Rigor Institute Creating Lofty Learning Environment for Students

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“Climbing the Mountain, Enjoying the Journey” is the name of the 2013 Rigor Institute now taking place at schools across the Houston Independent School District. Thanks to Gwendolyn Tompkins, Dianne Alvarez, and Denise Martinez, all senior managers in Professional Support and Development at HISD, teacher trainers now have a day-by-day training playbook of the same name.

“Last week we trained teacher trainers from 200 secondary and 400 elementary schools,” said Tompkins. “We wrote for three months, trained for three weeks, and now we’re passing the torch into the capable hands of teachers. We were inspired by Dr. Grier’s vision of rigor, consistency, and safety in every classroom.”

“This is the most exciting training I’ve seen in years because it’s research-driven,” said Ferryn Martin, chair of the social studies department at Jefferson Davis High School and a 30-year-veteran teacher. “Education has finally caught up with the research! For the first time in years, this is brain-based, not test-based.”

“That’s because it was written by two mothers and a grandmother,” noted Tompkins. “Now we all share a common language.”

Davis High School science teachers in Rigor Institute breakout sessions

Tompkins credited Paul Tough and his book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” as part of her inspiration. According to the New York Times review, noncognitive skills such as persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence are more crucial to academic success than sheer brainpower. According to Tough, character is created by encountering and overcoming failure.

“Now, we all know what rigor is,” said Ian Olmstead, a third-year Teacher Development Specialist (TDS). TDS are experienced, committed educators who partner with teachers to ensure their continuous growth and development. “Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and demonstrates learning at high levels,” he said, referring to his training booklet, one of 14,000 produced by the district.

The Rigor Institute will continue through August 22, depending on the training schedule at each HISD campus.

Check out the tweets below to see what teachers and administrators are saying about the Rigor Institute: