Page 24

24 Pullman Community Update 

Pullman School District

August 2017


Listening and Learning: For Young and Old Alike Jim Evermann, Director, Pullman Public Schools • Amidst all the growth in our Pullman region we have noticed the obvious as our streets get a new coat of asphalt and paint, a lot of new building ongoing in our neighborhoods, downtown, and at the airport—tangible signs that our community is a dynamic and changing place. What may get lost in this growth is the ever present need to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and listen—yes, listen to those around us that have good ideas, have some concerns, and are most willing to support us as we try to make decisions that will affect our community for a long time to come. With our schools about to open in a few weeks we usually focus on the obvious, the students, as we review the curriculum, make sure there is adequate classroom space, and resources available in the school environment, so that learning can be optimal. We also need to re-focus on the teachers, who put in long hours to prepare for the day-to-day teaching moments they get with our kids and grandkids. The school board is very aware that when classes begin, we too, like the students and the teachers, are being placed in a position to listen and to learn. A few years ago as part of the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) Direct newsletter, there was a great article by Kathryn Blumsack and Terry McCabe. The article reminded school board members that we have a responsibility, based upon our elected office, to do everything in our power to represent perhaps the most important daily civic commitment we as citizens make to our Pullman community, our children, and our future. Blumsack and McCabe said there are seven signs of highly effective school board members, so I will take this opportunity to present them*, because they serve to remind us of our goal to “…ensure learning while challenging and supporting each student to achieve their full potential.” 1. Although elected to our board as an individual, we must clearly understand that we are part of a democratic process to work together, to work with fellow board members, staff, teachers, students, parents, and the community at large. Although our listening is an individual response, our actions must always take into consideration the ideas that come from those we serve. 2. We are part of a team, and therefore must respect the team members, and those who provide input for us to consider. Boards whose members treat one another with respect tend to be the most effective in problem solving and making difficult decisions. The authors reminded us that collaboration and respect do not always mean consensus. 3. The board should refrain from trying to manage the school district. That is precisely what the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and principals are selected for. The board is elected to represent the community’s best educational interests. Our job is to listen and learn the facts, and act upon that information the best we can.

4. The board should set the standard for communication within the district. The authors indicated that while we are encouraged to share and defend our views, we must listen to the views of others. We are reminded throughout of how vital it is to be able to compromise. Again the importance of hearing what others have to say and to be as open minded as possible. 5. It is vital for the board members, like the students, to do our homework and ask tough questions. We are challenged to come to our meetings, our workshops, our retreats prepared to engage in discussions, ask questions, and whenever possible, seek clarification. Here is where the team approach becomes so fruitful – because by listening to our constituents we multiply the information we gather and therefore can make a more informed decision. 6. It is good to remember that as an elected person, we must respect our oath to do our best, to maintain the communities trust, and to uphold the state of Washington’s laws pertaining to public education. As part of this oath, it is vital to that trust that we maintain confidentiality when appropriate. 7. We are expected to keep learning. The article states that to be an effective board member we must participate in professional development (WSSDA Annual Conference, workshops, etc.) and must commit the time and energy necessary to be well informed and effective leaders (good learners!). To listen and to learn are part of what it means to be in the Pullman School District. We are most thankful to the community for your continued support of our schools—contact me if you would like further information on the article by Blumsack and McCabe. *in an amended form

Board of Directors President Jim Evermann, Director, District 3

Allison Munch-Rotolo, Director, District 2

Karl Johanson, Director, District 4

Susan Weed, Director, District 1

Dean Kinzer, Director, District 5

Anyone Can Be Good at Math! By Bill Holman, Principal, Franklin Elementary School I spent the first fourteen years of my educational career teaching math, thirteen of those at Moscow High School. During that time I encountered the full spectrum of math attitudes and perceived abilities. I heard many comments rooted in the notion of fixed mindset, generally that people are either good at math or they are not. Even more challenging was an attitude held by some that “You’re never going to use it anyway!” While it wasn’t and isn’t socially acceptable to admit being bad at reading, many students and even adults felt perfectly comfortable admitting being ‘bad at math’. I worked with and witnessed some students moving from “bad” at math to good at math, however, demonstrating the possibility that how we view ourselves as math learners is not fixed at all. I wondered what steps we might be able to take to minimize the chances of learners ever believing that they are bad at math. I am pleased to report that a lot has changed since then, both in attitudes toward math and learning and in math education. For starters, approaching education with a growth mindset, the belief that all of us are capable of

learning, is becoming much more main stream and is a huge part of the foundation of education in the Pullman District. Educators regularly experience learners making huge leaps when they believe in themselves and are believed in. While it is true that some students pick up certain things more quickly than others, all are capable. It is our responsibility as educators to create learning opportunities that have entry points for all of our students, no matter what their thinking patterns happen to be. This is as opposed to the less effective method of always ‘teaching to the middle’. To do the above well, we have to truly understand how each student thinks and to let this understanding guide instructional design. When we empathize with a student’s natural approach, he or she gets the message that who they are and how they think are just fine. The student is more willing to try when they get a chance to display and communicate their thinking, giving them greater access to the learning. We are creating learning opportunities that much more regularly have students doing the thinking and

the talking about math. This requires that teachers to learn strategies that they themselves likely never experienced as learners. Pullman Public Schools is supporting significant professional development for teachers in these areas. As examples, a few years ago several Pullman teachers began in-depth training through a program called Making Math Reasoning Explicit. These teachers in turn have worked and continue to work with others to help enhance their capacity to create rich learning opportunities with access for all. This past year, math education specialists worked extensively with teams in grades K, 1 and 2, using a very effective classroom based model of professional development. This professional development will continue for grades 3 through 5 this next year. We will continue to create opportunities for families to come to school, to learn about what is happening and how to support their children in math. It is our ultimate goal that everyone views themselves as an effective math learner. We can all be good at math!

Pullman Community Update 08-17  
Pullman Community Update 08-17  

August 2017 edition of the Pullman Community Update, with National Lentil Festival insert.