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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Inspirational Start to the School Year

Today, with humility, humor, reflection and metaphor, our school superintendent inspired us.  He launched the year with the question, "Is it about weather or climate?" prompting faculty to "change climate, not weather."

He sited the story of Dr. Virginia Apgar who was frustrated with unchanging infant mortality rates. After numerous attempts to alert others of this problem, she finally created a 10-point scale to rate babies, the Apgar Scale.  That scale led obstetricians to careful observation, note taking, improved approaches and targeted interventions which resulted in less infant mortality.  He drew the parallel to education and the RTI (response to intervention) approach where teachers work to help every child learn by measuring what's most important and serving children with the collective power of the professional community.

He noted that "climate is what we expect."  Essentially it's the community we create with our language, actions, goals and vision.  He assured us though that we will get weather--events that occur (good and challenging) that call us to respond with our best professional knowledge, experience, ethics and attitude.  Using the experience of airplane directions to first care for your own oxygen and safety needs in a crisis, he prompted us to care for our own needs as educators so we best serve our students.

With a quote from Michael Cunningham's book, By Nightfall, our superintendent advocated for the arts and acknowledged the "queazy balance between what we produce and what we imagine" in the classroom, and encouraged us to lead "joyful learning."

I hope our new superintendent will publish his speech--it was inspirational, thought-provoking and connected to life both in and out of the classroom.  That's the way I like to start a school year!