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Imagine with me a special, highly creative place, beautifully rich with stimulating materials, where excitement and enthusiasm have become contagious and the question “what if?” dominates discussions. This is my vision of a great school.
In this place coached projects are the norm, real-world contexts and authentic audiences are driving up the interest level, connections are being made to everything we know about the world, and high expectations are serving as powerful incentives.
All who enter - students, parents, staff, and community members - are working, learning, and celebrating together. The climate feels safe, serious, sensitive, and supportive. Everyone senses that they are responsible for helping each other overcome whatever barriers to learning they encounter. Effort and hard work are rewarded, mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, and works-in-progress receive frequent monitoring and constructive feedback. Above all, there is a shared belief that “natural born” talent is not required for success. Instead, everyone has a “growth” mindset and works to build resiliency.
To me, this kind of learning environment is like a magnificent work of art and my vision of it shapes my leadership philosophy. I believe that producing such a masterpiece is not only within the realm of possibility; it is a goal that can be reached through a collaborative creative process. In my mind, learning is a never-ending adventure that is best experienced with others. I welcome students, teachers, parents and community partners to join in this learning process. We will need to take turns sharing what we know, exploring possibilities, cheering each other on, pointing out different perspectives, and holding up a mirror for reflection. Our common expectations of each other should include a shared commitment to excellence. The work we produce must be of high quality and worthy of our pride.
I believe that the art of education requires a “you can do it” attitude. Creative minds know that constraints and limitations are often the mother of invention and hard work, persistence and determination can overcome many obstacles. I am both an artist and an educator. Artists, like educators, study the techniques of the great masters, learn from their experiences and mistakes, and practice their most successful “research-based” methods. In a world that is constantly changing, innovation and improvisation are required. Brainstorming and debate lead to new discoveries. As we work together to bring our ideas to the table, we must view them with an open mind, notice when the glass is half full, see learning “differences” instead of “disabilities,” and add the word “yet” to the end of all “can’t” statements. In our interactions with each other, mutual respect must be the norm and high value must be placed on showing that we care.
As in the creation of all artistic expressions, starting with the end in mind clarifies our purpose. It sharpens our focus on what our learning community should look like, feel like, and sound like. When designing for the success of all students, what is best for all students must dominate the decision-making process and frame everything we think, say, and do. Student achievement must always be the focal point.
Indian Avenue School