Thanks in large part to the generosity of the PTO, a group of Parker teachers attended the School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting in New York City in mid-January. The colossal blizzard that arrived on January 12th caused the five of us—Sue Kalmakis, Meghan Lockwood, Tanya McDonald, Sean Musselman, Jen Webster—to scramble to rearrange travel plans, but we all eventually arrived, eager to participate in the conference.
The School Reform Initiative (SRI) is an amazing organization that improves student learning largely by creating teacher learning communities within schools. The organization’s mission states that SRI “creates transformational learning communities fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence.” SRI members commit to sharing our work in the belief that by making our work public, sharing resources, and holding one another accountable for creating the best possible educational experiences for our students, we will improve our teaching practice and thereby our students’ learning. We often use SRI protocols (http://schoolreforminitiative.org/protocol/) in our meetings and professional development activities at Parker.
During the conference, we spent the bulk of our time in small groups, using SRI protocols to have structured conversations about our practice. Each participant brought a piece of student work, teacher work, or a dilemma from their practice for the group to workshop. We benefited from sharing work with and hearing the perspectives of teachers and administrators from all over the country. Our work in these groups will make us better facilitators and participators in this type of work back at Parker. Several of us also had the opportunity to visit a school deeply engaged in this work, the University Neighborhood Middle School in the Lower East Side. We left this school visit and the conference feeling inspired to continue working together to make Parker an ever more vibrant learning community. We are truly grateful to everyone who helped give us this opportunity.