Monday, May 19, 2008

Close to the Shore

It’s almost the end of the year. Nine days of classes, three days of exams, and it’s over. It’s always a little bit of a shock when the end finally arrives. This year I’m facing an even greater level of separation anxiety, because as of June 9, after 39 years in the classroom, I’m moving into a different zone. Our school has a K-12 supervisory position with the perhaps overoptimistic title of Director of Instruction. (Perhaps a more accurate title, and one with which I’d be more comfortable, is Director of Instructional Services.) The current occupant of that position is retiring, and I’ve been selected to take her place. That’s going to be an interesting challenge.

We have a very large school, with something like 3800 students K-12, and a school culture that encourages students—and teachers—to ask good questions, to seek out their own answers, and to make their own choices. In an environment where so much of the decision-making is pushed down to the classroom level, and from there to the level of what is good for the individual students in any particular class, it’s a real challenge to frame discussions that enable us to see the common core of what we believe, what gives our school its sense of itself, and to support curricular initiatives which seek the center as well as those which expand the horizons.

Many of those discussions are ongoing. There are initiatives already in place targeting such systemic challenges as sustainability, community service, social entrepreneurship, differentiated learning, K-1 arts-based education, learning environments, technology integration (including a one-one laptop program which will soon reach from grades 4-12), project-based learning and authentic assessment, and global education There are long-established but still-ongoing community dialogues about critical thinking and spiritual and ethical values. There is the upcoming HAIS/WASC self-study and evaluation which will occupy a lot of our energies over the next two years.

It is going to be my job to help support and sustain all of these discussions over the next five or ten years. It’s going to be a challenge to keep from being pulled in too many directions at once. I’m also a little leery about leaving the classroom. The best part of my day, every day, for a very long time, has been the time that I’ve spent with my students. Now I’m going to be spending my days in a much different way, farther removed from the classroom but with a broader perspective and a wider range of contacts throughout the school. I’m savoring these last few days close to the shore before heading out into uncharted waters.

1 comment:

Nancy A. McKeand said...

Leaving the classroom is a difficult decision, indeed. But this sounds like a position where you could -- theoretically, at least -- make a real difference on a much larger scale.

I look forward to reading about your adventures.