Creating Creators — Creativity is One of our Values — Is it one of yours?

A team of Goochland educators attended a talk this morning, “Emerging Educational Technology” by Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education.

He made sense and challenged us.  Earlier this year he gave a similar talk “Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStrett.”   Please listen to him.

Our technology team here in Goochland accepts the gauntlet he has thrown down about personalized learning.  While we acknowledge the challenges facing us, we get excited imagining the future.

The Value of Optimism — one story

One never knows how much we can change the life of our students.

After fleeing violence in Liberia, Shadrack Boakye arrived in the US at the age of nine. He started school with limited English skills, and quickly fell behind his peers. By age 14, he was placed in special education with little hope for graduation.

Entering Mrs. Murphy’s READ 180 class changed everything. Shadrack’s skills improved, as did his confidence once he discovered an “addiction” to success. He started writing about his experiences and hasn’t stopped since. He’s now a college student, public speaker, and playwright

Although Mrs. Murphy is not at Goochland Middle School (GMS), we  have a read 180 program at GMS.  And although Shadrack was not a Goochland student, the real meaning of this story from the Read 180 Community is what can happen when teachers are optimistic about students and don’t give up on them.  

Optimism — A value in Goochland Schools.

Listen to one young man recount  how optimism changed his life.



“They Notice Me”

Beginning with the moving Veterans Day events held at GMS and GHS Monday morning, our scholar performers really took center stage this week in Goochland. It was a fitting time to experience Scot Mitchell’s induction into the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. Representatives from the Army honored Scot during a ceremony at Goochland High School this week.

“I challenge you to find out what you stand for.” (Jesse Grapes, to GCPS students & community members on November 12th)


Scot, a senior at GHS, was one of two Virginia students to be selected to receive this honor and participate in this distinguished and historical band. Thousands of talented and accomplished students sought this opportunity and very few were chosen. How proud we are to have one of them right here in Goochland.

Scot Mitchell and his fellow band members at the Veterans Day ceremony. Scot was just inducted into the US ARmy All American Marching Band.

Our School Board will further recognize Scot during its regularly scheduled meeting December 11th. Watch Scot and the All-American Band perform live during the Army All-American Bowl in Texas on January 5th at 1:00PM, NBC.

Our five School Board members and new superintendent, Dr. Lane, attended the VA School Board Association’s Annual Convention in Williamsburg this week. The convention was focused on providing attendees with the insight, tools and knowledge needed to maintain exemplary programs and pursue a common vision, despite ongoing reductions in funding imposed by the state.

There is still time to give the Board your perspective on budget priorities for next year’s school budget. This survey will be accepting feedback from our community through November 27th.

Dr. Geyer continues to lead the division’s instructional leaders through the Instructional Rounds initiative. Click here to read about just how successful this progressive approach has been in Goochland. On a personal note, it is inspiring to be in leadership team meetings and to hear our division leaders reference teachers and students by name, having experienced classrooms through frequent personal observation. That familiarity and connection is transforming our central office administration and building a powerful relationship between the division and school based staff.

Read about one district leader’s visit to Goochland High School where three teachers collaborated to pursue a unique G21 Project. Goochlanders were invited to participate in a project where oral history, intergenerational learning and iPads come together to create an engaging, project-based experience for students. The project is an example of John Hendron’s 21st Century Classroom model, replacing traditional desks and chalkboards with tables, interactive white boards, iPads and Macbooks and a total emphasis on student-centered instruction. You’ll learn more about this model in the Winter ’12 Instructional Newsletter, due to be released next week.

The Oral Histories Project at GHS.

  • STEM education continues to come to life in Goochland. Read about it here in Tom DeWeerd’s blog.
  • Grandparents’ events a huge success! Take a look at the Randolph Rodeo here on Mrs. Crowder’s blog!
  • After school enrichment at GES here on Mrs. McCay’s blog!
  • Remember the BES Eagles will compete at the state level in early December, here on Mr. Hopins’ blog!
  • Mrs. Wilcox and Mrs. Donovan invite us to chunk a pumpkin!
  • Art and language come together in Mrs. Abbott’s class!

Marching Toward the Vision

This week the leadership team finished its first pass through a series of discussions focused on identifying the measurable indicators of student engagement. Our discussions centered on four areas of thought:

  1. Elements of the classroom environment that support engaged learning
  2. Planning that has taken place to support student engagement
  3. Student behaviors that evidence engaged learning
  4. Teacher behaviors that lead to student engagement

As you might expect, there was a cross-polonation of ideas that could easily flourish in more than one area. Also as expected, very clear patterns emerged:

  • The environment: there is a culture of safety and comfort, not apathy or complacency, where students are challenged and given opportunities to take risks and ask questions.
  • Planning: Students know the routines and don’t wait around to be told what to do next. They aren’t idle and they understand expectations and objectives for what they are learning. Lesson plans reflect opportunities for hands-on and differentiated learning.
  • Evidence of engagement: Students are involved in “serious fun” and their activities and listening is purposeful. They are focused, asking relevant questions, connected to their teacher and what they’re learning.
  • Teacher behaviors: Good relationship, marked by a positive demeanor and tone, is evident. Students are asked clarifying, “why?” questions and they are called upon and recognized. The teacher is sensitive to opportunities to “get out of the way” and facilitate. Teaching and reteaching, with multiple and varied assessments is integral.

When a group of students were recently asked to define what it is that good teachers do (that’s the teenager’s version of our questions above), it’s no surprise that one of the resounding answers was, “they notice me.”

What does it mean to notice a student? Or anyone else for that matter? The question brings me back to a quote we’ve mentioned before:

“If we’re willing to step outside of our surprisingly deep behaviorist rut, the answer is clear. Children don’t need prizes or praise, but engagement and relationship – with other people and with the work they are doing. If you love a child, you probably know this on a gut level. But the research confirms it.” (Maja Wilson)


Students feel noticed when they are known, when we’ve taken the sometimes uncomfortable steps to enter into a relationship with them. They feel noticed when we celebrate their victories and encourage them when they take risks and fall. Maybe most importantly, they feel noticed when we call them out of their comfort zones, confront their short-sightedness and challenge their perspectives.

It isn’t rocket science. People feel noticed when they actually are noticed.

Interactive questioning, an environment in which kids take risks knowing their failures will be encouraged into later victories, reteaching to mastery, a variety of approaches that appeal to the differences among the learners – these are the fruit of relationships. Those kinds of revolutionary practices don’t get implemented in a vacuum and they cannot blossom outside of the soil of a healthy relationship where students and teacher have established mutual trust and expectation.

Perhaps the most profound moment of the leadership team meeting for me came when our finance director, Debbie White, keenly observed that everything we had brainstormed about the classroom environment – the feeling of safety, encouragement to take risks in an attempt to do something great, the leader facilitating student’s work rather than directing it – should also be true of our central office.

And it should be true of each of the departments and schools within our division.

So here’s to a beautiful November weekend, an invigorating Bulldog victory tonight (home game vs Buckingham at 7 PM), and a school community where no one goes unnoticed.


 ”Don’t take the easy way out.” (Dr. Matt Covington)



“If you’re expecting people to be vulnerable, go first.” (Liane Davey)

Keeping My Kids Out of My Basement

That is a goal for education… yes, I want my kids to finish school and move out and find success as only they can define it.  I don’t want them in my basement!

This was one of the messages from Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation last week at the Region I Superintendent’s study group.  Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education.

Although the goal of education to “keep my kids out of my basement” was said with humor, we all understood his message.  Sometimes it is hard to define what we want out of our educational system.  When we say we want our students to be successful, what does that mean?  Dr. Zhao convinced me that promoting creative entrepreneurship can be a positive outcome, and may well happen, if we pay more attention to the child than the content.  Mastering tests is all well and good.  We want mastery.  At the same time we need to build relationships, foster engaging and inquisitive study and promote growth.  As I continue to think about what I want for Goochland school students (and  for my own grandchildren) out of an education system, I am thinking about these three pillars: growth, relationships and engagement.  We have been talking about this in our leadership team meetings since July.  Dr. Yong Zhao reinforced this idea or ‘movement’ to go beyond test scores as a measure of our schools’ success.

I have asked a number of our GMS & GHS teachers to tell me what engagement looks like from their point of view.   For me, this is not engagement devoid of content but rather engagement encouraged by the relationship the teacher has built with each child and engagement created with the purpose of fostering growth in student thinking, content knowledge and self-awareness. In the next few weeks, I will share in this blog what our secondary teachers have told me.