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‘Burn down the old; rise with the new’

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Madera Unified School District teachers attend break out sessions during an in-service training at Matilda Torres High School on Aug. 3.


MUSD message to employees

The “Student Champions” course, a special in-service held last week for Madera Unified employees, provided a view of the district’s students that may have been surprising.

Teachers and classified staff were taken behind the scenes to learn how students really felt about some very sensitive issues. This information has moved MUSD to articulate its identity in terms of its vision, its mission, and its creed.

Employees were told that 41 percent of the students feel that when teachers ask how they are doing, they are really not interested in their answer.

Further, 45 percent of the students feel if they came into the classroom upset, their teacher would not be concerned. In addition, 49 percent of the students believe their teachers would not be excited to have them in a future class, and 53 percent of the students do not believe their teachers would be excited if they came back to visit in three years.

Faced with these statistics, and other revelations from the students, Madera Unified has reset the bar for making a difference in the lives of its students. The school board and district leaders are asking the employees to work to be “a Phoenix,” after the image of the bird in Greek mythology that could be regenerated or reborn from the ashes of its predecessor.

Staff is being called upon to “burn down the old and rise into the new” through a willingness to grow and adapt. Everyone, from trustees to teachers, is expected to become aware of their own shortcomings and those of the system in order to make the students more successful and to help them believe in themselves.

To support this restructuring of relationships, the district has adopted a community compact which includes the enunciation of its core values. They are as follows: 1- seek equity before equality; 2- make decisions that are student-centered; 3- build a collaborative culture; 4- ensure excellence for all; 5- improve the organization of the district; 6- build better community relationships; and 7- make every action result orientated.

Organizers of the in-service also asked participants the somewhat rhetorical question, “What does it mean to be a student champion?” The answer came with no ambiguity.

“Being a student champion means that one actively builds stronger relationships with students by learning from them and seeking understanding. As teachers and administrators, they create the classrooms and campuses that students respond to every day.

“Therefore, they must be actively aware of how the students perceive the environment that has been created. Being a student champion means finding new ways to connect with students and to recognize them as humans. They are not numbers or the obstacles in one’s day. They are the reason for being in the education business

“To be a student champion means that one is required to lead students to success; employees are the ones who have to change and be better, not the students. As teachers step through the classroom doors, they must break the barriers and meet the students right where they are. When this is done, understanding will follow.”

The bottom line in becoming a student champion in the sense that the district is promoting, lies in its creed — its “We believe” proclamation.

“We Believe” in:

• Strong relationships between students, staff, parents and our community;

• Rigorous expectations for ALL students with proper supports and opportunities to achieve mastery;

• Collaboratively planned relevant, challenging, and creative lessons;

• Intrinsic motivation through curiosity, creativity, and choice;

• Intentionally engaging classrooms and active learning;

• Strong civic engagement through service learning;

• The highest student achievement in all areas;

• An orderly learning environment with dynamic school cultures;

• A financially sound and effective organization excellence for all.

The Tribune’s series on the Student Champion course will conclude next time by exploring the documents in which the ethos of last week’s in-service was embedded.


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