Posted by Wyckoff Schools Today at 3/31/2016
True learning communities are characterized by disciplined professional collaboration, shared leadership, and ongoing assessment. This is the surest, most promising route to better school performance, and the reasons are compelling. Teachers do not benefit from learning solely from outside experts, but instead, if given the time and necessary support, teachers can learn a great deal from each other. Notably, each elementary school in Wyckoff has an instructional team of learning leaders (reading specialist, math specialist, instructional coach, principal) that provides students and teachers with this essential support. One crucial advantage of this support is that teachers receive ongoing, targeted, in-house support to hone their instruction and plan how best to implement our curriculum to meet student needs.
An essential layer of additional support at Sicomac comes from the volunteer teacher leaders on the Principal Advisory Committee, all of whom have been instrumental in Sicomac’s selection and implementation of Responsive Classroom this year, and who continue to advise Mr. Raimo on important matters. The tangible, positive impact of Responsive Classroom has been nothing short of astounding. Students throughout the building practice social skills and responsible behavior daily through the Responsive Classroom tenets of responsibility to self, to others, and to our school. Each classroom begins the day in community with Morning Meeting, a Responsive Classroom feature that has enriched our school culture greatly by strengthening student connections and relationships.
One indication of a healthy school community is the degree to which parents and the school partner in ways that provide mutual support. Sicomac parents continue to support our school, most evidently through the creative initiatives of the PTO that enrich our school in so many ways: supporting Environmental Awareness through the Green Ambassadors club, the generous Book Fair and Casino Night fundraisers, community service projects, cultural programs, Harvest Festival, Theme Day, the Memory Book, field trips, teacher grants, assistance in the lunchroom and in the media center, providing meals and emotional support to Mrs. Melchor, promoting nutritional wellness through Farmigo, and supporting parents with positive parenting lectures. Without our invested parent community, we would not be the vibrant school we are, and importantly, teachers partnering with parents is our norm.
Ultimately, school is about learning. Without excellent teachers, none of the aforementioned initiatives or efforts would have the desired impact. Teachers at Sicomac are empowered to lead in their classrooms and in the school, pursuing best practices and examining their instructional choices as they relate to student learning in daily team meetings and in consultation with our instructional coach, Mrs. White, or with Ms. Giumarra and Mrs. Petermann, our Math and Reading Specialists. A few examples of this thoughtful collaboration and reflective teacher practice include evidence of improved writing in kindergarten through expanded paper choice, using authentic assessment to drive refined compare/contrast essay writing in third grade, and establishing the norm of regular practice in complex, non-routine Math problem solving in fourth grade. In each case, teachers received critical support from members of our instructional team that ultimately led to changes in instructional practice and improved student learning. Beyond simply being thoughtful work, these successes grew from key cultural elements which are indicative of a thriving learning community, and which teachers are encouraged to embrace: divergent thinking, error tolerance, and a growth mindset. Teachers deserve this investment of support, and if we hire well and retain only the best and brightest, then we can be confident that our investment in supporting excellence will bear fruit in every classroom. Teaching, like parenting, is particularly difficult to do well. As a professional learning community, with strong parent and district support, we are motivated and honored to do our best each and every day.