One of the most incredible gifts of being an educator is the gift of summer, but not perhaps for the reasons you have been led to believe. Those who know me know that I really don’t take “time off” and that the line between my personal time and my professional time is blurred to a point that it is really no longer recognizable. From my experience, that statement is true of most of the educators I know. For us, summer is a gift not because we are escaping for a few months, but rather because it affords us the opportunity to deeply reflect upon something to which we have passionately committed and want to bring our best to each and every day. While we know and teach that reflection is a critical component of doing any work to the best of our ability, the reality of our jobs makes this incredibly challenging to do from September to June. For that, we are eternally thankful for July and August.
Because my administrative duties included summer school and developing and opening two new, highly innovative schools over the past several years, even July and August have not afforded me much reflection. Handing off my summer school duties this year has reintroduced me to this gift again this year. As a way to “pay it forward,” I have committed to writing and offering my reflections up to the larger community in the hopes that my thoughts might inspire and encourage the reflection and sharing of others. After a few weeks of reflection that has existed mainly in my head and heart, it is abundantly clear that the first thoughts I need to put in writing center around the incredible sense of gratitude I feel for the opportunities I have been given.
I have recently returned from a conference focused on blended learning where some of the best thinkers in the country made the case that the future of schools lie in an environment designed to personalize learning for students in order to prepare them to demonstrate their competencies in a way that best meets their personal passions, needs, and learning plan. What an amazing sense of privilege I felt as I listened to multiple different people describe a “school of the future” that looks a lot like what we have created right here. Often, national conferences like this one plant a seed of excitement and possibility in my head and heart. This one instilled a strong sense that we are on the right track. The others who are out in front with us are experiencing similar challenges, AND the successes we are all seeing inspire incredible optimism for the future. I returned home more committed than ever to continuing to move solidly in the direction of acting on my belief that ALL students can learn and succeed at high levels when they are focused on work that has real meaning to them and given the support they need to deeply understand themselves as learners. I also returned with a very strong sense of gratitude for being given such incredible support from so many who have helped us get to where we are today.
This sense of gratitude has often been shared by other staff members who have had the opportunity to attend conferences, interact with innovative thinkers in other organizations, or attend graduate school courses. Far more often than not, CSCS staff who have had these opportunities send me a message at some point during the day or shortly after expressing their appreciation for the opportunities they have been given. The theme from all of us is very consistent: There is something very special about what is happening at CSCS!
This certainly isn’t to say that our efforts to create a school dedicated democratically cultivating a community of engaged learners and sharing what we learn with others has been easy or without challenge and frustration. The challenges have been a regular part of our experience. But in a time where there is a lot of focus on what is not working in education, those of us lucky enough to be a part of CSCS know that there is something very powerful and inspiring about being a part of an innovative effort that is showing great potential to really serve all learners well!
For this amazing opportunity, I am incredibly grateful to:
- District administrators who have consistently demonstrated their belief that a committed group of educators could bring about meaningful change and have given us the permission and support to make it happen.
- Current and former members of the Board of Education who have demonstrated their deep commitment to success for all students through their support, and perhaps even more importantly, through asking tough questions and pushing us to be our best.
- Current and former members of the CSCS Governance board and our committees who have truly been there to offer whatever we need whenever we ask whether that be their time, talents, financial resources or simply hard work.
- The CSCS staff who have committed far more of their time and emotional energy than anyone could ask or expect of them to something they believed in.
- The CSCS students who have brought us their best each and every day, have taken innumerable “leaps of faith” with us, and have adjusted to regular changes in the name of improvement.
- The CSCS families who have entrusted us with their most precious assets, been our best critical friends providing us invaluable feedback on where things are working and where we can improve, and have always been willing to lend a hand when we needed it.
- Our community partners who have proven over and over again that we have a community full of individuals deeply committed to the success of all students in our schools. Time after time, they have exceeded our expectations and have provided our staff and students incredibly engaging, meaningful learning experiences.
- My family. My parents share my love of public education and have inspired my belief that we really can bring about meaningful change. My husband has picked up far more than his fair share of the work at home and has kept me grounded when I most needed it. And the best teachers I have ever had, my children, have taught me far more about how to effectively be a facilitator of learning and development for a young person than I have ever learned in my formal education.
One of my personal missions for the year ahead is to make sure everyone connected to the CSCS community also feels this deep sense of being a part of something very special. I know personally that this is not always easy, not only because change is incredibly hard, but also because there is a significant lack of information and/or misinformation about CSCS which still dominates much of the popular dialogue in our community. As the leader of leaders in this incredible school, I commit to sharing regularly about what makes this place and the people in it so special. I would encourage each of you to do the same and welcome any feedback you may have about how we can get our story told in a way that honors the amazing things that happen here day in and day out. I ask that you hold me to this commitment.