Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DO what should be done THEN tell, not tell what should be done.

Last night, I watched an interesting pseudo-documentary called "A National Disgrace, Revisited" hosted by Dan Rather. It as an unflattering and scathing two-hour piece on the schools, School Board, and various individuals (including the former Superintendent) connected Detroit Public School System.   When I watch these investigative reports, I try to approach them from a neutral, critical-thinking perspective.  These shows tend to be laden with editorial comment and often have a bias towards sensationalism rather than fact.  But nonetheless, I believe that I always have something to gain by seeing different perspectives on public education.

There were a number of threads that wove their way through the narrative, including a piece on a young student who was making her way through high school with the goal of going on to a four-year college.  The young girl had a challenging home situation; she had a single mother and a younger sister moving from rental property to rental property, trying to scratch out a living on a very limited income.  The mother was a selfless, hard-working woman whose goal was to have her children enjoy a life better than the one she had.   Mom placed a very high value on education and was pushing her children off to school at 5:30AM each day to ensure they had enough time for the public transportation system could get them to school and work.

Throughout the program, the overarching theme was the need for (and resistance to) educational reform.  At one point, Dan Rather asked the mother what she would say if she could say anything to the DPS School Board about the education afforded to her children, and she responded with a comment that resonated with me.  She said: "I know you care, now what are you doing to show it?"

Each day, I read countless newspaper articles, impassioned posts, and convincing studies that shout out "we are failing children", "change the system", or "do something different".  These excellent resources are written by talented, skilled educators who work in the system today and clearly care deeply about students and student learning.  And to this end, I agree with all of them (or at least almost all of them) that I have read.  But then I think about Mom's comment in the DPS investigative report--"I know you care, now what are you doing to show it?".

This year, I am going to focus less on TELLING people how much I care about students, education and the need for educational reform to better meet the needs of student  and teacher learners.  Instead, I am going to focus more on DOING things to make our school and current system of education better and then share with others.  I have started the ball rolling on supporting teacher Micro-Observations to improve instructional practice, and have just purchased pods of Android Tablets for each of our departments to support collaborative student learning and technology use in the classroom.  We will continue to work on our dynamic and interactive online School Improvement Plan.  As a school district, we have enacted new policy this summer to support Personal Learning Devices and Smartphones in the classroom, and have implemented free wi-fi for students and staff.

While these activities are neither exhaustive or perfect, I believe they will continue to make positive changes for our school.  We will DO, then we will SHARE.

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