Earlier today, I completed my first round of continuous improvement plan reviews. These reviews, lasting about an hour each, were scheduled with the administrative teams of each of our 14 schools. In these first meetings, the focus was to engage in a dialogue about their upcoming year. Over the three-day period, many of my senior administration team were able to hear responses to the following questions:
- How was your school opening? Successes, Highlights, Challenges and Concerns
- What do you believe your priorities are for the year?
- What are your ideas regarding the implementation of our faith plan, “Walking Together”?
- How will your school meet the needs of the 21st century student better this year than last?
- What data will you be collecting to move your plan forward?
The conversation was free-flowing and without any pressure. Administrators shared their hopes and dreams for the coming year with intense excitement and enthusiasm. They also shared their frustrations, their fears and their concerns. To me as a superintendent, that vulnerability demonstrates tremendous trust amongst senior and school leaders and is fundamental in our recognition as a high performing team.
After the 14th review, I must confess that I am a little mentally fatigued. At the same time, I have a great sense of exhilaration because of what I heard! Every school demonstrated their passion to move forward rather than step back. Leaders spoke of project based learning opportunities, common assessments, collaborative time, multi-age groupings, team teaching, inquiry and impact of innovative instructional practice on learning. They acknowledged that “doing it different” was tough but they knew that it was the right thing to do!
Interestingly, not one leader said, “Let’s go back to the basics!”
— Chris Smeaton (@cdsmeaton) September 19, 2014
I’m proud of our leaders and the staff in our buildings. I’m proud that they are constantly looking at ways to move forward and offer our students a better education experience, instead of defaulting to a compliant “back to the basics” mentality. I’m excited, as I see the positive energy in our staff and transformational changes in our buildings and classrooms that are preparing our students for their future and not our past. That is what I hear when I listen to our school leaders! That is the passion they possess!
I chuckle (only a little) when I hear people who desire us to return to the good old days of education because it was good enough for them. I might argue if it was truly good enough for them but I’m sure it is not good enough for our students today. It can’t be! The world is far too complex to resort to the basics. Foundational skills must be mastered but not as an end product but rather as an opportunity to expand our learning.
We can’t stand still and we certainly can’t go back. We must move forward by adjusting our structures, reflecting on our instructional practice and creating the rich learning environments that our students need and deserve.
Please…don’t look back!!!