I awoke on July 1 this summer and realized I was beginning my 34th year as a professional educator. During that time I have been a teacher, principal, director of human resources, associate superintendent, and superintendent. It’s been a long and rewarding career, knowing I have had the opportunity to touch the lives of tens of thousands of students. 34 years in a career can lead to complacency. However, I have always been one to ask, “what can we do to make things better?” and it is that question that not only keeps me in the profession, but drives me to work to create better and better learning experiences for the children I serve.
In these, likely the “latter” years of my career, something specific drives me: bringing learning to life for everyone using the principles and processes of quality and continual improvement (Q/CI). As I communicated through blogs and other venues over the course of last year, we are working to transform learning for our students so that we prepare them for their future and not our past. We are working to transform each and every classroom in order to help students find meaning and purpose in their learning and do it in a way that nurtures and builds autonomy and ultimately results in a “joy” in learning. This joy I refer to is not the “giddy” fun that one might experience in an amusement park or through some external event or activity. Rather, this joy derives from something within—a deeper connection to our authentic selves—and we know it when we find it. I believe it is this joy that we would all like to experience in our work.
This past summer every teacher in our district participated in a common training that provides structure, processes, and tools for transforming learning for students; to create “learning-centered” environments. I have every confidence that once fully implemented, our district will provide the most outstanding educational experiences every parent wants for their children and that children want as learners. I’m reminded of Kevin Arnold’s wise words from The Wonder Years, “When you’re a little kid, you’re a little bit of everything—artist, scientist, athlete, scholar. Sometimes it seems like growing up is the process of giving those things up—one by one. I guess we all have one thing we regret giving up. One thing we really miss that we gave up because we were too lazy, or we couldn’t stick it out, or we were afraid.”
We are working to revive that love of learning in all children that is inherent in us as human beings. Instead of children growing out of their interests and passions—we want to better support children to grow into them and discover their own unique gifts, talents, and greatness. As we bring learning to life for everyone, we support students to reach higher and deeper levels of learning and to become lifelong learners.
At age 55, I feel more excited about the work with which I am involved than ever! For a closer look at how we are improving I encourage you to take a look at our Quality/Continual Improvement Showcase: http://showcase.urbandaleschools.com
Together, we will bring learning to life for everyone!