Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back to School 2011

(This article will appear in the August 2 Guernsey Gazette.)
As Guernsey-Sunrise Schools begin gearing up for a new school year (yes, it is less than a month away as I write this), I am reminded of how quickly summer seems to go each successive year. The theme for this year is “Saddle Up for Success” and I’ve taken a little different turn than when I first started thinking about this theme.

July means different things to different persons. It’s Independence Day, mid-summer, hot days, swimming, and the month before school starts again. It is also the month for the Tour de France and as this grand bicycle race nears the end, an exciting finish is in store for those that follow it. While saddling up in the West is generally connected with horses and cowboys, bicycle riders also saddle up and the Tour reminds me of some principles that educators, students, parents, and community members can use to help our students achieve the kind of success we all envision.

The Tour is a 21-stage race that covers a lot of miles, through high alpine mountains and long days in the saddle. It takes a lot of work and determination just to finish a grand tour such as this, much less find a podium spot at the end. Education is a little like that; covering a lot of days and years, through many different content areas to reach the finish line. But like the Tour, even though it ends at a certain point – a school year like a stage or graduation akin to finishing the Tour – there is more to do. Students must be prepared to exit one point, whether that is a school-year or their K-12 career, and move on to the next event or experience in their life, ready to resume learning.

Another similarity between the Tour and school is the way teams work together to achieve success. Particularly on the flat stages, sprinters’ teams work hard to reel in breakaway riders and give their teammates a chance for a stage victory. In the mountains, teammates can help guide a top rider to better place in the overall rankings.

In education, teachers, students, parents, and community members working together provide their students a much better opportunity to be at the front of the pack at the end of a year and the end of their career. Just like breakaway riders, outside influences – legislation, accountability rhetoric and rules, and state and federal regulations – force education teams to work together to help students in their quest for true success. And having teammates during the grueling “mountain” stages that can crop up during their education provides students with support to go the distance and finish strong.

At Platte County School District #2, we continue to work at providing opportunities to collaborate. This past year, a 1-to-1 computer initiative was implemented to help students take advantage of technology, collaborate with each other and staff, and use “on-demand” learning opportunities to learn more deeply. Teachers are continuing to train to integrate technology into lessons and motivate students through project-based learning. As we race further into the 21st century, we will continue to find ways to provide our students the best education that will prepare them for their Grand Tour through life.