Our District’s strategic plan is intended to serve as our North Star. It is our set of aspirations that we use in setting specific organizational plans and goals. It was developed with the input of literally hundreds of people (188 participated face-to-face) and hundreds more influenced the Board’s process through their participation in ThoughtExchange.)
One of our near-term priorities is “Equitable opportunities and support for all career and college paths.” This priority is focused on the core of what we deliver each day: world class learning experiences. High quality learning experiences begin with relationships. As veteran teacher Rita Pierson says in her viral TED Talk, students learn better with teachers they like. Relationships are the gateway to an excellent learning experiences.
World class learning experiences are rooted in clarity. Do our students know what we are expecting from them? Do we, as a community, have clarity about what our students should know and demonstrate? Do we have common understanding of what the students should be able to expect from us as a community? Clarity is essential in expectations for behavior, for learning targets and standards, and desired outcomes. Clarity is scalable. As the Superintendent, I start with a wide-angle lens and try to articulate clarity of our vision at the organizational (bog picture) level. When thinking about this near-term priority, I have come to appreciate Northfield Promise’s Continuum and Benchmarks illustrated below:
This set of benchmarks encompassed a learning journey that is intended to have students leave our high school with what I think is the most empowering feeling in human existence: choice. When you have choice in what to do, how do you feel? I feel I have control. I feel my life is mine. I feel I can be successful. In terms of how we spend our lives, students who graduate with a core set of academic, physical, social, and emotional skills will have the tools that lead to choice about what they do after high school. If students leave us with that feeling of empowerment, and we as adults encourage them to follow their passions, we are on the right track.
When it comes to academic skills, the ability to read, write, and compute are foundational. They are essential for students to progress to the higher order thinking we desire: thinking critically and creatively. As young adults, we hope they begin to self-actualize and communicate this higher order thinking in a variety of ways. The altruistic goal? They have the attitude, skills, desire, and perseverance to make their corner of this Earth better than they found it.
We all have a job to do in helping students on their journey. Whether that is to teach them prosocial behaviors, how to decode a word, multiply, write an effective five-paragraph essay, design and create a sculpture or computer program, how to debate and disagree in a civilized society, to perform with confidence in front of an audience, to bake good bread, to solve an equation with more than one variable, to wonder and dream about what could be…and the list could continue. This is hard work. Sometimes we fail. Many times we succeed. We must always persevere. As adults with a vested interest in our children’s success, we need to be clear about our role and do our best work for the kids of our community. The are expecting us to do just that.