Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thanks! Recognizing a System's Strengths

As a critical thinker whose always looking to the future, I have to stop myself now and then to say thanks for the many terrific colleagues, materials, and strategies in place--elements that help me daily to teach well.

First, I'm thankful that our system has allowed educators to access terrific professional development outside and within the system. By giving each educator a laptop, all teachers have ready access to what seems like an infinite array of resources 24-7. Our system has also brought in many experts and made the time for teachers to teach teachers during tailored school-day workshops and end-of-school Institutes. These initiatives have kept our collective teaching fresh, up-to-date, and positively challenged creating a vibrant professional learning community.

Next, I'm thankful for the tech infrastructure and multiple tools we have readily available at our schools. Both students and teachers are able to access many learning venues in facile ways thanks to these tools.

After that, I'm thankful for my colleagues who are dedicated, well-educated, and committed to kind, caring, thoughtful programs for children. My colleagues are not narrow-minded, but instead holistic educators who look out for children each and every day.

I'm also thankful for the wonderful books that are everywhere in our school. The school librarian and curriculum directors have filled our classrooms and library with the best possible literature. Students enjoy reading and never complain that there are no books. The only problem here is that we run out of time to access all these terrific books.

The dedication, support, and advocacy of families make our schools strong too. The families and the community care about their children and respect education. That means children come to us each day valuing the promise and potential of education, and it also means that families are ready and willing to join with us as we educate their children.

Furthermore, I'm thankful that our system is not static--we keep moving forward even if that causes challenge. For example, we're planning for a potential school reconfiguration next fall.  It won't be easy as it will cost the tax payers a few more dollars, and it will disrupt the teams and organization we have now in some ways.  But in the end, we know it's a positive change as the reconfiguration will create more space, and more space will help us to serve each child better. The additional space may also help us move forward more with 21st century teaching strategies and efforts.

Another aspect of my school system I'm thankful for is the natural beauty that surrounds our schools. The Town has worked carefully to preserve the natural landscape therefore children have tree-lined playgrounds, gardens, and local hiking trails. Similarly my ride to and from school is a pretty, country-like ride.

In addition, teachers in our school system earn a fair teacher salary, have access to multiple useful tools, and enjoy time each week to collaborate and learn together.

As a critical thinker, I'm anxious to move schools forward with new research, systems, strategies, and materials to educate each child well. However, as I pause today I recognize that those of us who teach in my school system have so much to be thankful for. As we move forward in schools, we must take the time to recognize what's working, and not lose sight of that as we embrace new approaches. Thus creating a system that synthesizes the best of the old and best of the new to serve children well.