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Monday, March 29, 2010

This Old (School) House



A typical school entrance building in AustraliaImage via Wikipedia
My house was built in 1953 - we bought it in the early 2000's.  We've put in new floors, repainted a few times and been redoing things.  Anyone can build a new house, but if you have an older one in good shape, that says a lot about the people who live there.  At least that is what I tell myself as I struggle to "whip things in shape" around here.

As I was working in the front yard today, it struck me that this relates to what is happening in education. If you have the time and money and resources you can build a new school and have exactly what you want -- TODAY. But how long will you have it?  The longevity of a school is determined by the culture and the leadership and the teachers and ecosystem that evolves in that place.  Sure, starting from scratch is attractive and if you have a complete failure of a school (or a termite-ridden house) - this could make sense.  But most often, we have existing schools and have to re-work, reinstitute, re-do and improve things. 

I just think that often the desire to start over completely is sometimes needed but with budget cuts and struggles we instead need to re-invent ourselves.

I think the part that irritates me most in the US is hearing politicians criticize the "state of education" when their many mandates and true lack of understanding of schools and what is needed is much of what has put education in the state that it is in. 

The point is that systemic educational improvement on a nationwide basis - means the empowerment of each school to do what it takes in their location to reach their students and when we're being pushed to massive standardization, you pull some of the uniqueness that makes schools special, unique, and distinct from one another.

Again, I'm thinking out loud here - but I just have my own frame of reference which is a measly $25,000 a year budget to maintain 100 computers - 4 servers and buy whatever new we need and our computers are OLD -- we can still collaborate globally and do some really cool things WITHOUT the money.  The answer is not money it is heart.

Heart to fix up the old schoolhouse -- energy, tenacity, and some old fashioned sweat.

We've got what we've got - we have to use what we have.  But we can view this time as an opportunity to get busy or we can whine about the "good old days" which probably weren't much better than today -- or we can long for that money to start from scratch and have a good new school for a few years which will eventually turn into a school that needs to be renovated and redone again - just like the ones we have.

For me, it is kind of like this 40 year old body of mine -- I've got to make the best of it - I'm not getting a new one.  I can look at myself in the mirror and criticize and complain or I can do the best with what I have and renew my mind daily and push myself to be more and do more.

So many schools are doing amazing things! There are many great stories out there.  We have to focus on what we're doing and what we can control. We cannot control politicians or corrupt school boards or parents who don't care if their kids come home much less do their homework.

You and I are educators - we CAN control a few things:
    The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. Grubleren, in Ny...
  • Our attitude
  • Our work ethic
  • Our classroom
  • Who we decide to listen to.
This is your day - this is your schoolhouse. Throughout history there have been people who were in tough situations who have overcome - they are called HEROES. 

HEROES and HEROINES do not emerge in easy, relaxing times but rather are hewn from the rock of impossible situations.


Chip. Chip. Chip.


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