Junior High End-of-Year & JH Celebration 2010-11

February 22, 2011

Dear Junior High School Parents:

With this note, I bring you updates and news about two topics: 1) revisions made to the schedule for the final week of school, May 23-27, 2011, as a result of the “snowcation” that occurred January 10-14, 2011; and 2) enhancements made to the event formerly known as “Junior High School Honors Day,” which is newly named “Junior High School Celebration.”

Final Week of School, May 23-27, 2011
As you know, because of icy conditions during the week of January 10-14, 2011, Westminster was forced to cancel school. While we have added Monday, April 25, 2011 to the school-day calendar, I do not believe that this single day can replace the lost instructional time as a result of “snowcation.” Consequently, after much discussion with the Junior High School PAWS representatives and the school administration, the Junior High is altering our spring “exam week” and reclaiming several more class rotations.

Below you will find the schedule for May 23-27, 2011, loaded into a Scribd viewing screen. Instead of using May 23-27 for traditional exams, we will use half-days, Monday through Thursday, to recapture lost instructional time. Essentially, we are adapting final exams to final tests, which will fit into 50-55 minute classes, just as tests normally do in the Junior High. We will take special care to space out these final tests, so that students will not experience more than two tests in a single day. Because we are adapting exam week, we will not need an extended “review week” during May 16-20. Review for tests will occur as it normally does. In other words, the week of May 16-20 will operate as does any other normal week of school. As an additional benefit of this adaptation of the final two weeks of school (in the Junior High alone), students will be able to review their final assessments to continue their learning. This is an improvement over taking a final exam and dismissing for summer. We appreciate your understanding as we implement such a creative solution to losing a week of instruction in January.

2010-11 Revised Schedule for May 23-27, 2011 (for JH)
[due to lost instructional time Jan. 10-14, 2011 – Snow Week]

Enhancements Made to Junior High School Honors Day and Junior High Celebration

In the Junior High School, we enjoy countless moments of informal recognition for the learning, growth, and development that our students experience and demonstrate. These recognitions occur daily as teachers, coaches, directors, and advisors provide students with positive feedback about good decisions, strong thinking, determined effort, and noteworthy achievement. Of course, we offer constructive criticism, too, so that learners can grow from inevitable mistakes.

Formally, we have a number of events and ceremonies designed to provide more public recognition for accomplishments we wish to celebrate as a community. One of these events has been known as Junior High School Honors Day, which has typically occurred in late May each year. After much discussion and thoughtful deliberation, the Junior High is making several enhancements to Junior High School Honors day, which is being renamed Junior High Celebration.

In the video below, I explain the three fundamental changes to Junior High School Honors Day, as well as the anticipated program for our newly formulated Junior High Celebration. Please take a few minutes – 5 minutes and 22 seconds, to be exact – to view the video.

Additionally, I am providing a description of the various awards that will be presented at the Junior High Celebration – these descriptions can be found in the Scribd document below. In coordination with the changes to the final week of school, Junior High Celebration is now scheduled for Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., in McCain Chapel of Pressly Hall. Parents are invited and encouraged to attend as we celebrate together as a community.

2010-11 Descriptions of Awards Presented at JH Celebration

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact your child’s grade chair, or one of the deans, or Director of Studies Betsy Spruill, or me. As I mention in the video, the next Junior High School Parents Parley with the Principal is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13, and should afford us an opportunity to discuss collectively any questions you have about the final week of school or Junior High Celebration. As you may remember, I am embarking on a sabbatical from March 5 through April 10, so I will be excited to tell you about my experiences when we get together on Wednesday, April 13.

Thank you for your understanding and thoughtful consideration of these changes and enhancements to end-of-school schedules and events. What a blessing to be in partnership with you as we work together to create the most positive and profound learning opportunities for the Junior High students.


Bo Adams

Feedback – the entire, transparent loop

Every year, I engage in a “360° review” as part of my annual evaluation as a principal. As part of the review, I invite hundreds of faculty, parents, students, and administrators to contribute to a survey which solicits feedback about various aspects of my job performance. In short, I want to learn and grow. I think I do good work with considerable effort, but I hope I am not yet the principal that I will learn to be. When we stop growing, we stop. And more mirrors on the bus provide a deeper, richer view of what’s around us.

Collecting feedback is not unique. However, I always share the results of this particular survey. Certainly, this survey data is not the only feedback I get. However, it is the most formalized way that I collect feedback from a large set of constituents and people who deserve to share a collective voice in my learning and growth. Interestingly, sharing out the results seems to be a rather unique practice. For me, it seems natural to complete the loop…to connect the dots…to round out the circle of community.

This week, I sent the following email to all those I invited to participate in my formal feedback collection (the survey):

On Feb 7, 2011, at 1:03 PM, Bo Adams wrote:
Dear All (BC field):
On Jan. 6, 2011, I invited you to take part in providing me with formal feedback about my job performance as principal of the Junior High at Westminster. Thank you to the many of you who chose to participate. Of course, I welcome feedback from all of you, at any time; the survey was just one method for feedback.
As has been my practice for all eight years of my principalship, I like to share the overall survey results with you. Here is a link to a PDF of all 37 pages – a summary from Dr. Clarkson and 36 pages of the survey monkey results.
[link was here.]
Overall, I found the feedback to be very positive and encouraging, and the various voices all give me good things to think about as I continue to learn and grow in my work to serve the Junior High School and Westminster at large.
Approx. 50% of JH faculty responded [37 of 80]
Approx. 10% of JH parents responded [42 of 400 sampled]
Approx. 25% of Admin responded [7 of 30 sampled]
Approx. 60% of Synergy 8 students sampled responded
Why do I feel so strongly about sharing out the results of my feedback and evaluation?
  1. I believe it helps those who participate to “calibrate” their feedback with the whole…the collective voice.
  2. I believe it shows that I have nothing to hide – I value all the voices who contribute for one reason or another. I am the principal and/or colleague for 100% of the people from whom I solicit feedback…not just the ones with whom I agree.
  3. I think networked (three-way) feedback is stronger than mere two-way feedback.
  4. Sharing solicits more feedback and conversation. Already I have received 12 follow-up emails, 4 phone calls, and 6 drop-by visits. We get to interact with the feedback so WE can continue to understand each other better, each person’s perspectives better, each person’s work better.
  5. I ask my faculty to share their student-course feedback with me. Shouldn’t I model a reciprocal respect by doing the same? Shouldn’t I be cautious – nay, resistant – to doing something to/with others that I would not do to/with myself?
  6. It’s about learning!

Achievement-Action: #20minwms

When I logged into iGoogle this Saturday morning, I was greeted by this image:

Achievement is certainly preceded by action. Yesterday, on Friday, I was inspired by the ACTION a sizeable handfull of teachers took when they embarked on the “20 minute experiment.” Explained more fully in the permalink above, Jill Gough encouraged a number of us to engage in an experiment that would synthesize: 1) some of David Souza’s brain research on primacy and recency, 2) formative assessment, and 3) tweeting as a means of forum discussion. Among several others, a ninth-grade physics teacher agreed to participate and became immediately involved. He provides a summary of how he implemented the experiment at Quantum Progress. Throughout the day, participating teachers would take a brief “commercial break” 20 minutes into class and ask students to summarize what they had learned so far. Together the class would craft a 140-character tweet to summarize their learning, and they would post to the teacher’s Twitter account with the hashtag #20minwms. As the tweets appeared, we could all see what was being learned in the participating classes. We even received a spirited and curious inquiry about what we were doing from a Director of Teaching and Learning at a neighboring school. As the day progressed, the number of involved teachers grew – a snow ball was born!

Can you imagine the potential of this process to serve as formative assessment for teachers and students? To connect the learning that occurs between and among classes? To break down the walls that exist between classes? To serve as a window into learning for parents? To archive an essence of what was happening during a day of school? To…

It is about learning, isn’t it?! It takes action, it requires some risk taking, and it certainly is fun when we do it together!

Play! Tinker!

An important reminder from Lee Burns about the importance of PLAY in learning. As for me, I may have learned more about problem solving by finishing the basement of a house than I have learned about problem solving in any other way. And it all felt like play…well, most days!

Take some time and check out Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School, and watch his TED talks, too.

Sabbatical Opportunity

Recently, on Wednesday, December 15, 2011, the president of my school Bill Clarkson announced a spring sabbatical for me. In brief, I will spend five to seven weeks focused on the exploration of school purpose and significance in the 21st century. Part of my concentration will be spent at Unboundary, and I am fortunate to be immersed in my internship during TEDxAtlanta Creativity. Additionally, my concentration will be spent visiting and observing other schools – to see how they are addressing learning in the 21st century. I am hoping to research further how we can transform schools from the industrial model detailed in Ken Robinson’s RSA Animation.

Having recently watched Science Leadership Academy‘s Diana Laufenberg deliver a compelling TEDx talk about authentic learning and exploration, I hope to gain a few more stones on the path to helping schools look more like what she advocates:

Certainly, some determined colleagues at Westminster have been working on a similar path. See John Burk’s and Jill Gough’s recent posts…they are in the blog roll at the right.

If anyone has other suggestions for educators to watch, schools to visit, books to read, ideas to explore, etc., I am open to your thoughts.

Below is the full text of the letter announcing my sabbatical.

December 14, 2010 

Dear Westminster Faculty and Parents:

Recently, the personnel committee of the board of trustees and I granted Bo Adams, principal of the Junior High School, a five-week sabbatical, which will begin on Saturday, March 5, 2011. Bo will return to his full duties at Westminster on April 11, 2011. Additionally, Bo will take a second phase of his sabbatical during a week in June and a week in July, which will bookend Bo’s typical four-week, summer vacation.

During Bo’s sabbatical, he will conduct a multipronged research study of secondary-school education in the twenty-first century. As one dimension of his study, Bo will serve a mentored internship at Unboundary, the company lead by Westminster parent Tod Martin, which assists businesses in defining one’s unique purpose and significance in the global, corporate landscape. Unboundary also coordinates and hosts TEDxAtlanta. In another dimension of Bo’s study, he will visit various secondary schools identified as benchmarks of educational excellence. While working with Unboundary staff and conducting his observations at other schools, Bo will be tweeting on Twitter (@boadams1) and posting to his blog, It’s About Learning (http://its-about-learning.blogspot.com/). As Westminster has just completed a SACS-SAIS self-study, and as we look toward our sixtieth anniversary and our next strategic plan, Bo’s sabbatical will provide further resources and insight for our school to continue positioning Westminster for the best possible education we can provide to your children in the twenty-first century.

While Bo conducts and enjoys his sabbatical, the Junior High School will be lead most ably by his immediate administrative team: Betsy Spruill, Director of Studies; Chuck Breithaupt, Dean of Boys; and Leslie Ann Little, Dean of Girls. If you have questions about Bo’s sabbatical, he is happy to respond to phone calls or emails.


Bill Clarkson

Many thanks to Bill and the personnel committee for allowing me this incredible opportunity!