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fall 2007

How We Grew & Stayed the Same

Building Consensus A Conversation with Ron Ritchhart Talent Scouting

In this Issue Sticky Curriculum BY TEACHERS FOR TEACHERS™


Spark is published by University Child Development School.

Building Consensus

People Who Inspire Us 8

Paula Smith Head of School

A Conversation with Ron Ritchhart

What Works

Melissa Chittenden Assistant Head of School Teacher Education Center Director


How We Grew and Stayed the Same

Creative Fusion

Editor Jack Forman


Spark Logo & Publication Design Kelsey Foster Communications & Public Relations Director

Talent Scouting

In Each Issue 1 22 24 28

Contributing Staff Julie Kalmus, Ginger Goble, Brooke Leinberger, Diane Chickadel, Leanne Bunas, Kai Toh, Charles Kapner, Cory Goldhaber, David Garrick, Susan Foley, Natasha Rodgers, Angie Manning Goodwill

Greetings from Paula Alumni Perspective Spark Plugs UCDS Mission Statement

Photography UCDS Faculty and Staff For submission information, please contact Brooke Leinberger at brookel@ The editor reserves the right to edit and select all materials.

© 2007 University Child Development School. All rights reserved.



p 18

“People ache to do good work,” writes Warren Bennis in his book Organizing Genius. Given a task they believe in and a chance to do it well, people in creative collaboration will do extraordinary work and say that “the reward is… the creative process itself.” You find this idea again and again in research about successful organizations. After a rigorous study of top companies that have sustained exceptional performance over decades, Jim Collins insists that good organizations become great by attending first to getting “the right people on the bus.” Rather than charismatic leadership, circumstance, or merit pay, a high performing company maintains a “culture of discipline” focused on a single, great concept while encouraging entrepreneurship in its implementation. Why should these findings matter to educators? Because schools desperately need to attract and retain talented teachers who ache to do good work! Fortunately, education has always attracted committed people who chose teaching in order to make a difference in the lives of their students. But, when we look at how schools have traditionally been organized, we find a huge disconnect. Like assembly line workers in a factory, teachers have historically been assigned a passive role in our schools; “trained” to deliver curricula in a scripted format on a predetermined schedule, working in relative isolation from peers, and expected to passively accept the latest curricular adoption that is handed down by the district. Today, many of our school reform efforts continue to be implemented through this top-down system. It may not surprise you to learn that effective schools across the country have moved beyond the factory school model. School districts, foundations, corporations, and universities throughout the country are all currently involved in supporting schools that assign the teachers an active role in achieving success. This role calls for a completely different skill set and sphere of influence inside the school than has traditionally been the case. Researcher Tony Wagner, Director of Change Leadership Group at Harvard University, calls this type of school community a “knowledge generating” culture, “rooted in commitment, rather than compliance.” In the mission-driven world of independent schools, UCDS is just one example of a community that is intentional in every aspect of its organizational structure to support the “good work” of our teachers. As an independent school, we begin with our core beliefs about children and learning as we build our professional culture. And like other independent schools, being clear about what we stand for helps us to “get the right people on the bus.” The following hallmarks of our school reflect an organizational structure that is designed to support exceptional performance by our teachers. 1. We are clear about our goals for children…the non-negotiable core competencies that we want to transmit to every student. These core competencies drive the way that curriculum is delivered, transcend getting the right answer, and reflect high expectations for every student. 2. We have adopted and created our own curriculum, teaching techniques, and assessments. None of these tools are static as teachers continually reevaluate their effectiveness. 3. We have defined what good teaching looks like at UCDS: the way teachers work together, learn together, collaborate, and the degree to which they are empowered to innovate, defines the teaching culture in our school. We think about the way that teachers work as a model for the children. 4. We allocate resources with great care to accomplish our goals. At UCDS we say “function determines structure.” We organize ourselves and prioritize our resources to support what we want to accomplish, rather than simply letting the structure dictate what can be done. Our people, time, materials, and any discretionary income are used in ways that directly support the outcomes we want to achieve. If we want exceptional teaching, the organizational structure, culture, and climate of a school is important. Simply put, our teachers thrive in their work because they’re allowed to.

For more information on the texts Paula mentions in her letter, please see Spark Plugs on page 24.

Paula Smith Head of School

Sticky CurriculumÂŽ

s g n i t e e M l o o h c S l l A lass and

Creating C

Who will empty the pencil sharpener? Class Meeting From the shavings of this question and other similar questions, the embers for Class Meetings at UCDS are lit. What to do when the class’ pencil sharpener is full is a dilemma faced by teachers and students since Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti first placed a stick of graphite inside a stick of juniper. As teachers, we could easily step in and solve this problem: Take over sharpener duty, assign students a rotation, or students who forget their homework could clean the sharpener at lunchtime. Done. But we see this as an opportunity to empower students. Class Meetings allow students to engage in a problemsolving process as responsible community members. Each of our teachers makes a concerted effort to make Class Meeting a core element of our social/ emotional curricula. We allow for class meetings several times a week, empowering students to take classroom issues to their peers for discussion and resolution. We acknowledge that the impetus for instituting Class Meetings is solving some problem, but see it is as a valuable staging ground for students to try on leadership roles and advocate for their beliefs. It’s a tradition we hold dear.

by Diane Chickadel, Susan Foley, and David Garrick, UCDS Faculty

The very first class meeting began in 1990 because the girls in one of our classes felt excluded from “boy” games on the playground. The group decided the ground rules for discussion and the process began. As they talked the problem out, the teacher’s presence acknowledged that their ideas were important and worth the time dedicated to holding such a meeting within the school day. From that initial spark, the meeting topics became as varied as the students in the class! In addition to solving typical classroom problems, the list included ideas as varied as beginning a school newspaper and celebrating family pets with a class-wide Pet Day. The structure and meeting procedures also morphed as the students increased their comfort and facility to discuss and name their own feelings. They divided the proceedings with an “Announcement” section so that they could celebrate extra-curricular events of individuals and give reminders to each other about things that they felt didn’t need indepth discussion. The “Agenda” section was deemed the place for deliberation, discussion, respectful argument and resolution. Students were empowered to state their feelings and ask for help from peers. And,

though teachers supported and coached the process, it was the students themselves who defined the meeting’s procedures. At one point a student felt the meeting needed levity and instituted, with a unanimous vote from peers, “The Joke of the Day”. What fascinates us as adults is the management and behavior of students at these meetings. The students operate with decorum and respect and with little to no adult intervention. Why? We think because no matter what the discussion or topic presented, teachers give credence and respect by setting the time for the meeting to take place. The teacher’s presence says “we believe and respect what’s happening here.” Class Meeting acknowledges student concerns, affirms the importance of student ideas and assures students that they can find solutions in an emotionally safe environment. We view these meetings as social/emotional curriculum that impacts student relationships far beyond the assigned meeting time! While something like overstuffed pencil shavings may be the problem of one class, some issues affect the entire community:

Trouble on the Playground “It’s not fair!” “I wasted my whole recess waiting for a turn on the tire swing and I never got one!” “You can’t save a spot for someone because then they cut everyone else in line!” In the fall of 1997, trouble was brewing on the playground. Students from the second floor (third–fifth grades) were coming back from recess each day passionately protesting unfair practices on the tire swing! One classroom took on the problem at their Class Meeting. But the problem transcended single classrooms and with teachers’ guidance, a group of older students formed a committee to solve the problem. The tire swing was removed from its chains until the situation could be resolved. Continued >

Representatives to the All School Meeting presented the UCDS Constitution for all classes to sign. After two weeks of discussion, the Tire Swing Committee came up with rules to ensure fairness and safety. It was decided that everyone who wanted to ride the tire swing had to first sign the rules. 1. There are only nine pushes per ride. The amount of pushers doesn’t matter; riders can work that out for themselves. The definition of one push is: You put your hands on, spin it around or make it go up and down, and then let go. If you slip or make a mistake, you may continue from that point. Be mindful of your time and the amount of people who want to ride or push. 2. No “ghosts” (places saved in the riding line) for people who aren’t pushers. But, you may save the place of your partner (the person you are going to ride on the swing with). You and your partner count as one person, and if one is gone the other can still count as both people in line. You can’t get in line until you have agreed on a partner. 3. There must be two people riding on the swing at one time. If your partner is somewhere else when you are getting on, ask the person behind you to trade places with you. 4. You may not cut in the rider’s line. If you are waiting in it, you must be attentive! 5. If you break a Tire Swing Rule, your


Class Meetings are a central part of each class’ week. consequence is: you don’t ride for two weeks. Two people will get help from a teacher if the offender does not cooperatively leave the swing area.

Rules without Representation All School Meeting The rules were written on chart paper and began traveling through the classes. The students on the second floor happily signed on, eager to have the tire swing back on the playground. As the document made its way through the first floor classes (first–third grades) however, there was a quiet protest that gradually grew in volume. “When was the meeting to write the rules?” “Why didn’t we go to the meeting?” “We could have made rules so it would be fair!” Although the rules were quite reasonable, the downstairs students were frustrated that they hadn’t been included in the problem solving process. The teachers had one of those wonderful AHA! moments that are a hallmark of everyone’s learning at UCDS. The Tire Swing Committee was expanded to include the students of the first and second floors. A new discussion began regarding the Tire Swing Rules and although no changes were made, the first floor students were much happier to sign the rules, having been included in the process. Continued >

For more curriculum, please visit

IDEA Individuals add ideas to Class Meeting agendas.

CLASS MEETING Addresses the idea

ALL SCHOOL MEETING (ASM) Ideas affecting the greater community (Recess issues, Global Warming, School-wide celebrations) are taken by the class Rep to All School Meeting.

Agenda items are dispersed to classes for discussion and contribution of ideas.

Reps return to ASM with each class’ contribution.

This process continues as ideas are refined and narrowed.

Ideas that are confined to the classroom community (Who will empty the pencil sharpener?) move toward resolution within the classroom community.

If solutions don’t work out, new issues arise.

COMMITTEES Sometimes small committees of interested students meet to brainstorm ideas or make selfgoverning rules. (What jobs need to be done to clean up at the end of the day?)

COMMITTEES Sometimes small committees of interested students meet to brainstorm ideas or make selfgoverning rules. (A group of students who play football gather to make the rules for recess football games.) Reps report to classes about all school decisions. Classes provide final ratification for school and committee designed solutions.

RESOLUTION The community comes to consensus.

Thus the All School Meeting was born! Capitalizing on the success of the Tire Swing Committee, the teachers agreed to continue to support a weekly All School Meeting. The support needed from ALL of the teachers in the school was considerable. Students were empowered to use Class Meeting time to review All School Meeting issues and to elect a class representatives to attend the All School Meetings. Again, classes had many options in deciding how to structure individual class meetings, elections for class representatives and other details related to the All School Meeting. As time went on, students took over responsibility for solving most of the issues that came up on the playground at recess. The rules they created as a community were more revered than any rules we have set forth as adults! Meanwhile, teachers reviewed each new resolution at faculty meetings to ensure they fully understood it and could support its enactment. The children rose to the high expectations that they could be responsible for ensuring that all members of the school community were treated fairly and with respect. They eventually created the University Child Development School Constitution and this living document continues to guide all rules and decisions that have been made at the All School Meetings since. These three simple statements became the Preamble to the school constitution: We will respect ourselves. We will respect each other. We will respect the environment. The UCDS Constitution is now in its tenth year! It outlines the responsibilities of class representatives and All School Meeting officers. It lists amendments and articles that archive the history of student life at UCDS. The issues contained within its pages are all-school agreements, many of which reflect playground understandings.

All School Meeting All School Meeting consists of representatives from each classroom, a student chair, a student vice-chair, and faculty mentors. Agenda items are


presented by each Class Rep and others confirm or refute it as an issue for their classes as well. The chair redirects the issue back to classrooms with a request for proposed solutions. In the weeks that follow, students suggest and consider a variety of solutions. Several options are tested. This process can literally be months long! The time spent in processing heightens the entire community’s awareness to an issue while working toward a solution. In the meantime, because a problem is an ASM topic, students are respectful of each other’s ideas and focus on what they could do to mitigate the issue. They are aware of how their behavior could make a difference in the severity of the problem while working toward a permanent solution. Acknowledging an issue is in discussion seems to be the only guidance students need to operate respectfully while waiting for an All School consensus. Faculty actively participates with the students. We work to ensure safe and respectful discussion but otherwise generally follow the meeting structure that is set by the students. Behind the scenes, we meet with students to coach them about how to successfully participate in the meetings that follow. Everyone has the chance to be a class chair and this necessitates teacher support for some students on how to facilitate a successful meeting. This individualized instruction transfers into a feeling of success for the facilitator in areas beyond Class Meeting. In addition to problem solving, students use the meeting structure to celebrate community life at UCDS. All School Reps are invited to open each school year at the Convocation, signifying that students are at the center UCDS life. There is also a yearly celebration where all of the students re-sign the Constitution. Classrooms review the preamble and active amendments before we meet in an assembly to celebrate our agreement to respect ourselves, each other and the environment. We top the whole thing off with cake! Over the years, students have taken the initiative and designed special days including Pajama Day, Olympic Day, Crazy Hair Day and Students Teach the Teachers Day. Classes brainstorm ideas and options are narrowed down in All School Meeting. The enthusiasm the students feel is evident as interested students volunteer to spend precious recess time meeting in committees to bring the ideas to life.

Class Meeting agendas are kept in each class, such as this one from the Early Elementary (3–6 year olds).

Students feel a genuine sense of pride serving as representatives to classes. The year following the establishment of All School Meeting, students decided that it was important to be able to identify reps on the playground. Each class submitted a badge design and meetings were used to vote for the badge that would be worn by all reps. But, just what does it mean to wear a rep badge? This is an important question and each year it is debated and redefined in Class Meeting and at the All School Meeting: “Some of my class is worried about the role of the reps on the playground. If you are wearing a badge do you have to be the big bad rep, or could you play with your friends?” “You can play with your friends and do anything you normally do at recess. People may ask you to stop your game for a few minutes if they need help with a problem.” “What if you’re in the middle of a game?” “Well you can finish a shot (for example) before going to help someone, but you should try to go help as soon as possible.” “Being a rep is a responsibility; you should be willing to help when you are needed!”

Each class elects a Representative to serve as the liaison to the All School Meeting. Terms run for four weeks, building confidence and continuity.

“You don’t need to get a teacher, you can ask a rep if you need help.” “A rep is just one more person who can help.” In the decade since the Class Meetings bore All School Meeting, UCDS has built a new building, combined two campuses and remodeled its playground. With every change in structure, every solution to one problem, new and more interesting problems arise. Though we no longer have a tire swing, students continue to meet daily with their classmates to create respectful agreements about how our classroom and communities can best support each other. In a traditional school, these agreements are the rules that teachers make and students break. Because of active and ongoing student participation in the process, these decisions become the consensus that students make, faculty support, and the community respects. s

People Who Inspire Us

A Conversation with

Ron Ritchhart In the 2006–2007 school year, Ron Ritchhart, research associate at Harvard’s Project Zero, visited UCDS to talk with faculty about his research on successful ways to create and sustain a culture of robust, metacognitive student thinking. Ron’s 2002 book, Intellectual Character, frames student intelligence not merely as innate ability, but as a series of behavioral cognitive dispositions that can be learned and practiced over time. In addition to his work at Project Zero, he works with public and independent schools across the country to integrate his classroom research on a grassroots level. Our faculty and the Teacher Education Center hosted Ron for several inservice workshops. A few of our teachers sat down with Ron over lunch to learn more about his journey into the student mind.

You come to your research and work in building student cognition with a lot of classroom experience. What’s been your journey as a thinker? I started my teaching career in New Zealand which I think was my most formidable experience. When you step into a different culture in that way, into a different way of doing things, you begin to question everything that does happen—that there isn’t just one way that you’re supposed to teach. That learning unfolds in unique ways. So it was a very interesting environment to walk into! Having that experience really caused me to look at and examine the things that I do as a teacher. It really propelled me forward. Consequently, I became interested in students’ thinking. That’s really the crux of what we as teachers are trying to do: the idea that learning really is a product of thinking. If we can help


students think more reflectively then we know lots of good learning is going to happen. As a teacher, my biggest frustrations weren’t whether kids were getting the work done, or how they were performing on tests, it was always “how can I engage them better and get them to think more reflectively?” That idea has stayed with me as I‘ve taught mathematics, as I’ve taught elementary school and high school and in other, different settings as well. It’s the common thread that’s run through all of my teaching. You talked with us this morning about the culture of thinking, establishing the routines, the language and the interactions, building the expectation that “we think here. We don’t just do, we think.” How do you perpetuate this? I’ve been at schools where a lot of very positive things are happening, and UCDS is one of these

Ron Ritchhart is a research associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research focuses on understanding, supporting, and helping to develop the kinds of thoughtful learning environments that support powerful learning for both students and teachers. This guiding interest has lead him into research on intellectual character, mindfulness, thinking dispositions, cultures of thinking, teaching for understanding, creativity in teaching, and the development of communities of practice. schools. One of the characteristics of a school where good things are happening is that people aren’t complacent, that people are always pushing their thinking forward. One really important way that we as educators push our thinking forward is that we think about why is this working? What is it that we are doing right? Understanding your own teaching, understanding your own practices, understanding why it works lets you replicate it and it also gives you the tools for sharing your methods with other people. You can go to a place where great things are happening but if you don’t understand why, you can’t control it. I hope one of the things I’ve been able to do for the teachers here is to create a lens to understand all of the positive things that are happening. We all have moments where the lesson falls apart, when the great idea didn’t work, and we need to ask ourselves why didn’t that go over? Likewise, we want to ask ourselves: What was it about this unit that made it so powerful, so effective? And how do we carry that forward? Another mission that you have here is the Residency Program, how you help people who are at UCDS for a year to understand teaching in a powerful way. I think that’s a really important component to be able to look at our teaching. It seems that in every field, people are talking with colleagues internationally about the problems that they’re working on, and we do have that in higher education in terms of thinking about education. But as far as down in the classrooms level, people are hardly even talking across the hall, much less on a larger scale. What do you think are the big barriers to doing that? Continued >

In memory of

John Neilson UCDS parent, John Neilson loved ideas; those he found in literature and those he gained through a deep appreciation of world culture, math, science, art, music, philosophy, and physical excellence. In 1999, at the age of thirty-eight, John lost a hard fought battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In honor of John’s life, The Neilson Endowment Fund was created. Through the Teacher Education Center at UCDS, we use this endowment to create and share programs that offer children access to big ideas. John was an inspiration to us in life and we dedicate this, ‘People Who Inspire Us’ section to him.


I think one of the big barriers is the issue of time. Part of that is because in America we haven’t had the notion that part of a teachers workday time should be devoted toward collaboration. Another barrier, as we talked about, is the issue of having a common language for beginning to talk about collaboration. Another barrier is that for collaboration to be meaningful it needs to have depth to it. When you have a lack of time, collaboration tends to be fairly superficial—it gets to be an activity dump where people just share activities that they’ve done, rather than talking. The contrast is thinking of this planning

I love the idea that if the culture of thinking is successful, that if the lessons are working well, kids are learning self-talk and they’re learning how to ask themselves the same question that a teacher might ask. So teachers are actually modeling the kind of self-talk that they hope kids are going to be using.

time not as time to plan the next thing, but reflecting on the current thing. We don’t look at “I had this lesson which just completely bombed—help me understand what didn’t work.” Also, meaningful collaboration: it’s much harder to collaborate when you feel isolated (and teaching is a very isolating activity). There’s normally one teacher in one classroom. So how do we get teachers into one another’s classroom? How do we bridge teachers’ experiences? How do we share each other’s classrooms in a meaningful way? That’s always a challenge: having common language to be able to talk about teaching, across subject areas and ages in a way that’s really powerful.

all sit within the context of helping kids become independent learners and thinkers. The best schools, whether public or independent, are always schools which give kids a good sense of themselves as thinkers and learners and that’s what propels them. You can’t say “we’ll develop these skills now and later on we’ll teach them to think.” But that perspective is very widespread unfortunately. There are people at the university level who will say, “You don’t need to think at the undergraduate level, we’ll teach you to think at the graduate school. And then the graduate school says you don’t need to think until you’re in a doctoral program.” The real time to teach thinking is when kids are really young—that’s when you develop the patterns of

I think that developing a culture of thinking is so important. When you think about what kids take away from their teaching, it is of course that they learn a lot of knowledge and skills. But ideally these things

thinking and the dispositions of mind. As teachers we can begin to create a sense of wonder and inquiry that really carries people forward through a lifetime. That’s why I think schools like UCDS are so valuable: what happens for early learning really does set the stage for students’ later careers in education. You have a lot of international educational experience and a pretty unique perspective of being able to look at the American educational system from outside of America. How’s the state of learning in America right now? Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a state of learning right now. We’re currently very much in the dominant paradigm of schools just as work and we focus a lot on the test. And it’s not that the testing doesn’t have any place— testing does have its place—but the test should be a simple audit of what’s happening in a classroom. It’s supposed to merely give you a picture. It’s not supposed to be what happens in the classroom. And we’ve turned everything on its head to make the test the everything instead of just one glimpse of that. The other thing that’s happened is that we’ve not really empowered teachers in this process. We’re actually in fact de-skilling the profession of teaching in many instances. And again that’s why what’s happening here is so important. Teachers really do need to be designing curriculum and designers of the classroom environment. And that’s really what the teaching profession is, or should be, about. I wish that in America we paid more attention to the issue of how do we raise the profession rather than constrain it. We’re so focused on the work rather than the learning that it can’t help but be constrained. Unfortunately, that’s been a worldwide kind of change that’s creeping into schools in Australia and some parts of Europe too. I’d imagine that schools that are falling into that paradigm would then view your expertise as something to plug in to achieve test scores. Do you find that schools understand the depth that they can be creating or are they so constrained that they don’t get to actually think and work together?

we really are after is powerful learning. Unfortunately, what happens is that in some situations, there’s so much emphasis placed on the test that all professional development gets minimized unless it’s tied directly to raising test scores and that’s jumping over the big chasm of learning. Test scores are indicators of that—they’re not learning. There are a lot of tricks that you can teach kids to help them do better on tests, but that isn’t learning. That’s the problem that we’ve run into. I’ve been very lucky to work with the Clover Park school district south of Tacoma and that’s a district that has taken the very long view—they’re very concerned with test scores and they’ve received a lot of recognition for raising test scores. However, they haven’t done that by focusing on just teaching to the test. They’ve focused on how do we get kids to learn, and they’ve also focused on meaningful teacher development for teachers, promoting learning and thinking and through that focus they’ve actually been able to raise test scores. There’s a school here in Seattle called Van Asselt and five years ago they threw everything out the window that the district imposed and decided amongst themselves what they needed to do. Five years later their improvements in test scores have blown everybody away. They did everything contrary to what they were doing before: they put their focus on higher thinking and more challenging work, calling kids up and inviting them to have challenging intellectual conversations. It sounds like there are other schools that are turning this thing around on their own. This is a case of the educational political community not focusing on what the research is saying. Linda Darling-Hammond’s research has shown that states that invest heavily in teacher development actually do, in fact, get better test scores. This really is about teachers: teachers are crucial people. Their ongoing development and collegiality are important in order to see growth in their students. There’s a lot of evidence out there that focusing on turning a school around in six months is not a very fruitful thing. Taking a long view is. s

I think that it’s important to take the long view of education. There really are some schools and districts that are able to take the long view and see that what


What Works by Diane Chickadel

HOW WE GREW AND STAYED THE SAME Community Leadership, Collaboration, and the Power of Individual Voice In communities, leadership is not defined as the exercise of power over others. Instead, it is the exercise of wit and will, principle and passion, time and talent, and purpose and power in a way that allows the group to increase the likelihood that shared goals will be accomplished. …leadership as power to accomplish shared goals.


eventeen years ago, in the summer of 1990, the teachers of a small school came together to build a new school year. A small group of us (which, back then, was the whole faculty of UCDS, keep in mind) sat around a table and started to decide what we’d teach and how. An exciting innovation was about to take place and it was happening as we talked! A couple of teachers presented the idea of a thematic approach to organizing the curriculum. This is now a core element of our academic programs, but back then the Theme idea was very much in its infancy. Programs evolving before our eyes, this schoolaltering conversation sounded something like this. Listen: What do you think about picking a theme that would organize all of our curricula? This simple question, asked of colleagues, helped to shape the future of one of the core elements of our school. Peers suddenly excited about the idea, the conversation continued: What is a theme? How much would this encompass? Well, I think there are math and literature ideas we could incorporate.


T.J. Sergiovanni in Building Community in Schools

How about a focus on a particular culture? Yeah yeah yeah! Like Africa! We could use the new additions at the zoo to support us. And what about a simulation activity? We could travel through Africa and meet with pre-designed problems to be solved. Like when we did the Seattle history project. And how about a culminating school wide activity before mid-winter break? We have a parent that is a choreographer that could help us build a presentation. Then what about the second half of the year? What will bring us together? Another theme or focus? OK, We’ll meet again next Wednesday. Bring your ideas and questions. Teachers here at UCDS generate curriculum and build community just like this. We are a talking community that is immersed in process that never seems finished. One idea leads to another, leads to another, leads to another. The process is truly collaborative, invigorating, and dynamic. And time consuming.

Early on, our community was small enough (about 20 teachers and staff) for all of our voices to be heard, and for every problem, new idea or question to be reviewed by the group as a whole. The give and take was inspiring because each of us had input into the direction our programs were heading, and we liked that direction very much.

Then…the faculty and student body grew! A lot. On the bright side, we knew that what we were doing was working well. But gradually, our programmatic successes led to an increase in applications, then enrollment and, consequentially, a growing teaching body (a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.) As we grew, the continuing process of developing, reviewing, and implementing all the new ideas at a grassroots level discussion was, at times, painstaking. Some voices seemed to be heard more and others would fade, all as a function of what less resembled the small community we once knew and now was more like…well, a herd! Continued >

Faculty members consider all facets of the school community in small conversation groups. Here, teachers discuss ideas for this school year’s Theme Study, LAYERS.

Meanwhile, we found ourselves working later and later each school day to do what we’d always done the years before. Soon, it became abundantly clear that every decision couldn’t be made in a large group when time was at a premium. Ongoing faculty participation in every aspect of the school was expected but the process was becoming all the more bogged down and overwhelming. It seemed we were sure to lose the vibrant ambiance, creative energy, and mutual respect that was the very essence of what drew us to UCDS. So, we had a problem to solve. We first decided we needed to take stock of what was working well. We identified a first step to maintain our main core values of community, collaboration, and the power of voice. Before doing anything to change what we had slowly become, we needed to define the culture that we hoped to preserve. With leadership direction and support, a group of teachers confronted the task: our goal was to define what teaching looked like at UCDS. As a community, we all knew that we enjoyed and reveled in the play of ideas and the new learning challenges that resulted. The faculty and staff passion was that “something” that we needed to hang onto! We compiled a list of what we believed to be essential characteristics of a successful UCDS teacher. The faculty reviewed our work, significant conversations and negotiations ensued and resulted in the creation of the UCDS Teacher Profile (1996). The Profile describes each teacher as communicator, collaborator, facilitator, innovator, and creator of balance. It identifies the key assets that we hope that all of our teachers bring with them each day. This passionate conversation and investment in self-definition was empowering! The next step was to recreate a climate that would foster the intimate conversations that were the hallmarks of the smaller community.

The Solution…Forming Committees With leadership support from the head of school, that first core group of teachers sought


and found an effective community-based solution. They proposed to guide their peers in the formation of a committee structure that would further empower teachers within the directives of the Teacher Profile, assuring teacher voice and ownership. We generated a list of areas in the school where faculty and staff could have meaningful influence. Curriculum review and implementation seemed to be the most natural beginning. In the trial-run years of committees, groups were charged to focus on the core areas of reading, writing, and math. There was enough work for everyone to research best practices, the latest influences, and how this all related to us, the UCDS learning community. The results included professional development in the form of a series of national educational leaders in designated fields coming to faculty in-services. A committee formed to organize the entire curriculum to reflect UCDS and new assessment tools, our Continua, were born! The process was one of small group research, presentation to the group for review and then small group refinement based on that review. Meanwhile, another list of large programmatic topics to consider was building: When and where is there time to devote to curriculum development? How do we sustain faculty? What about the greater community involvement in the school? Do we have a voice in the admission process? What about educational research? Good questions generated more complex questions and an overwhelming need for faculty to help find answers. It wasn’t long before the Curriculum Committee was subdivided to form other committees including the Faculty Coordinating Committee, The Special Events Committee, Communication Committee, Admissions Committee, Community Development Committee, and a more specialized Curriculum Committee. And we got to work. Empowered to consider larger ideas and innovate within each of their areas of focus, our faculty continues to use the committee structures to make meaningful and far-reaching changes to our schoolwide program. Continued >

Teachers have remarkable ownership as a function of committee collaboration. Here, faculty members explore the ephemeral artwork of Andy Goldsworthy (top), plan an upcoming special event (middle), and do site visits to investigate field trip opportunities (bottom).

•The Faculty Coordinating Committee organizes the teachers and sets a yearly calendar to track our meetings, in-service days, and generally provide a forward motion. The committee developed a program to support teacher wellness by developing a health club stipend that was added to the benefit package. The committee also began organizing the actions needed to prepare us for critical events. •The Curriculum Committee recently developed The Reflective Thinking Continua as a result of two years of faculty research. The committee sponsored professional development, bringing national researchers in the field to the school and offering seminars for the greater community. On a more regular basis the committee sets the calendar allowing for regular review, reflection, and revision of all areas of the curriculum. •The Special Events Committee further defines theme study to reflect a broad concept. Some recent themes were Motion, Perspective, Change, Balance. The committee leads the faculty in connecting academic and social/emotional studies to themes and in a yearly celebration, Theme Fair. The committee also spearheads other curricular events that relate to the greater community. •The Admissions Committee refined visit days for new students and actively participates in the whole admissions process. New parents are welcomed to the school through the programs offered by the Admissions Committee. The committee also provides support to parents and students preparing for the middle school transition. Among the many offerings is an annual Middle School Night with guest speakers. Parents and recent alumnae return to share pizza and information for the current fifth grade class. •The Community Development Committee is all about outreach. The committee honors our alumni, organizes Winterlude, a family get together, and provides the guidance for Grandparents & Special Friends Day. Recently they turned inwards, reviewing faculty mentoring/coaching, especially for the seasoned UCDS teacher. •The Communication Committee produced a parent communication blog, a school yearbook, and most recently, is invested in sponsoring faculty publication. The committee acts as a clearinghouse


for all publications and this committee actually led to the creation of the magazine you are reading this instant, Spark! This refined committee structure developed an interconnected infrastructure. The committee chair emerged as the natural link between administration and committees’ work. Biweekly chair meetings with the head, assistant head, admissions director, and division heads connected the ongoing work of each committee. We supported each other. At the close of the school year, each committee reviewed their work for the year and identified a direction for the next year, ensuring adaptive solutions to programmatic questions as they unfolded. Most recently, our graduating students have contributed to the committee structure circle. Our fifth graders now choose committees to mentor their Service Learning projects. Mimicking the philosophy of the committee structure, the students observe and review school programs and generate a list of perceived needs or areas where they could support others while growing their own knowledge of UCDS and leadership goals. They present proposals and are assigned to a committee by a teacher review panel. We’ve found a solution to our growing pains and it’s establishing our committees! Committees support a personal investment in professional development and a shared philosophy. And there is certainly a direct correlation between the personal commitment of UCDS community members and the level of educational standards in the classroom. As our community has grown, the committee structure is one successful way that we’ve ensured that our small-school culture will continue to thrive each day. s …To learn to be human is to develop through the give-and-take of communication an effective sense of being an individually distinctive member of a community: one who understands and appreciates its beliefs, desires, and methods, and who contributes to further conversation of organic powers into human resources and values. This process is never finished. John Dewey

The Teacher Education Center at University Child Development School proudly presents:

Creativity & Intellect

A FREE symposium featuring Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, Ph.D., Ellen Winner, Ph.D., Patricia K. Kuhl, Ph.D., Andrew N. Meltzoff, Ph.D., and Alison Gopnik, Ph.D.


February 11th & 12th 2008

This is a free event, reserved seating will be required. For information on reserving a seat, please go to

Creative Fusion Ellen Winner, continued

by Melissa Chittenden

TALENT SCOUTING Opening Curricula to Diverse Teacher Talents


s teachers and administrators we all hear and read about our educational programs and schools in general being under-funded…some of us live that experience each day we go to work. More specifically, we learn of school districts that are millions of dollars in debt, the much needed programs for kids that are discarded, and of course the art and music options that are the first to be cut in an effort to save languishing funds. Debates continue to rage through the media regarding the “right” way for us to teach all students to read or conceptualize mathematical concepts. And while this cyclical dialog continues, we as teachers are given even more curricula to “cover” with more tests to assess the effectiveness of the teacher as opposed to the actual learning of the student. Faculty rooms across the country are the host for the “I don’t’ have time to…” conversations that we all share. As a result, many of us choose to teach autonomously in our classrooms, trying our best to learn and teach the chosen curriculum while addressing the wide range of learning needs within our students. Of course, we as teachers are invested in knowing and growing the students we work beside each day. Many of us have worked in schools where we see (or have participated in) pockets of teachers who get together to share ideas and even at times join their classrooms together for projects. Yet, school wide continuity for programmatic and curricular ownership from both faculty and staff is rare to find. Many of our schools are part of a large system and for many of us the curricula are already chosen. Regretfully in this model, we are often the vessel to deliver the information to our students rather than having the time to model the art of how to learn. Nothing about this overused model promotes innovation or ownership from us, the educators. Rather, this organizational structure rewards congenial relationships with our colleagues as opposed to the possibility of more rewarding and meaningful collegiate relationships. By congenial I mean, the surface level salutations of hello and goodbye we use with our colleagues. Our lunch conversations about weekend adventures and chores, although interesting, are also congenial. The way we all conform to the spoken and unspoken norms of our school life are also what Thomas Sergiovanni defines as congenial school culture. In his book Rethinking Leadership, Sergiovanni writes: Congeniality and collegiality are very different. Congeniality refers to friendly human relationships and the development of strong supporting social norms that are independent from the standards of the teaching profession and the purposes of work at school. Collegiality, by contrast, refers to principals and teachers sharing, helping, learning and working together in response to strong supporting norms that emerge from professional standards and school purposes. Continued >

Faculty are encouraged to bring diverse pieces of themselves to the table. Charles Kapner, our Business Manager, frequently shares his expansive collection of baseball memorabilia with students (top). Angie Manning Goodwill, Administrative Assistant, guides students in a tile mosaic club (middle). Jason Profit, teacher and photographer, runs week-long photography camps over the summer (bottom).


At UCDS, we’ve found that collegiality in the school stems from shared vision and ownership. Yet, I must emphasize this goal is achieved through discussing and debating all our different viewpoints. The foundation of a collegiate community is the ability to disagree and work toward a shared direction. From those discussions, we work together to create systems that are a result of what we collaboratively want to accomplish. We strive for honest educational related conversations and then add to that the recognition and use of the wide-ranging interests and talents shared by all the adults in our school community. For the past several years, UCDS has been exploring ways to increase faculty/staff ownership within all areas of the school. Some of these approaches focus on the school’s infrastructure while others center on utilizing people’s diverse talents. One major change to the school’s infrastructure was creating a model in which all teachers and administrative staff work on school committees that have an overarching impact on the school direction and activities. We all worked together to define committee titles, responsibilities and each year we re-define the scope of work for each committee. Committees work on topics from curricula development, school publications, in service planning, community events, process for teacher mentoring and evaluations, marketing, benefits, alumni, admissions and anything else that may surface in our conversations about the school’s needs and/or future endeavors. Everyone has a voice as well as a responsibility to actively participate in the development of our school culture. This move to a committee structure from our school’s previous operating model (much like what was described in the opening paragraphs) has produced an incredible systemic change in school wide continuity and increased personal ownership within our educational community. This infrastructure facilitates a collegial culture. In addition, we began to look creatively at our funding methods and schedules to enhance our current educational programs both during the school day as well as after school. We wanted to find ways for our faculty and staff to move beyond their defined roles within their job descriptions and share their interests and hobbies on a regular basis within the school community. Initially we found that we already employed quite a few artists that worked with a diverse group of media; we started offering demonstrations and workshops and eventually after school classes in pottery, stained glass, mosaics, woodworking and collage. We even started a


pinewood derby group led by two of our faculty who have a passion for woodworking! Our school’s Business Manager is a wellknown collector of baseball memorabilia. He has hosted school workshops and displayed parts of his museum quality baseball collection in our library several times. One highlight he arranged was a fieldtrip to listen and learn from Buck O’Neil, President of the Negro League and Hall of Fame Player, a former Negro League player, Major League coach, and an overall ambassador for the game of baseball. We found several musicians amongst our faculty and staff who happily formed a school rock band that appears at school events. That group has even begun to write school related music for their performances! An incredible hit with the kids and families! Some of our faculty now provide music lessons for the kids (and other faculty) who are inspired to learn how to play an instrument and join the school band! One of our employees is a photographer and loves teaching kids the art of black and white photography. Our Marketing/Communications Director leads cheerleading courses for our students as well. We celebrate our faculty and staff writers, athletes, builders and technicians in similar ways. With each workshop and course we offer through the adults in our community, a group of students are inspired to explore a topic that would not have been available to them within the constraints of pre-determined curricula or in the non-existent arts programs that have been cut from many of our schools. Incorporating the talents and interests of the adults in our school has also deepened the level of school wide personal ownership as well as enhanced the collegiate atmosphere. We are not only congenial with one another; we all have a shared vision, and an excitement for the opportunity (even expectation) to share our interests and talents with our students and peers. Logistically, there are a several ways to support this model. Within our committee structure, our faculty looked at the budgets and generated proposals to find ways to compensate teachers for their time. Currently, we pay faculty $200 for one-time presentations and worked with our schedules so that many of those presentations could take place during the school day, thus adding salary, but not extra time to someone’s day. For ongoing after school classes, we pay between $45 and $75 per session. Also, if the classes are after school and have registration fees attached, those revenues are used for the teacher compensation, materials, and to support kids who want to attend but need financial support for the course fee. There are also a number of organizations throughout the country that will fund arts related projects within schools. In that case, one of our committees might decide take on the role of grant writing to attain funds for that use. Overall, as a faculty and staff, we strive to model what we ask of our students each day; a collaborative community that fosters respectful and meaningful conversations and ownership of our professional environment. We design daily opportunities to make use of the talents of individuals in our community. We work every day to create school wide synergy! s


Each year, UCDS teachers ask 5th grade Moving On students about the parts of their career here that resonated most. When the Class of 2007 was asked about the value of collaboration from a student’s perspective, they consistently reminded us why this skill is so important to foster at every level of a community. Our students learn that it’s important to bring their strengths to the teamwork table but it’s every bit as crucial that they confidently ask for help from their peers. What results are uniquely layered relationships between students and their teachers, closing the circle of why we find collaboration to be such an important skill.

Here’s how several of our students answered the question, “What is Collaboration?” Collaborating is mixing all of your ideas to make something new. Grace J. It’s important because you can never be Superman, I can’t be good at math, reading, writing, I can’t be the best in the school in every area you can imagine so I have to get help from others and settle for being just good at something and not perfect. In subjects that come easily to me, I try to get as close to perfect as possible but I don’t think you can ever really be perfect. Collaboration allows me to get advice from others, just now we were building houses, I couldn’t have built a gigantic house on my own but I came up with some ideas and other people came up with other ideas and I built some of the walls and measured some of the angles and did some of the roof and it was good, it was really good. It’s better…there’s five people’s work in that house instead of just one person’s work. Working together is a big part of life and work. Alex D. I think it means working together and it is very important in all of the projects we do in Math Vitamins. Sometimes, we are building these houses for madeup people and we have to communicate; if we don’t, it doesn’t work out because you put the wall in the wrong place or you do the wrong measurements. Fran Q. Because it teaches you how to get along with people …and it won’t work out if you don’t know how to compromise or get through arguments. Annaliese F.

It lets you see how other people look at things. Alex K. You can share your ideas and maybe get new ideas… if I was learning how to do spelling, my partner might help me with a trick that she knows already and that would make it a lot easier for me. Grace G. It’s nice to work with a group of maybe people you don’t know well and, like for the house project for example, it’s good because I’m working with people who are totally different than me and sometimes I am a little bossy and matching up with people who aren’t shy and are leaders and I think it’s really important to UCDS because they always say “this is your community” and it feels like everybody is there for you even if you don’t know them. Caitlin G. …sometimes the partners have good ideas that you like, sometimes they have ideas that you don’t like and sometimes you just have to go with their idea or explain why you don’t like their idea. In life or in your work, you will have to be flexible sometimes. Nadia J. I like it because you can share ideas and you can use your strengths to help other people and they can help you with your challenges. Maggie C. I’ll know something, I’ll teach them that, they’ll teach me something, the product is good because it’s more than one person’s opinion. Damon E.

Alumni Perspective

If you don’t work with other people, when you do start working with other people, you don’t really know how to deal with it when people start disagreeing with each other. I feel I’ve learned a lot about that, and how to be more patient with people. That will help in middle school because it’s going to be a big school. Jessica K.

Collaboration is how you work together and you can make something better than it would be if you did it as an individual. When you collaborate with other people, you can discover a lot more and you can help them if they’re having trouble and they can help you if you’re having trouble. Sarah D.

We are a big group and we all have to work together to get a good result. It’s kind of natural now. We are working in house groups to build a house that has to be environmentally friendly and not all of the people work together and they’re kind of half-heartedly doing something—our houses didn’t turn out so well. There were six of us, each with a different opinion about everything. There are some houses up there that are absolutely perfect, no mistakes and the garden is perfect and the walls are straight and the painting is beautiful – that was because everyone was working together and they were interested in what they were doing. Olivia R.

When you grow up and get a job and are working with different clients and disagree with someone, you would know how to deal with it better than would someone who hadn’t been in a group at all. Sam A.

We built a house this year and a city last year and each person has their own little role in the project and they come together to make a whole project, one person can’t do everything always. Lewis P. It means working together and you get a look at things from a different perspective. Like if I was doing a Math Vitamin, if I was working with someone else I might see something that I wouldn’t see by myself that would allow me to do the Math Vitamin. Andrew H. For me, collaboration is helping others when they’re stuck or kind of confused or just need a hand and it’s also working together and making it fun and you want to learn. Emily H.

I think it’s good because everyone has a different

idea and, if you get all of those ideas together, you can get

something BIG.

Nick M.

Spark Bookshelf Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin reviewed by Katie Morrison

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration By Warren G. Bennis, Patricia Ward Biedermann Basic Books, 2007 www. Warren Bennis, University of Southern California professor of business, and Patricia Ward Biedermann, a Los Angeles Times reporter, investigate six diversely “Great Groups” whose successes were a function of great leadership and a strong, shared mission. Bennis and Biedermann find connections between disparate groups (from the Disney corporation to the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign) to illustrate the importance of collaborative ownership and shared vision. Head of School Paula Smith references page 215 of this book in her opening letter.

“one man’s mission to promote peace…one school at a time.” When Greg Mortenson stumbled off of K2’s Baltoro glacier and into the tiny village of Korphe, this unplanned detour not only changed his life, but the lives of over 24,000 children. Struck by the tenacity of Korphe’s children to learn, Mortenson promised to return and build a school. In the last fourteen years, that promise has turned into his founding of the Central Asia Institute and working closely with other local villages to build 58 schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson and co-author David Oliver Relin retell this inspiring story of cultures, collaboration, and commitment. s


Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great By Jim Collins Random House, 2006 Rejecting the belief, common among politicians, that all would be well in society if only the public sector operated more like the private sector, this book sets out a fresh approach to creating successful hospitals, police forces, universities, charities, and other nonprofit-making organizations. In five parts, Collins translates his widely referenced “Good to Great” strategies for corporate success into a language that non-profit entities such as schools may readily apply.

Spark Plugs Making the Grade: Reinventing America’s Schools By Tony Wagner Routledge, 2001 Tony Wagner, codirector of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, poses several concrete questions that emphasize the relative obsolescence of the prevailing model of public education in the United States. He promotes a vision of education that prepares students to successfully demonstrate their knowledge, not merely pass tests. To get there, Wagner argues, schools must be teacher-driven, organized, small and responsive to students’ individual strengths and challenges. Head of School Paula Smith references page 129 in her opening piece. Building Community in Schools By Thomas J. Sergiovanni Jossey-Bass, 1999 The Lillian Radford Professor of Education and Administration and Senior Fellow, Center for Educational Leadership at Trinity University, San Antonio, Dr. Segiovanni writes about the importance of communities as a foundation for school revitalization. From students to administrators, Segiovanni advocates that schools not just appreciate these communities, but create them. Faculty member Diane Chickadel references this book in her piece about the teacher-led committee structure.

Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming Our Schools By Tony Wagner, Robert Kegan John Wiley & Sons, 2005 Based on the school reform efforts of The Change Leadership Group at the Harvard School of Education, this presents a carefully considered model for school transformation that seizes on empowered educators as the primary agents of change. The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards” By Alfie Kohn Houghton Mifflin Books, 2000 Former teacher Alfie Kohn challenges the “back to basics” movement of test-score fueled assessment of school and learning success. He takes a historical view to challenge the very basis of the factory model of schooling, emphasizing instead the importance of a challenging curriculum that encourages students to take an active role in pursuing their learning and thinking.

UCDS Board of Trustees Officers Eric Fahlman, Chair Bill Nicholson, Vice Chair Janet Donelson, Treasurer Nan Garrison, Secretary Members at Large David Bolin Elana Lim Greg Headrick Julie Petersen-Dunnington Julie West Prentice Kate Marks Kelly Webster Perry Atkins Roger Page Ex-Officio Members Mike Riley Joelle Harrison Paula Smith

University Child Development School 5062 9th Ave NE Seattle, WA 98105 206-547-UCDS (8237) Fax 206-547-3615

The UCDS Mission University Child Development School is centered around the lives of children and is dedicated to the development of their intellect and character. We actively encourage, and the school everywhere reflects, the process of joyful discovery that is central to meaningful and responsible learning. Teaching is individualized and responsive to the talents of each student, and the curriculum is rigorous and integrates the concepts and skills embedded within the major disciplines. Our students are chosen for their promise of intellect and character and are selected from a crosssection of the community. Our faculty members are leaders in their fields, supported in advancing their studies and encouraged to share their knowledge widely. In pursuit of these ideals, and in recognition of obligations beyond the school itself, we strive to be an innovative leader in education, serving as a model for others.

University Child Development School


Spark #3, Fall 2007  

Bringing student government to the elementary classroom.

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