Monday, August 27, 2012

What a slightly chubby, balding Superintendent has learned

I used to look like this:

Recently I looked like this:

It's amazing what 35 years has done.

As I looked at those pictures I thought about what they tell me. Aside from the obvious that I am now overweight (and trying to lose weight) and balding, what can I learn by looking at these two pictures of myself?

First, I thought about how these pictures capture superficial qualities. A person might look at these and conclude that I was healthier when I was younger. The truth is I could eat whatever I wanted when I was in my 20's and never gain weight. I ate Big Macs and large fries, double Whoppers and onion rings and never gained a pound. I know that I need to cut back on candy and ice cream but I probably eat healthier now than I did then.

The pictures show me some things I need to work on, but the things they show me are the external things. These pictures don't show how I treat people, or if I care about the students in my district, or if I help people get better. Yet those are the things that are really important.

As I thought about these pictures and my school district I was struck by the fact our school districts have pictures - called test scores - that show external things. I am not suggesting that test scores are unimportant. They are very important.

But in a sense test scores are like my weight and hair. I weigh too much and don't have enough hair. Test scores show us that some students are doing well and others are not. As a district I need to use the test scores to continue to help every student make progress. Some students need extra help while others need extra challenge.

But my pictures like test scores don't give anyone a clue about the really important stuff. Just as the pictures don't show if I am a good leader or if I know how to mentor people or if I care for our students, the test scores don't show if we are helping students learn how to think or collaborate or problem solve. Test scores don't show if we are teaching students how to be leaders or how to follow their passion or how to share with others.

I know that we need to pay attention to both the things that we can see and the things that we cannot. I just hope that we don't forget about the things that really matter because we can't see them with our eyes.

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