I was talking with someone the other night who works for my nephew. My nephew owns his own internet design and marketing company. Both men are in their twenties. The company has been hugely successful and we were talking about the future of the company, where they’re headed and what’s next.
As I listened to Stephen talking about his world of work, I was struck by his thinking. The entire conversation was about the constant changes within the internet that affect their business. He calmly and without fear revealed what was an obvious flexibility and agility in thinking about the future of the company. Change is a normal, every day part of what they do. It’s a constant, daily factor.
Then I thought about our son who works for a company that is constantly redesigning and improving the spinal implants their surgeons are using daily in operating rooms. His training and need to learn about the next device or procedure is constant and intense. He has to be flexible in his responses to the various surgeons he serves and agile in his own abilities and knowledge. Change is a constant, daily factor.
I’m not sure we think in this way within our public schools. We complain about change that is barely change at all.
Public schools, by their very design, are institutions built to last–to withstand whatever outside pressures or changes occur. And we’ve stayed the same, with a “that’s the way it’s always been” mindset for far too long. There’s absolutely no way that anyone can believe that the system that prepared my parents in the fifties and me in the seventies and my kids in the nineties should remain the same forever, is there? And yet the lessons I observe today are not substantially different than those I observed as a student. Some of that is good and important and necessary–like teaching our youngest students how to read–but some of it, well, just isn’t.
We’re safe here. We take care of our students, respond to our families and are responsible to our taxpayers. We work incredibly hard and do our best to connect with our students and to teach well. Those of us within the system probably like the system, we’ve been successful here. I like it here. But I believe our own complacency is limiting us and therefore limiting learning for our students.
If we can become more of a learning organization, one in which we are all learning from each other and sharing ideas, lessons, and risks that we’ve taken, we will model the very system that our students are likely to work within. We’ll teach our students that it’s okay to take a risk, to be vulnerable and try something new or hard, to fail and to begin again. We will teach them, through the learning experiences that we provide, how to be flexible and agile thinkers who expect to collaborate, communicate and change. We are already doing this at times, in some classrooms and in some lessons. Let’s figure out what those things are that we most value about learning and then let’s do those things MORE.
Public school systems need to be the biggest part of fostering and teaching curiosity, creativity, civic responsibility, collaboration, problem solving and communication–not a place where we do those things from time to time, when we have time. We need to rethink our priorities and goals for all students and refuse to allow “the way it’s always been” to be an answer for why we do anything.
On Monday, August 7, our Springville leadership team–BOE members and administrators–will spend the entire day evaluating what we believe about learning and what we think our mission, our purpose for existing, should be. I can’t wait for the day of deep thought, collaboration and communication!
Stay tuned for opportunities to join us in the work of determining how SGI can focus our incredible resources–our teachers, employees and students–on innovative instructional practices that change our learning environments to give SGI students a more modern learning experience, preparing them for their future.