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The Full Circle: Kindergarten Reflections and College Readiness

One of the interesting things about where I am at this point in my personal and professional life is that I have a bird's eye view of the "full circle". What do I mean by that? In the span of 36 hours, I attended three different events in GCISD that bring together my professional life as the associate principal at Grapevine High School and my personal life as the first time mom of a kindergartener.

Yesterday, I sat in an auditorium in my role as the associate principal of a high school and listened to college professors and admissions counselors talk about topics that are important to what lies beyond K-12.  Today, I attended a panel of middle school and high school students in my district and listened to them talk about their experiences in school. Topics of discussion for this talk centered around what students feel to be effective classroom strategies, what they like about grading and feedback, and what they want teachers to know to help them. Rounding out my 36 hours of important events was the meet the teacher night at my child's school.

So why is this the full circle? If my daughter persists in the STEM track that we have enrolled her in, she will be sitting in the high school that I work at in 10 years. That's a pretty darn important circle to me and what happens here in my own building now will set the stage of lifetime success for her and for all of the class of 2028. Here's what I've learned in the last 36 hours:

Kindergarten

There may be nothing more daunting for a parent than having to leave their children in the trust and care of people they do not know. On Monday, this will happen all across the district as students arrive for the first class day of the 2015-2016 school year. Teachers, counselors, school administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, central office administration and countless others have spent a large portion of their summers and definitely a large portion of the last week preparing for these students so that parents like me can feel reassured during this process of trusting others with our kids.

There were many things that helped me to feel reassured as I entered this new phase of my life as a parent. As I entered my child's elementary school tonight, the hallway was lined with the principal, assistant principal and other staff as they cheered and clapped for the students and parents entering the building. I can't think of a warmer welcome. As we walked the halls and staff saw my child, they said hi. If she looked unsure of herself they told her how awesome her teacher was. Even though there were lots of kids meeting the teacher at the same time, the teacher answered any questions and always kept a smile on her face.

High School and Beyond

Yesterday, the humanities department for our district pulled together a panel of college professors and admissions personnel. There were a number of questions that our teachers and staff wanted answers to, but the major themes centered around: what do we need to do to help students be successful when they get to college and what about students helps them to get noticed for college. As you can see there were many times during the hour and a half session where things resonated with me:








Our friends at the college level had a lot of wisdom to share and I think the most important take away from the conversation was that the skills, abilities, connections and life-long habits that our students create are more important than the content. Don't get me wrong, the content is key and gives context to these things but many teachers today would tell you that the importance of their work is not in what our children memorize or regurgitate but in how they think, interact, communicate and learn from the world.

To follow all of this up, today's panel discussion was from a group of middle and high school students. The time was short but there were a lot of important things that our students had to share. For me, the biggest takeaway was that students learn in different ways and that what one student prefers might be different than what another student prefers in terms of strategies in the classroom. What students seem to agree on though, is that the people in the room with them matter. Read my tweets below for a rather concise summary of my gleanings from the day.








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