• Enrichment for All - Final Conclusions

    This grant was originally proposed with a mission of creating opportunities for us to grow as professionals and learners with the bigger picture in mind. Our PLC believed there was more research to be done in the field of gifted education and wanted it to directly impact each one of our students in our program and every one of our students in the district.

    We were awarded the first part of our grant two years ago and traveled to UCONN and attended the largest gifted education conference in the world, Confratute. We learned about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model from the gifted education guru, Joseph Renzulli, Sally Reis, and a team of experts. We knew this flexible, researched, and proven method of involving all students in engaging learning opportunities was transferable and scalable for MBS.

    Part 1 implementation:
    When we returned to our district, we wanted everyone to experience the most powerful professional development we had ever experienced. We were passionate and determined to apply what we had learned. We knew better, so we wanted to do better immediately. We learned we still had a lot of work to do and our school culture needed slower, but effective change. It wasn't easy for us to take a step back.

    We knew we had to implement change at a realistic pace and involve the entire community in our process. We worked with parents, teachers, students, and administrators to plant seeds of change throughout our school system. We started small enrichment groups, worked with teachers to plan extended learning opportunities for whole classes and individual students, found creative ways to provide professional development for teachers, learned from other educators locally and across the globe. We read books and tweaked lessons. We talked to our students about their passions and then guided them in learning more and built relationships in the community to make our learning real and relevant. We also grouped our students by interests and mixed grade levels together, which pushed our creative scheduling abilities to another level. We worked with parents to find out more about their children.

    All of work was fueled by the direction and vision of our district, but kept alive by the love for our students. We knew we wanted to do what's best for our students. We tried new things, received feedback, experienced failure, tried again, and still experienced failure mixed with some success. We didn't realize until later how much of it was actually successful, but that was challenging to see when we were in the thick of it all.

    After implementation of Part 1:
    Our PLC changed members after part one, but I wanted to carry on the work of the first part of our grant. While it has been hard to say goodbye to friends who have left our small group of learners, each new member has brought new skills, leadership, and perspective to our team.

    This past year was one of the more difficult as I transitioned from a state of constant cognitive dissonance to being overwhelmed with change and more ideas than time. Last school year, my team and I rewrote, submitted our new LEA plan. We had new paperwork approved and made waves in implementing pieces of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model in each school. We changed our program name from "Program for Academically Gifted Education" to "MBS Program for Enrichment." We put our firm beliefs into action and changed our plan to no longer require the re-referral process for our students eligible for services. Once the students are placed in the program, they remain in it until they graduate from sixth grade. Also, the Enrichment Education Plans will follow them to MBJH, where teachers have more knowledge of the needs of their students.

    We were able to build on work from our previous PLC group and remained unified in our beliefs while we still maintained true to each of our school cultures. We pushed our thinking and collaborated on concept units and planning for our students, while still allowing their passions and talents to take priority.

    Part 2 Purpose:
    The second part to the grant asked for the opportunity for us to continue the learning opportunities in our original proposal, but allow each of our new PLC members to attend the same conference together. I pursued the grant on my own, not knowing who would be able to attend or who would be working in the vacant positions. I just knew that I needed more and our students deserved continued growth and enthusiasm from their teachers.

    As it turned out, two newer members of our team were only able to attend and two other team members moved on to other roles. While I was extremely disappointed I could not personally attend and discouraged new members had not yet been hired, it resulted in the best possible scenario. 

    Part 2 implementation (this year):
    We now have a team full of fresh eyes, perspectives, and experiences. This summer I attended a professional learning meeting and collaborative session led by my team members and attended by classroom teachers. They continued our learning on enrichment for all and we have developed protocol and ideas for compacting all capable learners in 6th grade math, whether they are in The a Enrichment Program or not. We all are confident in our abilities to lead and follow moving forward. We have fallen into natural roles on the team and have already accomplished so much at our first PLC meeting of the year. Our new name, our research, our plan, and our program match our own beliefs and the work of the district on student voice.

    Current conclusion and reflection:
    All of the work and small efforts started the growth I see today, as I begin my tenth year in this role at Brookwood Forest Elementary and as a part of the Mountain Brook Family. I have never been more proud of my own work, the work of our team, and the work of Mountain Brook Schools.

    As we move forward this year, we will continue our growth:
    1. Continued research as a team and individually
    2. Support our new team members and learn from them in all we do
    3. Attend professional development training for coaches (two year process)
    4. Look for new ways to move our program forward and reflect on our work
    5. Involve more real world and service learning components to our program and schools
    6. Question our policies and procedures to ensure we are doing what's best for district and students
    7. Fail and get back up again (and modeling that for our students)
    8. Implement Genius Hour in some form in every school
    9. Design effective, challenging and engaging work that pushes our students to develop deeper affective skills and extend/connect their regular standards in the classroom to their interests
    10. Establish more meaningful relationships within our PLC, our schools, and in our district so that we may effectively scale our learning

    Heather Phillips and Kim Hutchens attended Confratute in July 2017 and agreed that the conference was the most powerful professional development they had ever attended. I guess you could say that's what happens when you give learners autonomy, voice, and an opportunity to explore more about their passions!