A few years ago I divided my staff into groups based on how many years they had been in education. I asked them to write down all of the initiatives they have gone through in their careers. This was a fascinating activity. The amount of change in education over time has been incredible, but the most telling thing to me was during the discussion our staff members spoke to the cyclical nature of education. Many of us have seen Jamie Vollmer’s List of increasing duties on schools since the 1900’s. Things we do today were done in the past, but under a different name. The importance of early childhood education, character education, alternative education programs…all were discussed and implemented in the 1980’s. Ready to feel old…that was 30 years ago!!! Clearly more is being put on educators and school leaders when it comes to meeting the needs of the whole child. I came across this list of acronyms used in education. I ask our staff not to speak in acronyms when they talk to parents, but we have landed at a point where there needs to be a test every year on new abbreviations in our own building. To make things worse, some acronyms have multiple meanings…as Phil Dunphy reminds us in this clip.
We decided to have a little fun with all of the initiatives going on in education during our opening staff meeting. Our Middle School Principal Brad LaPoint (@bradlapointfc) developed the script, our HS Principal Brian Schulner (@BSchulner) and I tried to carry it out the best we could, we had great staff help at the last minute, and a surprise guest at the end that brought it all together. Click on the Staff Welcome Video to check out our 4 minute skit.
The issue with multiple initiatives is that it creates an environment of surface implementation. Staff members are conditioned to be wary of diving in with both feet for fear that a new program or process will come along and they will have to start over. This is not their fault, but clearly impacts the culture when initiatives have to be rolled out. The reality is we tend to build planes while we fly them in education…and that’s ok. The environment that we build with our staff prior to an implementation will set the stage for what happens during and when it needs to be adjusted. I am extremely lucky to work in a place where our faculty, parents, and board members are flexible and understanding throughout these changes as long as it is communicated well and has the best interest of students in mind.
Our students may have more opportunities now than they did years ago, but life as a kid in a world where everything you do has the potential to be documented through social media brings on new challenges…and more pressure. Through all the initiatives that we implement and all the acronyms we have to learn, I hope the four letters we focus on continue to be K I D S. We are here for them…for big ones and small ones…for gifted ones and those who struggle…for those that get breakfast in the morning and those who don’t…for those who make us smile daily and those who challenge our decision to teach…for those who have support at home and those who don’t…all of them. They deserve it. Initiatives will come and go, but we got into this business to make a difference in the lives of kids…and if the focus is always on them our world will be a better place. Go Crickets.