September 22, 2017
This Fall, Inspired Teaching spoke with Inspired Teacher Leader Patricia Odom (’14) about how she establishes school-wide norms as an Inspired Teacher in her role as an Assistant Principal at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, DC’s only all-male public school.
The school year just started. What is your favorite part about the beginning of the year as an Assistant Principal?
One of my favorite parts about starting the year is the new students and the energy that they come with. Since I work with ninth-grade students, every year is a fresh start. The new students come with new attitudes and new ideas; it’s a new unknown and fresh energy for everybody. Every year is a chance to start over.
What does being an Inspired Teacher Leader mean to you?
I think in my role right now being an Inspired Teacher Leader provides me with the ability to impact more classrooms with the Inspired Teaching approach. I am responsible for coaching other teachers and having them reflect on how they are inspiring students. I push them to ask, “is this lesson joyful? Is it exciting and engaging? Is the student doing the work or am I?” I have those conversations with teachers in all of the classrooms that I work with.
As an Inspired Teacher Leader in your role, how do you establish school-wide norms from the start of the year?
Some norms I design with the teaching staff as a team. We talk about classroom expectations and some are aligned to school and district’s expectations. However, when we discuss our classrooms norms and practices, we focus on developing students’ conceptual understanding in math and science. Using the Inspired Teaching approach, I work with the teachers in those classrooms to help them come up with ways their students can connect the lessons to the real world. What the teachers and I talk about in planning, happens in the classroom. We focus on planning opportunities for students to collaborate, share and expand on their own learning and ideas, versus teacher-directed work. We focus on what an observer should hear, see, and feel in the classroom: It should sound like students having dialogue around the topic of study and the teacher facilitating and pushing their thinking. It should feel like productive struggle on the part of the student, struggle and success, while the teacher provides feedback in the moment.
What are you looking forward to this school year?
The Chancellor’s new strategic plan emphasizes social-emotional learning and joy in the classroom. This year, I’m looking forward to seeing that live here, in our space at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. We are a small enough staff and a tight enough team to make that a reality. I’m excited to put tangibles to the words of joy and social-emotional learning, and identify what that looks like in our classrooms—what joy in our classrooms looks like, sounds like, and what it feels like. I’m looking forward to seeing that come to life in this space.
Looking ahead towards the rest of the school year, what is one of the greatest things you hope to accomplish?
Since I work with ninth-grade, this year I’m really focused on promotion rate because promotion rate is a big deal for 9th grade academy. I’m looking forward to ensuring a 100% promotion to 10th grade—last year we had 90%. That is one of my biggest goals. In reaching that goal, I’m also looking forward to providing the supports that students need when they are struggling and recognizing when a student may need extra support early enough to establish whatever intervention plans they may need.