Friday, June 19, 2015

Will we close our eyes?

Yesterday in Charleston South Carolina, nine people who gathered in a church for a bible study were gunned down by a man who did not know them but who hated them because they were black.

I can't fathom hate like that.

Intellectually I know it exists.

Emotionally it is beyond what I can comprehend.

In Novi our work rests on two pillars. All of what we do - our work in curriculum, assessment, evaluation, instruction, and student growth is built on helping our students learn to write and to understand social justice.

Writing is an easy pillar to explain. If students can write, and write well, it means that they can think, that they can examine ideas, that they can reason, that they can communicate. Writing supports students as they learn math and science and social studies. Being a writer prepares students to enter into the conversations that they will have in the board room and the break room and the shop floor and the family room. Writing makes sense for a school district.

Social justice. This pillar is harder to explain to people. People push back against social justice. People suggest to me that this is not what the district needs to focus on. Social justice is too political they say. Social justice draws attention away from the important work that we must do in helping students learn the curriculum. Social justice is not a priority.

I disagree.

I don't care how smart a person is if that person cannot understand another person's point of view.

I don't care how smart a person is if that person is unwilling to reflect on the social and economic inequities that our country faces.

I don't care how smart a person is if that person does not want to hear another person's voice.

Smart is not the most important attribute we give our kids.

It is important - don't get me wrong.

And our district does a very good job of helping our students learn. Our district goals focus on our ability to move students forward, to prepare them intellectually for that next step in their life.

But "smart" is not the only thing that matters.

Compassion, understanding, the ability to see another person for who they are. The willingness to listen. The desire to work with, be with, live with, build with other people.

These attributes are just as important as "smart."

These are social justice attributes.

And in Novi I am committed to helping our students learn these lessons as well.

I want our students to learn these lessons so that we will not continue to close our eyes to the hatred that exists around us. I want our students to learn the lessons of social justice so that we can open our eyes and the eyes of others to the beauty of each and every life.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The end is near!

Tomorrow is the last day of school for students in Novi.

And, truth be told, my emotions are mixed.

The school year is taxing. Every day during the school year I feel responsible for the 6,400 students who attend schools in Novi.

I want every day to be meaningful. I want every day to have a purpose. I recognize that each day is precious. We are only given a limited number of days and the thought of wasting one fills me with sadness.

During the school year . . .

I worry about bus rides and lunches.

I worry about recess and passing time in the hallways.

I worry about athletic coaches and class/club sponsors and their interaction with our students..

I worry about how we protect our students and staff while they are at school.

I worry about our budget.

I worry about our profession.

I worry about the curriculum.

I worry about state assessments.

I worry about how accurately we are reporting information and insights to our students and our parents about achievement. 

I worry about what students are learning from the adults in the building.

There is a lot that I worry about.

However, the school year also provides me with great joy.

I find joy in the interactions that I see in classrooms.

I find joy in watching our amazing students as they perform on the stage and athletic fields.

I find joy as I see our students commit themselves to improving in our classrooms and practice halls.

I find joy as I see students play on the playground.

I find joy as I watch students eat lunch together.

I find joy as I watch bus drivers and food service workers talk to and joke with our students. 

I find joy as I see teachers collaborate and talk and learn from each other.

I find joy as we plan and build.

I find joy as I watch our parents fill with pride as they watch and listen to their own children.

The school year brings me a tremendous amount of joy.

So I am torn when the end of the school arrives. I know the worries of the school year will fade away over the summer. But I also know that I will miss the joy that comes with watching and learning from and interacting with students and staff.

The end of another school year has come. It is a time to celebrate what we have done. It is a time to prepare for what lies ahead.

May all of us have a wonderful summer!