Saturday, September 27, 2014

When the Seasons Change

It has been quite a while since my last post.  August and September brought a flurry of activity and new beginnings. The start of a new school year is always busy and exhausting, but in a good way.   I know that those first weeks of school set the tone for the entire year, so I purposefully plan for lessons that establish community and foster collaboration which my students can build upon as the year progresses.  By the end of the first week of school, my voice was scratchy and my throat was sore from all the conversations with my students. With several weeks now behind us and our Google accounts set up and going, I am looking forward to some exciting projects ahead!  
There is a refreshing breeze blowing in the air. Yes, there is the cooler breeze of fall beginning to seep in here and there.  However, there is a hint of something more blowing in our area.  A change of a different kind.  For some, it is a refreshing breath of fresh air, but for others it brings an unsettled feeling and a sense of unfamiliarity with many unknowns.  State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice recently started his "The Future of Public Education" tour throughout the state of Alabama.  At these events he has spoken about Plan 2020, Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, student testing and the role of parental and community involvement.   Although I haven't had the chance to hear him speak in person, I have read several articles and watched the recording of one of these events.  In my opinion, it is an exciting time in education! The ALSDE press release for the tour quoted Dr. Bice as saying, "We are no longer preparing children to take a test, rather, we are teaching them how to think and solve problems using real world application. In essence, we are redefining the high school graduate."  He encourages educators to be innovative, creative and to get out of our comfort zones. He uses words like "imagine" and "risks" when he speaks to educators.  For me, this shift in the direction of education feels like a refreshing, cool breeze after a long, hot summer.  I feel like the future is bright, and we have been granted permission to take the lead in our classrooms.  We have been given back our voice and the encouragement to do the same for our students.  
However, the conversations among educators has been a mix of positive and negative.  For some people, change is scary even if it is for the better.  Sometimes people cling to their "normal" even when that "normal" is no longer working.  So how do we move forward?  How do we embrace this shift in the mindset of education? 
I have referred many times to the lessons I learned from my nephew Colton during his 7 year battle with cancer.  When our family learned of his diagnosis, we were in unfamiliar territory, to say the least.  We realized that life as we knew it would never be the same.  At that point, we had the choice to move ahead with a positive outlook or have a complete "come apart" and become paralyzed with fear.  There were probably times of both, but ultimately Colton was our best example of moving forward with a positive outlook during a time of uncertainty.  Some days were better than others, but he inspired us to make the best of each day because he was determined to give it all he had.  Life is all about changes.  When we are faced with these times of transition and change, we can choose to embrace it and make the most of it, or we can choose to fight it every step of the way and miss out on the opportunity to grow and learn from the experience. Either way, the changes occur. As much as we may love a certain season of the year or a season in our life, it will not last forever. Seasons change, and children grow up.  So, just like my nephew Colton, I'm going to choose to have a positive outlook on what the future holds for education.  Some days will be better than others, some plans and lessons will go better than others, and some outcomes will be better than others.  In the end, hopefully we will have an educational system that is better, stronger and built upon the needs and best interests of our students.