Aspiration and Inspiration

by Abbey Dick

Abbey DickOn March 6, I was lucky enough to serve as a Social Media Ambassador at the MassCUE and MASCD’s 2020 Spring Conference, focused on a personalized approach to school change. It was a great day of learning and collaboration at Holy Cross. Here’s my main takeaway: Massachusetts schools are the best in the country, but we are always striving to be even better for our students and families, to push the limits of what school can accomplish. This aspirational goal fuels our innovative practices. I left energized and excited to pursue some new thinking. 

The day started with a keynote by Shawn Rubin of the Highlander Institute. His group focuses on change management: What does a school really want? How can it get there? He provided paradigms and rubrics for helping a school or district think through transformative changes. Often initiatives fail because we haven’t laid the groundwork for the change or we don’t know why we’re doing it. We need to understand the needs of all stakeholders. I can’t wait to read his new book! 

The presentations during the day focused on more than just test scores and new technology tricks. I learned about how making visual data dashboards can help teachers truly learn more about their students and plan for variability. Many sessions focused on improving PD for teachers: how to make PLC work more engaging and authentic, how to provide educators with more choice on PD days, and how to help teachers understand copyright laws. The FuseMA Fellowship is another example of innovation that is providing teachers with opportunities to collaborate and push their thinking. 

A session on digital equity validated what I already knew about gaps in access to the technology tools we offer to students. We must do better to provide them with the technologies that help them learn best and personalize their learning. I also loved the creativity used by Dartmouth High School to provide a flexible block as part of their schedule. This use of time provides personalization for students and teachers to get more done and enjoy school more.  

I was especially impressed by the vulnerability shown by the presenters and by the afternoon keynote by Quabbin Regional School District administrators and teachers. People are truly pushing themselves to try new techniques and structures and being honest about what worked and what didn’t. It’s all a work in progress.

Teachers, administrators, families, communities, and students: keep doing this good work together. Your aspiration is truly inspirational!

Abbey Dick is the English Department Coordinator for grades 5-12 for the Chelmsford Public Schools. Prior to this role, she taught middle and high school English classes and worked as a Literacy Specialist for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This is her 18th year in education. Her current interests include professional development, blended learning, differentiation, and standards-based learning. She’s an avid edcamper and enjoys leading the ASL Club at Chelmsford High School. Follow Abbey on Twitter @abbeydick.

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