Significant 72-Part 1

Interesting Ideas

For the next three weeks I want to share with you the Interesting Idea of Significant 72.

Significant 72 was introduced to me many years ago by friend, mentor and colleague Tom Hierck, @thierck as I was planning the opening of a new school.  Not only are the ideas within Significant 72 an important part of building and beginning a positive, inviting and joyous culture, Significant 72 continues to remain a major part of ‘how we do things around here’.  Significant 72 sustains the culture that has been created, and Significant 72 can change a culture needing a refresh in order to support all children in your school.  I strongly recommend that it become something you adopt for your school.

The ideas are simple, and the phrase ‘Significant 72’ has such a nice sound to it.  When understood, the words mean so much. It is important to have common language in a school.  Walk into the school and ask staff, what is Significant 72?  Every adult will be able to answer you and share its importance at the school.

Greg Wolcott @GregJWolcott has done marvellous work introducing Significant 72 to thousands of educators and has a best selling book: Significant 72-Unleashing the Power of Relationships in Today’s Schools.  You should check it out, in fact on the Significant 72 website there is a quote from someone named Peter Marshall, who has written,

“Significant 72 has been a major influence to the development of our new school.  It was a key aspect in the creation of our mission and vision.  At Boyne PS we understand the importance of beginning the year well, celebrating each month as individual classroom communities and making strong connections to students each and every day.  The concepts within Significant 72 are foundational within our School Improvement Plan and Safe Schools Plan.  Every adult in the school commits to these ideas in order to provide a safe, welcoming, caring learning environment for our students”

Today, I wanted to share how we actualized Significant 72 at our school. There is so much more that can and should be done, but really just wanted to give you a sense of the idea in action.

The three key uses of Significant 72 relate to 72 hours, 72 minutes and 72 seconds.  This week let’s talk about the first 72 hours of the school year.  Future blog posts will share with you how we operationalized the 72 minutes and the 72 seconds.

How you begin the school year with staff, students and families is incredibly important.  This year brings on added significance (see what I did there? Significance!) due to the journey we have all been on for the last 19 months. 

Tom Hierck describes it best.  There will be tremendous pressure on all educators to teach curriculum after our disruption to learning, and we both dislike the phrases “learning loss”, or “learning gap” as we all need a positive outlook as we return, and words are important.  We have in front of us tremendous learning opportunities, and chances to provide ideal conditions for content yet learned.  As educators we are up for the challenge, look at all we have done for the last two years?

Relationships are critical for student success.  Content and relationships, are both so important, but more important is the order in which they are stressed.  We must focus on relationships when we return to our schools and Significant 72 is key to this.  We have a much better chance at being successful with our curriculum goals when we have our relationships tightly formed. Students need the relationships with each other and the adults in our schools more than ever before.

At Boyne PS the first 72 hours, the first three days were all about relationships.  Student to student relationships, staff to student, student to staff and connecting with families.  Our focus was on building our classroom and school community.  Our focus was on having staff really begin to learn the ‘stories’ for each child.  Using lots of getting to know you activities allow our educators to really focus on what each child is going to need during the course of the year in order to be successful.

We did not hand out resources, texts or jump into the curriculum in the first three days.  Go slow in order to go quicker later.  ‘Really, it’s okay that you don’t start right away’. Locker distribution was put on hold, handing out unnecessary materials was put on hold, all so we could learn about and with each other.  What makes each of us unique? How do our differences make us stronger as a unit?  What are the gifts that others have to offer?  and how are we going to function as a community for the next ten months.  Classroom agreements and commitments were formed using our motto of ‘Work Hard, Be Nice, Make a Difference’

“In our classroom, what does it look like and sound like to Work Hard, Be Nice and Make a Difference?”  All adjusted for the age and stage of the learners, but every classroom displayed their agreements by the end of the first week.  School assemblies occur in order to bring the entire school population together, in our case two assemblies due to our size and no assemblies last year due to our safety plans.  However, as an entire school what are we going to do together this year and how do our commitments translate to common areas such as the playground, play fields, washrooms, library, gymnasium etc.  It is important that our students leave each day excited to be coming back, sharing the positive energy with family members at home and when teachers contacted families early in the school year further strengthen the parents’ belief that their child was in a warm, welcoming, accepting classroom.  Every child needs to know they are wanted and they are going to have a great year.  Families need to hear this too.

The most important aspect of the first three days, the first 72 hours, is the building of relationships within the homeroom classroom model.  We stayed in homeroom classes on the first day of school, students did not travel through the school to meet every one of their teachers.  Homeroom teachers used the Significant 72 hours to form their family.  On the second and third day, students did meet their specialty teachers, but no curriculum was taught.  Our specialty teachers, and coverage teachers continued to work on relationships and commitments.  

A school of our size had so many new students each year, and there were new teachers to meet.  So many creative, engaging activities were developed and shared, there was never a lack of ideas. Grade teams, and division teams would share activities with each other and most often the end of the week was an opportunity to bring the entire grade or division together in some culminating activity.  One of my favourite memories was seeing our graduating grade 8 classes begin their final year in celebration, together as a group, as they would be at the end of the year when we say goodbye. Beginning your final year in the school in this manner is a special feeling.

Two questions I often get asked by other administrators:  Did teachers lose their preparation time if you asked them to remain with their homeroom class for the first three days?  And. What happens if you have to reorganize the classes and move some students into other classes?

First, yes, teachers did lose preparation time.  It was recorded and paid back when we were able.  Not a single teacher complained, publicly at least, as they saw the benefit of starting the year in this manner.  Our specialty teachers would move through the school and visit classes that they were going to teach, often giving homeroom teachers a break.  When staff come to see the benefit and know that you will return the time to them it becomes a non factor.  After year one, the teachers did not ask for the time back.  Three days (72 hours) of time spent building and forming their classroom community was worth the investment.

And yes, sometimes we needed to reorganize and move students at the end of the first week or the first month due to enrolment numbers and this was difficult but proved to us the impact the staff had on students in this Significant 72 process.  However, you know what happened, right?  The new classroom not only welcomed new students into their community, the receiving teacher went out of their way to ‘love up’ the student(s) that needed to move.  Not long after the change, everything was fine. It is less of a worry when you move into an equally lovely learning community.  In a short amount of time, students and families saw that our classrooms are not a lottery, where you ‘win’ the best one.  All the classrooms provide the environment that make students and families feel welcomed, cared for and accepted.

One noticeable difference from previous years and previous schools!!!  The number of requests to be in different classes, with different teachers disappeared.  Here is what happens.  On the first day of school, sometimes before the first day a principal will receive a parent request to have their child be in a different classroom.  No changes can be made in this first week until we were certain of our numbers and who had moved away during the summer or how many new registrations come in the first day of school.  So families were asked to give us the first week to see our numbers and we would be in touch. Sometimes, not always, I would share with the teacher that a student in their class wanted to be in another, most often due to friendship groups.  Not only will the students see each other during non instructional time, but the teacher has done such a great job on the first three days of Significant 72 that by the end of the first week, another email or phone call will come in from the parent asking to leave the child where they are.  Another benefit of Significant 72

Consider Significant 72.  

The first planning activity that teachers do together as a grade or division team is how to build relationships with students! What a wonderful thing.  Before they talk curriculum, before they create long range plans, they talk about how they are going to make their classrooms places where students feel safe, feel heard, feel represented and will thrive.  Teachers start their professional conversations discussing relationships!  Brilliant.

Put an emphasis on the first 72 hours, first impressions for students and families.  It will reap benefits for the entire school year.

I look forward to writing to you each week.  I hope as a leader you are able to use many aspects found in these Interesting Ideas.

Next week…Significant 72 in regards to 72 minutes each month, because  you just don’t do great work for the first 72 hours and think all the work is done!!!

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