Here we are. Keeping afloat for a day and a half before we break for Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving, a three-day festival--probably not called “Thanksgiving”--likely served up fowl, venison, mussels, lobster, eel, onions, cabbage, carrots, and native fruits. Centuries later, we dine on turkey--spatchcocked, smoked, deep fried, deboned, traditionally stuffed--complemented by root vegetables and cranberry sauce, enjoyed in the loving company of families and friends.
Each Thanksgiving I typically send a sincere (but savoring of the Hallmark Channel) message out to faculty, staff and families. This year, however, I want to focus not on cranberry sauce, but rather the professional toil and dedication—for which I am grateful—that serves as the basis for Hopkinton’s secret sauce. That’s right. Our secret sauce.
Let me explain. Last week, Assistant Superintendent Jen Parson had arranged for some professional learning for about 35 teachers. The training was on Guided Inquiry, and at the end of the three days, not only would teachers understand the Guided Inquiry process, but they would also have a unit lesson plan ready for implementation.
On the third day, as I watched the teachers present their unit lessons--yes, the fruits of their labors--it dawned on me that what I was seeing was pretty special. Not the lessons really, so much as the collaboration (although the lessons were really great). And I further realized that this kind of collaboration between teachers doesn’t happen only during formally organized professional learning, but rather as part of what our teachers do all the time. At the high school, for example, teachers work with their course partners; essentially, the people who teach the same courses spend time talking about the Massachusetts Frameworks or AP course standards, how those requirements manifest as Hopkinton’s curricula, what the instructional model might look like, and how kids are faring on assessments. Teachers in the Middle School have opportunities to work together in Departments and in Team settings. And, at the elementary levels, teachers work in their professional learning communities or PLCs.
Now all of this might make you wonder, “What’s the big deal? Don’t all teachers do that?” But, I’m telling you it’s different here. Truly. The levels of instruction are amazing. Teachers challenge each other, and respect each other, and truly enjoy working with each other. And, it’s not just teachers. It’s everyone. Like the warmth, trust, and respect of a family, what we have here in the Hopkinton Public Schools is hard to define in words, but you can feel the care in each of our buildings. And, the kids feel it, too. Ask them about it. The secret sauce.
So, as you ready your Thanksgiving fowl for whatever cooking method you choose, if you are as grateful as I am for the high quality of teaching, learning, and overall care that takes place here in Hopkinton, I hope you will reach out to an administrator, a teacher, a counselor, a paraprofessional, a school nurse, a secretary, a custodian, a bus driver, a food service worker, a crossing guard, and anyone else who contributes to our excellence and express your thanks. Because we taste it all the time, it’s easy to overlook the secret sauce.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy your time with family and friends...and your cranberry sauce.