Reflecting on a Vision of Instruction at Des Moines Public Schools

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By Kara Bentley

On August 21, I celebrated in Des Moines with administrators and instructional staff of Monroe Elementary School as we engaged in productive struggle to craft our vision of instruction for the 2017-2018 school year. To succeed at building our new vision as Schools for Rigor, participants had to leave their comfort zones as they learned to…

  • “Shift” their long-held thinking regarding classroom instruction and what it looks like
  • Accept that if our vision of instruction continues to be what we have ALREADY experienced, we cannot make changes beyond that point
  • Realize that in an “old economy classroom,” teachers told students what they were going to do; in a “new economy classroom,” they need to let students ask, “What are we going to learn?”

Take It a Step Further

In a new economy classroom, students need to own the work; students need to own the learning; STUDENTS need to autonomously demonstrate understanding of curriculum by designing the performance tasks with real- or future-world scenarios and authentic resources.

Where is the teacher? The teacher becomes the facilitator; actively engaged, but not determining or plotting what or how students should be thinking.

Coincidentally, our VISION DAY took place on the same day as the total eclipse of the sun. Our afternoon session began with a clearing of the clouds—enabling us to witness the eclipse—an event that has not been seen since March of 1979.

The feeling of excitement was palpable as we gathered outside to capture this visual spectacle. It was, to say the least, breathtaking. For a moment, we stood there silently, taking it all in.

Reflecting on a Vision

As we gathered back inside, we talked about what we had just seen and what it could mean for us as we “tweaked” our Vision of Instruction even more. For, you see, the total eclipse served as a portent for what we were doing, what we were about to do, and WHAT our vision of instruction needs to be.

We were engaged in a struggle that was uncomfortable, but necessary if we are to enact positive change in our classrooms. After all, we’re preparing students for jobs that currently DO NOT EXIST.

We may not know how these changes are going to look, but we do know that these changes must occur. Feels scary…feels unnatural…feels unnerving. But by embracing this shift in instruction, we are taking the first step toward what can be, and will be, exponential growth for our teachers and more importantly, for our students.

Forging Ahead

The struggle and the shift are critical parts of our journey this year as Des Moines Public Schools and Learning Sciences International forge ahead together toward new horizons. We don’t know what it’s going to look like, but we have no doubt that it’s going to be AMAZING.

Want to see how the year went? Read the follow up article here