Educators Embrace Bravery and Continuous Improvement at Spring Convening

Grade 9 SuccessNetwork Collaboration and LearningPostsecondary Readiness

Bravery was the theme of the day at RISE’s Spring Convening, where educators from across the network came together to create connections and share inspiring strategies to promote student success. Throughout the day, the 110 educators in attendance reflected on the notion of bravery and explored how embracing courageous and innovative decisions and actions strengthens our ability to support successful student outcomes.

The day started on a high note with an inspiring and thought-provoking presentation and reflection session led by keynote speaker Dr. Ebony Green. Dr. Green, a former teacher, principal, district leader, and nationally recognized champion for inclusion, offered valuable insights to help foster bravery within educational practices. “We are educators, but the other word for us is caretakers,” she said. “We need to live bravely for the young people we impact.”

Dr. Dawn Books, Principal of Middletown High School, internalized Dr. Green’s message about bravery. “I feel inspired now to set a 100 percent family engagement goal for our school and compelling everyone to meet that goal is very important,” said Dr. Brooks. “I have to be courageous, knowing there will be pushback, but as a leader, I have to accept that and be brave. Today’s message helped me rethink how to implement this and accomplish our goal.”

Dr. Green also encouraged attendees to think of failure differently, as a step along the improvement journey to bounce back from and continue iterating upon. And her message resonated with many RISE educators. “Something that I want to take back to my school after today is reinstating a focus on continuous improvement and looking at failures as opportunities for improvement,” said Melane Thomas, Director of School Counseling for Maloney High School. “I think we should take this same approach with our students.” 

Following the keynote, teams engaged in cross-school breakout sessions to identify opportunities for improvement in three focus areas: high-risk students, subgroup support, and summer programming attendance. They then worked together to put their discoveries into action and address a specific opportunity for growth within each of the areas of focus. 

“A highlight of the day has been making connections with people across the districts and hearing about what they’re doing to support on-track and postsecondary success,” said Jacqueline Prieto, Multilingual Language Teacher at Brien McMahon High School. “I heard about one school having a 100 percent college application rate for two and four-year college students and that’s very impressive. I’ve been able to chat with them and learn what they’re doing to motivate their students.” 

Making such connections in the interest of sharing promising practices across schools and districts is what RISE convenings, and our larger improvement network structure, are meant to achieve. We believe that we amplify our individual and collective impact when we work together to address shared challenges and goals, as educators did throughout the Convening.  

“What I love about RISE Convenings is that we get to hear from other people,” said Scott Hurwtiz, English teacher and team lead at Westhill High School. “We’re all working towards the same goal but doing things differently. Sometimes within a building we get stuck in a loop. To hear from people from similar schools with similar demographics doing the same work but coming up with different ideas and then synthesizing those with what we’re already doing is inspiring and really useful to help us move in a different direction.”

Ayesha Pal, School Counselor for Manchester High School, echoed the benefits of community-building at the Convening. “I love the passion that I see in all of the different districts here today,” she said. “That makes me feel more motivated and passionate about what I do every day.”

The ideas and progress catalyzed at the Convening are meant to continue as network educators return to their respective school contexts. During the final session of the day, school teams generated action-oriented and student-centered commitments for on-track and postsecondary growth to take back and implement at their schools, thus starting new improvement cycles. 

In reflecting on the day, Sherry McLaughlin, Director of Postsecondary Success at RISE, expressed appreciation for all of the educators in attendance. “At RISE we are so grateful to work with such amazing educators who come together during this busy time of the year to reenergize and prepare for the end of the school year. Knowing the work we have done today is going to continue and our students are going to be supported in the best possible ways is really exciting,” she said. 

Indeed, the connections made and strategies shared during the Convening will follow educators back to their schools and help them make positive change for their students. “The school year is ending soon, but because I’m doing the Summer Melt program, working with students throughout the summer to make sure that they follow up with their plans, the work is just beginning,” said Prieto. “So this is very motivational for me. Going into the summer, I feel really brave, inspired, and ready to do the work.” 

Join the RISE Network on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for more updates and to connect with colleagues, and check out our Spring Convening Facebook album for more photos!