Friday, April 3, 2015

Are We There Yet?

After having a half day scheduled, I waited for all my students to leave the school yard and then proceeded to head home to begin Spring Break. When I quickly arrived home, I switched my outfit, double checked the house, and then began our drive to Florida. My amazing wife, my son Henry (just turned 3 years old), and I could not have been in the car for more than 30 minutes when he asked us the dreaded question. "Are we there yet?"  I quickly looked at my wife as she did to me and instantly we asked at the same time, "did you teach him that?"  Turns out, neither of us had ever stated it before, so he must had picked it from somewhere. As we continued our 16 hour ride down to Florida, Henry must had asked that question at least seven more times. Yet, as I drove through the night, "are we there yet" stuck in my head.

As we continued to drive, I recalled an outstanding opportunity that I was invited to: Digital Learning Day, in Washington DC, thanks to Tom Murray (@thomasmurray). During my short time there, I had dinner with some of the finest minds in education today: Eric Sheninger, Tom Murray, Rich Kiker, Erin Klein, Tony Sinanis, Joe Sanfelippo, Kyle Pace, Amber Teamann, Angela Watsen, and Steven Anderson. I even used Uber for the first time with Rich Kiker, Eric Sheninger and Joe Sanfelippo. That as you could imagine was a hilarious ride. The following day was filled with workshops focused on celebrating Digital Learning Day, which featured speeches by Governor Bob Wise, Secretary of Edcuation Arne Duncan, and CEO of the National Board, Ronald Thorpe. The day also consisted of "#FutureReady" workshops lead by my dinner companions. 

When we crossed into South Carolina, I began to think of the Common Core State Standards and its push to make schools/students to be leaders in "college and career readiness." 

thought of my time at the Executive Summit at FETC this past December where professionals shared stories about their schools, and my new superintendent looking over at me saying, "you already do all of this. We are ahead of the game." Yet, my response was "Thank you as we worked hard to get where we are, but my new challenge is finding new innovative ways for our students to stay ahead."

I love the idea of moving our students, staff, and school communities forward to be Future Ready and College and Career Readiness. My vision and goals since arriving at my amazing school have been to prepare the students for their future and not ours. 

We increased instructional time, created/implementation of BYOD, revamped classroom furniture, created a culture that focuses on PBL, genius hour, e-portfolios, created a hallway makerspace during passing, flipped lessons/faculty meetings, provided educational learning advancements for staff by sharing resources, and 20% time to name just a few reforms. 

The main focus was to create an educational setting where students and staff know that they are trusted, respected, allowed to take risk, becoming more empathetic and increasing autonomy. 

As one of my newly hired teacher's stated to me during a reflective discussion about our time at #EdcampSoJersey, "you know I feel like you are leading us as if we are all participating in a school genius hour project. We follow a curriculum and have the freedom to choose how to teach it with your support to take risk, be innovative, and not being micromanaged." 

Yet, as I thought about all of this and more driving through the night, I could help to wonder if "are we there yet?"

With all the mandated reforms, laws, and policies that have been occurring in our educational profession, the question shouldn't be "are we there yet," as I wonder if "will we ever be there?" 

We have an outstanding school that is constantly trying to push staff and students to be Future Ready and College and Career ready, but will we ever get there? After attending several conferences in the last few months, I wondered how many schools are still trying to "get there" by continuing with traditional methods?

When Henry asked one last time before falling asleep for the night, I responded, "not yet buddy, but Daddy is working hard to get us there!"

So I ask you- Are we there yet, and will we ever be there? When we get there is it enough, or will we want/need to go further? 

Driving break 

After driving 16 straight hours we had to catch a lizard at 6:30am. 

Abby and Henry enjoying the beautiful weather at the inlet.