Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Designing your Legacy

I was listening to a recent Podcast from the Stanford University series of Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and William McDonough was discussing the tombstone of Thomas Jefferson which was designed by Jefferson himself and included the following:

Author of the Declaration of Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
and Father of the University of Virginia

So, what exactly is missing here? McDonough pointed out that there is no mention of the fact that he held down a day job as a two-term President of the United States and didn't even mention it. His point is that Jefferson's legacy had to do with the products that he left behind that were the fruit of his best thinking and designing talents and not the title that he held, important as that was.

So, I got to thinking about my career tombstone (not that I'm hoping to write it real quick). Will I be satisfied with something like, "Principal of Halecrest Elementary"? I'm thinking that I ought to be shooting for something along the lines of Thomas Jefferson...

Designer of a ground breaking school where learning by students and adults is celebrated daily, where expert literacy instructors and students of high character work together to expand their knowledge and become thoughtful members of their local community.

Author of a one-posting-a-month blog read by dozens (OK, it's actually only read by about 4, but why not dream big?)

The first one has some promise. I know I'll be thinking a lot this week about the school that I'm helping design and whether it's worthy of the students that come across our doors and the students that will be coming through our doors for generations to come. And you, what kind of lasting structure are you helping design today?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

This I believe

I recently caught a This I believe segment from NPR and heard the story of William Wissemman, a young man who shared all the life lessons he had learned from solving the Rubiks cube. This got me thinking about all the things I believe about teaching, learning, and education. And with this school year shaping up to be the toughest of my current assignment, I really need the inspiration of my core beliefs to sustain me to do the work well with these teachers and these students at this time. So this I believe.

I believe that whatever you think about learning (learning is fun - learning is a bore) your students will come to believe the same thing.

I believe that many factors affect student's academic growth, but one trumps them all by a landslide: teacher quality.

I believe that high school drop outs are born and bred in elementary school.

I believe that some kids fail because of poor family support, lack of background knowledge and skills, etc, ad nauseum, but I'm going to focus all my energy on what I can control.

I believe that intervention must begin the first day of kindergarten if we want all students to succeed.

I believe some teachers are hungry for the kind of adult learning that will allow them grow, risk, change, and my job is to help create an environment for them to do just that.

I believe that I'm an accomplice to poor teaching every time I fail to confront an ineffective practice.

I believe that the professional teachers deserve my respect, admiration, encouragement, and gratitude and I need to go out of my way to give them everything that they need.

I believe that reading and writing are joyful, creative activities that are motivating in themselves.

I believe that reading and writing sometimes can be drudgery and hard work and we have to show kids how to persevere through those times as well.

I believe that every class and every teacher should be good enough for my own children or I need to do something to make that so.

Just writing these out has encouraged me to stay the course. I highly recommend some others join the fray and share their thoughts as well. So, what do you believe?