Thursday, February 19, 2009

Visitors from across the Country in 2009

Today I watched our Instructional Coach, Suzanne Shall, in the midst of 20 principals from Texas, explaining our work as she walked in and out of classrooms, stopping by bulletin boards to explain how each board was a glimpse into the classroom, explaining our Diagnostic work and safety nets and how they effect our progress - I watched with sheer admiration. Suzanne hosts visitors at least one day every week. They come from all over the country and from inside our own county. Why do they come? In any given year we host about 400 visitors who come because they have heard of our work. They take pictures. They go through the artifacts in the classroom. They ask questions. They ask for handouts of... everything! It's not like the county provides money so that Suzanne can offer this service to these other educators. It's not like she has any less on her plate because she spends 20% of her time hosting. But many years ago, when Chets Creek was first established, we decided that part of our mission would be to connect with a worldwide audience so that we could learn and be prepared for the expectations of living in a global society, but we also committed to give back all that we learned. Of course, at that time, I doubt that we could ever have imagined that we would have so many "opportunities" to share!

In the beginning, all of the hosting fell on the shoulders of our principal, but as the years have passed, most of it now falls on Suzanne's shoulders. Of course, she has a passion for sharing and this work will only be carried on if someone has passion for it and a commitment. It will die of apathy with a leader.  Suzanne fields the calls from across the country, makes the arrangements, works with teachers hosting visitors in their classroom, facilitates all of the debriefs and generally is our "good will ambassador". As a result she is in classrooms watching teachers as she prepares them for visitors and then sitting through lessons that she's often coached with the visitors. She can speak as easily about the predictive results of our internal Math Diagnostic as she can about the kindergarten DIBELS. She knows our program inside and out. She knows where the Writers' Notebooks are in each classroom, how each teacher's ritual and routines work, where the Diagnostic Notebooks are kept, the type of anecdotal notes each teacher keeps, where to find the portfolios and what is in them this time of year. I am continually amazed as she speaks so eloquently across the curriculum and across the grade levels - whether it's telling the Chets Creek story, talking about out history or explaining our focus on technology this year.

We are so fortunate to have a school principal that supports her work, even though it is out of the box - an administration that believes that as educators we have a moral responsibility, an ethical obligation to work together to make a difference. And.. that's just one of the reasons that I love working at Chets Creek!


Melanie Holtsman said...

Whenever Suzanne hosts visitors I am in awe of the amount of work that goes in it and the number of educators that are so interested in coming to learn from what we do. Many join our ning right after the visit with glowing words of praise and the desire to connect with our teachers.

As a teacher, I was always honored by visitors. I liked the opportunity to "show off" the hard work that my students were doing. I hope that our teachers feel honored by these visits and that they have a deeper appreciation for their value as they receive this positive feedback. Thanks for highlighting the hard work that goes in to these visits!

Mrs.Mallon & Mrs. Dillard said...

Suzanne has a way that makes us feel so comfortable and at ease when she brings visitors into our room (just like you do). We can't imagine all of the preparation that goes into a visit - and Suzanne takes it all in stride. It is wonderful seeing the spotlight on her.

Suzanne said...

Your kind words are greatly appreciated, and you are always good for an ego stroke! :) But, quite honestly, I have the GREATEST job! I thoroughly enjoy visitor days because I get to spend most of the day observing instruction in classrooms from Kindergarten through 5th Grade, and across content areas. I get to show off the hard work of our talented teachers and I learn something new every day I host. I'm not saying it doesn't require some grunt work to get ready, but it requires far less than it used to. Really the hardest part is simply organizing schedules.

I am blessed that we have a school leader that supports this moral calling, and that we have teachers who don't blink an eye as 20 educators flood into their classrooms to watch instruction and dig through their artifacts. It is only because of our teachers that this service can even be offered.

I get so excited to see how the work at CCE is spreading through schools nationally. I also have to tell you that it is so nice to develop face to face connections with so many school leaders, and to see some groups return year after year. That is the case with this particular Texas group who continues to bring principals and teacher leaders to study our work. I'm sure they appreciate this service as much as we love to share with the world what we do.