This week I participated in a webinar hosted by a principal from Toronto, Emma Nichols (http://goo.gl/VtF6ET). A number of times throughout the webinar she mentioned that their guiding principle was “100% of the kids, 100% of the time”. Her school is a diverse, inner-city school in Riverside. I like her motto: it is inspirational. It is also over-whelming. I began to wonder if that could also be my motto and what would that mean if you really tried to reach 100% of the kids, 100% of the time.
The rationale behind the motto is valid. If you don’t have this mindset then, by default your motto has to be something like 75% of the kids, 100% of the time or 100% of the kids, 75 % of the time, or 75% of the kids, 75 % of the time. Would you really want to be the parent of the child who fell into the 25%? Would you want to be that kid? When you start to think about it like that, of course it is true. But is it doable? How would a school go about living the motto of 100% of the kids, 100% of the time.
Upon reflection I think it is a lot about mindset- if we approach each day, each task, each period, each kid believing that we can reach 100% of the kids, 100% of the time, then we might have a better chance of achieving that goal than if we begin the day believing that we can’t. But as with all great educational ideals, what might it look like in our practice?
Understanding and believing in differentiation. Do we always differentiate or do we sometimes say “I’ll just see if they can do this before I change it”. When designing a learning opportunity do we look at it through the eyes of each of our students? Does your school’s special education model help or hinder in the support of 100%of the kids? Is anyone getting left behind? Do you believe in multiple entry points into learning? Differentiation is not just giving the kid a B because of an IEP–it is reaching 100% of the kids, 100% of the time.
Relationships. Sometimes it is hard to like 100% of the kids, 100% of the time. I usually can sense when someone doesn’t like me. I bet kids can, too. I think that sometimes my frustration may be interpreted by kids that I don’t think they can be successful. We know that kids who are successful at school feel that there are adults who care about them. Last Wednesday wasn’t my best day for that. I keep working on trying different approaches for different kids. Figuring out how to be firm and consistent and kind and caring to 100% of the kids, 100% of the time!
Engagement. When you look out on the sea of faces are they rapt? Attentive? Are kids eager to get going on the activities you set out? Do they feel confident to begin or are willing to give it a go? School is not a birthday party. You do not need to “entertain” your students. However, if you look out, day upon day onto a sea of sleepy faces, you have to wonder if your students are engaged. Do you like workshops or meetings where you are not engaged? Do you learn in those situations? Best guess if your students are not engaged is that either you are talking too much or the task is not challenging. Just because you might remember that school was boring doesn’t mean that it has to be. And sometimes, I think that we fall into the trap of thinking that it is the kids who have to do the engaging. But, if they are not engaged that is pretty clear feedback for you about your lesson. I know that if I am leading a meeting and no one is paying attention that it is not an engaging topic for my staff.
Small group instruction. Kids are complex and learning stuff is hard. The easiest way to meet the needs of 100% of the kids is to teach them in smaller homogeneous groups within a flexible model. You will never reach all of your students through whole group instruction alone. As you begin to value small group instruction more, you will begin to be purposeful in how you plan for them, intentionally, instead of accidentally, reaching 100% of the kids.
It is a lofty goal: 100% of the kids, 100% of the time. But most goals worth striving for are lofty. I know that I will keep it in mind when I am thinking about our more challenging students and reflect upon whether I believe it for that kid, too.