Each year school board members and school administrators from across Wisconsin converge in Milwaukee for three days of interactive sessions. This January, six members of the Hillsboro School Board/Administrator team attended. Here are some key insights we brought back:
Teaching Empathy and Character We are committed to keeping character in our schools and promoting the Tiger Way: Respectful, Responsible, Safe. At the convention we heard countless examples of how improving empathy (an emotional connection to others) and character (a responsibility to self) directly impacts the whole child – both a student’s ability to improve academic scores and in building strong, productive relationships.
Equity in Education and the Role of Empathy In order to truly have equity in education, we need empathy first. Not all our kids mentally come to school from the same place. They bring their unique experiences, hardships and motivations. If we don’t address all those things and get them ready to learn, teaching will not be as effective. This means we need to be more observant and seek to understand student’s individual needs.
Student and Staff Mental Health Teaching the whole child is more important than ever as students today are faced with a world where social media follows them everywhere, societal norms are harder to define and there is information overload. Just as important as student mental health is that of the staff because if they’re not well it’s hard for us to expect them to be the best for our students. As district leaders, we need to make time for staff wellness.
Board/Administrator Communication and Accountability We heard panels from multiple school districts discuss best practices for transparent communication with community members and between board, administrators and school staff. We learned new tools that can be used to set better goals as well as how to set clear expectations for fulfilling those goals.
Career-Ready Student Achievement New information available to students doubles every twelve hours and once out in the world, students will change jobs on average once every 3-5 years. We can’t just “job train” or “college train”. Rather, training “robot-proof” students – with an ability to learn, unlearn and relearn new skills - will be crucial as we prepare our children for lifelong success.
As a group, we learned that there are many things we are doing well and many areas we can improve. It was good to hear that other districts experience some of the same challenges we do, but even better to hear how to overcome them using best practices, innovative ideas and stronger collaboration.
As a board/administrative team, it is always our goal to work harder and smarter for our students. Thanks for letting us share as we go on this journey together.