I am thankful to the Richmond Times Dispatch for helping to share the great progress our GES teachers and students are making towards bringing innovative learning to life in our classrooms. The story of our iPad initiative continues to reach the Richmond area and beyond. More importantly, the work being done throughout the school is transforming the face of instruction in Goochland.

Great work Mrs. Tina McCay, Mr. John Hendron, Mrs. Bea Cantor, Ms. Zoe Parrish and the wonderful staff and students of Goochland Elementary School!

When I went to RES last week to read to the Kindergarten classes, I had the opportunity to step into the courtyard to see the great work happening there. High school students had spent the day reading with students and helping them realize a grand vision in the outdoor learning space.

Sing created by the students for display in the courtyard.

The ideas at work were exemplary, of course. More impressive to me was the sense of ownership our high schoolers took in mentoring and leading their younger colleagues. We are fortunate to have such great young men and women among us.

I am excited to announce the official WeatherBug Dedication at Byrd Elementary School will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 6th at 10:00 AM in the Multi-Purpose Room. Channel 12 meteorologist, Andrew Freiden, will be the featured guest speaker

I’m thankful to BES teacher, Glenda Hawk, GCPS CTE Director, Bruce Watson, and community member, Richard Carchman, for unwavering support and diligence in bringing this project to fruition!

Dr. Geyer and I had the opportunity to talk with WCVE’s John Ogle, promoting the upcoming Minority Student Achievement forum and discussing the way we see this important conversation dovetailing into our strategic planning process.

Hear the news interview here.

Monday night, October 21, Goochland County Schools are inviting faculty and staff to hear a discussion on the campus of J. Sargent Reynolds Community College and learn more about minority student achievement from an expert at the University of Virginia.

I hope to see you there!

Teachers from Randolph spent their summer in an innovative program designed to change how science is taught across Virginia.

Elizabeth Ferguson and Sara Rowan were selected for the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA), which kicked off with a four-week Elementary Science Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

RES teacher Elizabeth Ferguson at work in the institute (Photo credit: Lawson Craighill)

Funded by a $34m grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program is intended to shift science instruction from the traditional teacher-led classroom to a hands-on, problem-based learning lab.

Teachers are also awarded a $5,000 stipend, $1,000 for classroom supplies, and an all-expense-paid trip to the Virginia Association of Science Teachers Professional Development Institute in the fall.  Additionally, each teacher is assigned a master teacher to provide mentoring throughout the school year.

VISTA also offers free professional development for new middle and high school scienceteachers, and district science coordinators.

RES Art teacher, Cindy Edmonds, and RES librarian, Sue Vaughan, took a Partners in the Arts Class this summer.  The organization thought the unit they created was fabulous and awarded them a $2,000 grant to implement it here in GCPS!

Please congratulate these exceptional teachers and ambassadors of our great community when you see them.

I’m thrilled to join GHS principal, Mike Newman, in announcing to our community that the Marine JROTC program will be coming to Goochland High School next year! You may have been following our pursuit of this wonderful opportunity for our students. The application process was involved and extremely competitive and I give credit to Mr. Newman, Mr. DeWeerd, Mr. Watson for leading this tremendous effort and bring our division to top priority through the process.

There will be significant planning that will take place throughout the school year. The program will officially open for students at the start of the 2014-15 school year and will foster a deeper connection with the values that undergird our strategic plan. Students will have a multitude of opportunities to participate in activities that teach discipline, critical thinking and collaboration. There is a unique community service component as well that will enable students to exercise leadership skills and contribute to the improvement of their school and greater communities as well.

Thank you again to Mr. Newman. We look forward to including this exceptional program in our division’s offerings.

One of the topics that finds its way into so many of our strategic planning and mission/vision conversations this year is the idea of what Seymore Papert calls, “Hard Fun.” A few nights ago, during a school board work session on the strategic plan, the superintendent voiced what our leadership team espouses so passionately, that we want learning to be fun.

I’ve attended meetings in the past where people have been skeptical of public school classrooms, especially given the more recent emphasis on creative strategies and a de-emphasis on “sage-on-the-stage” lecture. I join the superintendent in hoping to capture the hearts and minds of our students in lessons that are, indeed, fun.

But it isn’t entertainment we’re after. We aren’t trying to appease children or sidestep the necessary disciplines that students need to adopt as they develop character and learn responsible citizenship. On the contrary. Hard fun in the classroom actually requires those disciplines and helps to establish them, much moreso that its over-worn counterparts from yesteryear.

Hard fun indicates that students are hooked by a fascination and determination that leads them to pour themselves into what they’re learning. If you’ve ever seen a young child relentlessly trying to set the last block on top[ of a staggering tower of several previously lain blocks, you’ll recognize the relentless persistence that accompanies hard fun. It isn’t entertainment. It isn’t easy.

It’s engaging.

That’s what we’re after. We’re looking for instruction that causes children to call their work “fun” because it’s hard rather than in spite of being hard…