Posted: May 17, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about change this week. I’m sure many of you have heard a phrase similar to this one by writer David Thornburg: “We must prepare our students for their future, not our past.”  The future became a lot more uncertain this spring.  We’re uncertain about the world our students will graduate into, and what school will look like next fall.

We’ve recognized that the world has been changing rapidly for a number of years with the digital revolution.  With access to content knowledge increasing exponentially, education has moved towards process and personalization.   Our focus has shifted to helping students become life-long learners, problem-solvers, and collaborators.   Our educational systems were framed around trying to make sure students had a foundation of content knowledge just in case they needed it at some point.  Now we’re in a world where there is a demand for just in time learning.

We see this play out all of the time in our daily lives.  If I want to try a new dish for dinner, I google a recipe and can watch how-to-videos.  Missing an ingredient? I can have it delivered to my door from an app on my phone.  Forgot a technique from the recipe?  I replay that spot of the video.  This type of learning is so engaging, because it addresses an immediate, relevant need, and it seems like more and more in our everyday world is engineered around this concept.

We’ve tried to prepare our students for this new world, but our systems weren’t really designed for it.  We have structures in place for good reason, but they were probably better aligned to student needs of the past, not the future.  So each year we innovate within the confines of requirements like 180 school days, 1027 instructional hours, state assessments, and the assumption that students will all learn at the same rate.

That’s all been interrupted this spring with an undefined space for school.  It’s inspiring to see you create using new tools.  You’re connecting with students and families in exciting new ways.  You’re building structures that can support just in time learning.  You’re bringing joy and hope to homes across our community with each smile shared on a screen.  You’re expanding the possibility for the way we support teaching and learning through our food service, operations, technology, and transportation teams.

Albert Einstein once said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

It’s a pivotal time in education.  Never before has an opportunity like this come along.  Education won’t be the same moving forward because the way we collectively think about school has changed.

I hope you’ve all made it through this longer than usual message.  I want to leave you with a final thought of encouragement.  Every time I read the results of the anonymous surveys we send, there are many of you I wish I could respond to individually.  There’s a theme that often emerges for some staff about feeling like they are not enough; they aren’t appreciated for the effort they put forth and the person they are.

Embracing change isn’t about finding fault in current or past practice.  It’s about recognizing and responding to emerging needs.  It’s difficult to embrace the reality that what I do today might not be what’s needed for tomorrow.  That has and always will be the case for humanity, and especially in our business of serving everyone’s most precious gift, their children.

Our mindset has to be what I give today is enough.  It was my best today and I will take what I learned to be better tomorrow.  You are appreciated for all that you’ve done in the past, what you will do today, and you are more than enough for the challenges ahead.