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By Dean Burrier-Sanchis and Mark Heintz

This is part of a blog series intended to document and define learning at Elk Grove High School throughout the 2018-2019 school year in order to increase student learning, give professionals autonomy, increase trust in our learning community, and foster a sense of personal-intellectual collegiality within the building across departments. You can read all of the previous posts here.  I am going into each teacher’s class four times and then they are reflecting alongside their students on the learning that took place and what they hope for.

Dean is part of a group that came together and defined learning.  Part of that group’s goal is not only to have a definition but to live its values.  In other words, try to create conditions to represent the values stated in the definition.  I visited Dean’s class and met with him after.  Here is our group’s definition and his reflection on how attempts to live his values.

Learning is the integration of values, or importance to the individual, and beliefs with new and relevant information, skills, and/or abilities for long-term application in life outside of the immediate task.

The process of learning is an evolving journey that includes engaging tasks and processes, emphasizes voice and shapes meaning and authenticity.

The product of all of this is an ever-evolving worldview, the development of skills and awareness to continually evaluate and reflect upon themselves and the world around them.

Now that we have a working definition of learning and some values behind it, how are you putting your beliefs in to practice?  

I believe the process element of learning is something I am really integrating well, in particular in this lesson. I strive to have student voice and to allow for more authentic applications of course objectives and goals. I think I need to develop more on the product end here. Students were engaged in skills of writing and editing, and working on evaluation, but I don’t know how encompassing of a world view or how much this lesson allowed students to reflect on themselves and the world around them, particularly because our analysis of the song at the end was limited to the final minutes. That said I think there were poignant messages that connected to students and will connect more in future classes.


What is holding you back and not letting you live your values?  

I do feel at times the urgency, sometimes as an afterthought, to do real, hard test prep. Some of our higher level students feel more drawn to and motivated by that practice, others do not. I try to disguise this and makes this as relevant and engaging as possible, but I also feel the need to expose them to the difficulty of the exam and feel like they are developing the confidence they need to be successful in May. I worry that if they are not confident heading into the exam, or not adequately prepared for the rubrics, the requirements and the nuance of the exam, they will not be successful, or worse not register for the exam. I think a lot about how this year, class and experience will shape the way they look back on the experience of this year and their 4 years at EG. These pressures sometimes keep me from taking more risks and confronting objectives in goals more freely.