The division leadership team has been engaged in instructional rounds for the past five years. This morning marked the beginning of year 5 of “rounds” – and, as always, it provided us with a firsthand look at the incredible teaching and learning that happens every single day in our classrooms, libraries, labs, and gymnasiums.

The “rounds” model is one borrowed from the medical field in order to better connect division administrators to the most important work that takes place every day in our division.

Our division leadership team spent the morning at Byrd Elementary School.

Our instructional team spent the day on Friday talking teaching and learning – on how to make our already highly successful school division an even better place for students, families, and staff.

Dr. John Almarode (James Madison University) helped provide both the foundation and the spark for the day’s events.  Dr. Almarode’s morning keynote address focused on instructional elements that lead to increased student engagement, and he delivered his message by modeling exactly the kind of learning facilitation he espouses for students.

The balance of Friday’s professional day was spent in extended small group workshops with Dr. Almarode, in instructional design training centered around delivery of the new state math standards, and in grade level and department meetings.

This month’s leadership team meeting with principals and assistant principals was an opportunity to reflect on our balanced assessment program and further develop the entire team’s assessment literacy.  We tackled questions like: What’s the difference between achievement and growth? Are we testing our students too much?  Who’s the intended audience for this assessment? How are we using the results of this assessment to ensure we’re maximizing the potential of every learner?

The fourth grade team at Randolph Elementary School made the different regions of Virginia come alive last week during “Virginia Day.”  The one-day event is the culmination of weeks of instruction and has become a tradition the students and faculty alike look forward to.  Every fourth grade student has the opportunity to spend part of the day in each of five classrooms filled with hands-on learning opportunities, ranging from planting crops indigenous to the Commonwealth to mining for chocolate chips.

(clockwise from top left) Farmer Demas, Instructional Technology Resource Coach; Special Agent Gates, Fourth Grade Teacher; Foreman Hadd, Fourth Grade Teacher; Scuba Diver Ferguson, Fourth Grade Teacher; Adventurer Mock, Fourth Grade Teacher

SOLAR ECLIPSE

Monday, August 21, the first day of our new school year, also happens to be the same day as a once-in-a-generation cosmic event: a solar eclipse.  We are fortunate to have been provided the opportunity to participate safely in viewing the eclipse and benefitting from the learning experience thanks to the generosity of the Goochland Education Foundation (GEF).

The GEF has provided all of Goochland County Public Schools students and staff with first-party vendor, ISO-compliant solar viewing glasses.  Students will be using The Eclipser glasses manufactured by American Paper Optics, LLC (www.eclipseglasses.com).  Our schools have made plans for students and staff to have the opportunity to view the solar eclipse Monday afternoon.  Plans include instruction on proper use of the glasses, as well as supervision throughout the event.

As you would expect with such a rare and far reaching event, Monday’s solar eclipse has been widely covered by media outlets for the past several weeks.  In fact, our own school division has received a great deal of positive attention locally for incorporating the eclipse into our first day experience.

The fact that the event is taking place on our first day back has also created some communication challenges.  While we have worked hard to let our families know about the GEF’s generosity as it relates to Monday’s events, we have decided to make participation in viewing the eclipse exclusively an opt-in endeavor for all families.  This approach is the only way we can ensure that we are hearing directly from our students’ parents about permission to participate in viewing Monday’s eclipse.  Students who do not have permission to participate will be provided an alternative activity.

Our eclipse viewing plans include direct instruction about proper use of the glasses prior to the event (including this video that you may want to view with your child over the weekend), a brief viewing of the eclipse sometime between 2:30-3:00PM (approximately 30 seconds; this is what’s recommended by professionals in the eyecare profession), followed by instructional connections throughout the school year.

If you would like for your child to participate in viewing Monday’s solar eclipse using the ISO-compliant glasses provided by the Goochland Education Foundation, you must provide your permission electronically here or write a note providing your consent and send it to school with your child Monday morning.  If you have more than one child in the school division, you need to complete the permission process for each one.  Our elementary school parents may have already completed a permission form for this; if you have completed it and have returned it to your child’s school, no further action is needed.  As you know, forms can get misplaced between home and school, so we encourage all of our families to use the electronic permission option if possible.  (The electronic permission option closes at 7:00AM Monday morning.)

Finally, please know that students will be able to keep the viewing glasses at the end of the school day on Monday.  Our understanding is that the eclipse spans several hours so students may have the opportunity to participate in an additional viewing using the glasses at home as well.

We couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead, and we’re grateful to the GEF for their continued support of our entire school community!

This week several GCPS team members started their day alongside dozens of children: a 7:30AM Chick-fil-A breakfast, followed by a morning of relationship building and back-to-school shopping at the Regency Square JCPenney.  It was all made possible thanks to the YMCA of Greater Richmond’s Bright Beginnings program and the school division’s partnership with the Goochland YMCA.

– YMCA of Greater Richmond’s Bright Beginnings program – Monday, July 31, 2017

Today our first grade classes from across the school division got the opportunity to visit Goochland Tech.  Their morning included a firsthand “look” at our heavy equipment program (one of two in Virginia), health occupations, carpentry, and culinary arts – an opportunity that included much more than just looking.

Students helped make nutritious smoothies, work with professional tools, and even hop into the driver’s seat of a backhoe.  The best part: our first graders got the opportunity to learn directly from our high school students.

As you might imagine, it was an amazing morning for all!

 

Individual student learning is never maximized with a single blueprint: it takes multiple strategies, multiple methodologies, in multiple formats, over multiple opportunities.

Mr. Jim Frago, Goochland Middle School, recently partnered with experts at Capital One, to introduce students to Sketchnote as a tool for learning.  Sketchnote is a way to visually synthesize and summarize concepts, a blend of creative pictorial expression and more traditional note taking.