Today, I had the privilege of serving as Principal for a Day at Coleman Elementary School in School District U-46. This was particularly special to me since 2 of my children went to Coleman. I visited each of the classrooms and saw the familiar faces of teachers who had my son who is now 30 years old! In addition, DLA designed 2 additions and a significant remodeling to the school. I was amazed in how well that the school has been maintained over the years.
While DLA is committed to 21st Century Learning and adapting a school to serve as a catalyst in support of it, I was impressed on how Coleman has accepted that challenge. What was particularly refreshing was that the school “gets it”. In addition to the way learning takes place, the school is a member of No Excuses University. It is a program that supports learning and responsibility for students, faculty and the administration. I would suggest looking it up on their website.
In a 3rd Grade class students were doing independent reading. Each was reading in an environment that felt comfortable to them, including lying under a desk propped up against a beanbag. In a 4th Grade class, some students were doing research papers on the Great Lakes and others on Automobiles. They worked in groups of 5 students, preparing for a future presentation to the class. The groups, themselves, set up responsibilities for each of the team members. Some groups decided to research all of the Great Lakes together, while others had each student research one of the lakes. Each approached the responsibility of the team members differently. This was a classic example of Project Based Learning, Student Responsibility and Teamwork.
The teacher took on the role of “Research Coach”, helping students with understanding the resources that were available to them. At the end of the session she didn’t ask students for answers, but asked how did their research session work? How was the team chemistry? What worked well and what could be done differently? The answers were telling and insightful. The responses included, “Someone did a good job of finding information, one of the students will need to speak louder when we have our presentation, we need to be polite when someone is trying to share their ideas, etc.”. What a great lesson! The teacher did offer her expertise to the students in helping them (and me) to learn the names of the 5 Great Lakes. She said, “Think of H-O-M-E-S: Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. I learned something too!
As I left the school, I felt proud that both the original school and our updated design solutions were successfully adapting to, and providing venue for, the support of 21st Century Learning.
Principal for a Day Program in the news:
40 school principals who participated in Elgin School District U46’s sixth annual program that allows the community to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the challenges district educators face every day by becoming “Principals for a Day.” More than local leaders representing all facets of the community participated on Friday, including chambers of commerce, state and local elected officials, police and fire departments, advisory councils, business executives and many others.
After touring and learning about their assigned school, many of the Principals for a Day capped off their day at a luncheon at Villa Olivia in Bartlett, where Superintendent Jose Torres spoke about the state of the district.