This past week we had the opportunity to hear many different passionate speakers at The Summit for Courageous Conversations on Race. A couple of them talked about the idea of Focal Students, including a school right here in Minnesota. Connected to the idea of a focal student from PLCs last week, here’s a couple thoughts to highlight.
- It’s less about another thing to do and more about a different perspective to consider.
- It can help make a larger task “helping underserved students” more local, immediate, manageable.
- It can help us focus on results above just trying something new (the whole “if at first you don’t succeed try, try, again” idea we learned in kindergarden).
- It can help give a window into the factors beyond the four classroom walls that influence our students’ education and success.
- It’s a continual process of exploring, trying, assessing, trying again.
A reminder from our article of potential criteria for selecting Focal Students:
- students we can learn from (which is everyone)
- student not showing adequate progress
- students currently not being served by our school
- students present enough to track progress
- students representative of a larger group of students with similar skill gap challenges
We have one final idea to leave you with that really challenged us. A speaker talked about how often we seek strategies. She reminded us start with student before strategy. The central idea around a focal student is just that. Consider the individual, not a formula. Ask yourself, she said, “What does this student respond to?” “If I choose a strategy that is not best for the student, how do I prepare them for that?” “Who needs this instructional practice the most?”
If you want a sounding board of who to select for a focal student, we’re more than willing to listen, ask questions, and brainstorm with you! Let us know.