Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our students are people first

I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about how to make schools better - how to prepare our students for a world that is much different than what it was like when I was their age. It's no secret if you've met me or followed me that I think there are better ways to educate than the traditional ways that we still see in most of our schools.

I believe in emphasizing our students' strengths rather than harping on their weaknesses. I believe that technology offers us a window on the world and that it is a moral imperative that we provide resources for our students to access that world and interact with it. I believe that standardized tests do not reliably measure what is really important when it comes to student learning. I believe that the lines should blur between subjects and age groups and that the best way to learn anything is to provide context, personal reference points, and authenticity. I believe that students can solve real world problems and are intrinsically driven to work very hard to do so.

What I believe first and foremost, though - The thing that I think will make any school and any classroom successful, despite instructional strategies or focus is this: I believe that our students are all unique individuals with individual passions and strengths and learning styles and thought processes and lives. I believe that the only way to improve education is:
  • to focus on our students as whole people
  • to get to know them in and out of school
  • to care about them and encourage them to be who they are
  • to provide for their needs no matter what those needs might be, and
  • to help them learn the most about what they care deeply about.
The teachers who cared about me in this way are the ones who motivated me to learn and to lead a life of service. They saw the good in me, and they loved me for that. They did not harp on my weaknesses and take away my self-confidence. They encouraged my strengths.

I am thankful for that.

This blogger gets it right:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Passion, Conversation, and Change

I had the privilege of attending Iowa EdCamp at BVU on Saturday.

If you've never heard of or attended an EdCamp, take a look at the link:

Passionate community members from around Iowa came together in five different venues across the state to talk about the educational issues that they as groups chose to focus on. There were no leaders, no "superior by virtue of one's title," and no thoughts not honored and contemplated. It was truly a place to think about and share about education and how we might make it better. I chose to spend the day contemplating poverty, teacher leadership, and innovation in classrooms.

At the end of the day, we viewed a film entitled Most Likely To Succeed that I'm sure was unnerving to some.

The film's premise is that education must change dramatically to keep up with an age where information is literally at the fingertips of anyone with an Internet connection, where jobs are becoming much less based on what you know and more dependent on:
  • What you can learn
  • What you can create
  • How well you can problem-solve
  • How well you work with others
Talk about thought-provoking!

As a boat-rocking, protesting, future-thinking visionary - Ha ha! I wish I wore that hat consistently - I drew great strength from spending a day with people who care so deeply about education that they are willing to give up their Saturday to both share their own questions and beliefs and also to listen to the questions and beliefs of people that might not echo their own.

I saw a picture on Facebook this weekend from a classroom door at Maple Grove Elementary in West Des Moines that I would like posted on every classroom door in our district:

Since I had also just attended Iowa EdCamp, though, I also thought it applied to how welcome I hope everyone felt on Saturday. A huge shout out to our own SLCSD Mikaela Fiedler, Abbey Green, Deb Mortensen, and Carl Turner who also chose to participate in this collaborative day. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Words Matter

Word cloud of my last post:

I love the big words:
  • asks
  • question
  • believe
  • words
May our schools be havens of curiosity and trust. May we recognize the power of our spoken and written words.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Conscience and education

In this political season when every politician and every pundit is spewing words, words, words, I can't help but thinking: What am I really willing to go to the wall for? What issue wakes me up each morning and lies down to sleep with me each night? What both makes my heart sing and also breaks it, depending on the day? What do I live for?

It is this:

Our schools
  • I believe in the basic human right of all people to an education.
  • I believe in catering to all needs, to all walks of life, and to all individual dreams.
  • I believe our schools should be havens of empathy, safety, and love.

For it is only through education that we will ever solve our world's problems. This I believe.

On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?'
Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?'
And Vanity comes along and asks the question, 'Is it popular?'
But Conscience asks the question 'Is it right?' -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

What are you willing to go to the wall for? What do you live for?