a student government elective in charge of student activities and community outreach.
We believe we are at this school to provide great experiences for students and ultimately to produce students who are confident that they too can complete the race. We want this vision to be so clear that the race has already taken place in their heads. The reality and the Platonic form become one.