My View Pages 14-15
What Could Be
BY LYNN P. MOODY
As a child, I spent endless hours with my best friend and a collection of beautiful Barbie dolls. We pretended to be young women and, with our dolls, imagined how we would dress, the jobs we would have, what kind of car we would drive and even whom we would marry. We called it playing, but we were also dreaming.
As a former teacher and now as a superintendent of one of the largest school districts in South Carolina, I continue to enjoy spending time imagining with other educators. It’s still fun, but now I refer to it as “planning,” “setting goals” and “envisioning” what could be.
During the past school year, I spent time with superintendents from districts across the state to envision what education in South Carolina should be in the future. We began with the premise that superintendents are not only responsible but in the best position to lead. We agreed the direction of public education should not be legislated or determined by other elected officials outside of education. Practitioners and education leaders should be the directors.
We set out to establish our beliefs and then determine an education compass, or unified direction, for public education in the state. Knowing our ideas would affect the lives of thousands of students, we had to let go of our personal differences to discover our common beliefs, which I’d like to share:
Purpose of public education: Ensure each child learns to think, reason, exercise creativity and imagination and use his or her mind well to make personally satisfying contributions to civic, social and economic life.
Equity: The quality of any child’s public education should no longer be determined by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic circumstance or geography.
Relevant and meaningful learning experiences: Children and young people flourish as a result of personalized learning experiences that have relevance and meaning for them.
Applied skills and processes: Personalized learning experiences involving reading, writing and mathematics as well as problem solving, collaboration and creativity are required to prepare students to operate in a 21st-century global society.
Role of educators: An educator’s primary job is to engage students in meaningful work that results in learning.
Shared responsibility: The community, the family and the school share responsibility for promoting the education of children.
Energy through alliances: In the 21st century, strong alliances among public educators, families, the business community and civic leaders create the energy and sustained momentum needed for a new, dynamic system of public education.
Superintendent leadership: It is the obligation of superintendents to articulate a vision of the future for public education, telling the story of what could be for our children, thereby leading others to act on behalf of the vision.
After we became united in our beliefs, we discussed trends, forecasts and predictions, drawing on an array of sources. We sought opinions from respected business leaders and envisioned snapshots, or singular ideas, of our dreams of students engaged in meaningful learning experiences. We viewed technology as a tool to support the experiences, and the work that would be developed through and by strong family and community alliances.
Our goal was not to write a report that would linger on a dusty shelf, but to develop a vision that engaged and excited others to dream with us. We wanted a dynamic exchange of ideas and best practices.
Rather than create a print document, we rolled out our vision through social media, where people already are talking about hot topics. We designed a unique interactive online tool (www.oureducationvision.com) to entice individuals in our communities to share their thoughts and opinions through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
I must admit that at first many superintendents were reluctant to place our vision in an uncontrolled environment. It was risky and new to us, but our decision has proven to be fruitful. We are starting to enjoy the conversation and learn from each and every post.
Lynn Moody is superintendent of the Rock Hill Schools in Rock Hill, S.C. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org