Why am I writing this blog?

There are many bloggers and “experts” who are writing about education. I am adding my voice to this discussion because I believe we underestimate what children are capable of knowing, creating, and becoming. The needs of children have changed and the world around them has changed, yet many schools have not adapted to this change. I want to use my experience to help others transform and/or create schools that are responsive to how children learn, rather than forcing children to adapt to schools that were designed for a different time (industrial age) and purpose.

As a practitioner, I had the privilege of opening an innovative school as a principal. As my career progressed, I had the opportunity to start multiple new school systems as superintendent. Each of these systems pushed the boundaries of what is possible for our children. I am a trailblazer who has experienced and learned from successes and failures. I want to share my experiences (both “mountain top” and “valleys”), my learning, and my wonderings to inform the field of education and inspire others who believe schools should be transformed from school-centered to learner-centered environments.

I am a lifelong learner and am constantly growing deeper in my own understanding about the nature of schools, teaching, learning, creating culture, leadership, building capacity, etc. I first started thinking about what could be when I started teaching in 1986. I thought then, there has to be a better way for children to learn than teaching from textbooks and workbooks. During my first year as a teacher, I started graduate school as well as started reading, attending conferences, talking with colleagues and most importantly started creating a more engaging, learner-centered environment in my classroom. A fellow first year teacher and I sought and received special permission from our principal and superintendent to implement a thematic-integrated curriculum we designed. We inspired our learners to write for a purpose and read real books (not basal readers). Like all teachers, I wish I could go back and teach these same children with what I know now . . . and yet I am still learning.

When I became a superintendent in 2000, I was invited to join the The Schlechty Center’s Superintendent Leadership Network. This network had a profound influence on my leadership by causing me to think about the structure and purpose of school (more on this in future blog posts). One of my favorite quotes from the late Phillip Schlechty is that [student engagement] is common sense, but not common practice. This really resonates with me. I have always been able to envision what learning/school should look like, but the real challenge is having systems and processes in place that cause this to happen. I will write more about this in future blog posts.

More recently, I have had the opportunity to join the Progressions Team for Education Reimagined. Education Reimagined has created a community of learner-centered educators and leaders and this learner-centered movement is consistent with my philosophy. In addition, this has given me an opportunity to visit and learn from schools across the country who are focused on transforming schools into learner-centered environments (more on this in future blog posts).

Over the years, there have been several colleagues and leaders in education whom I have learned from; they have challenged and influenced my thinking. They engaged with me, challenged me, questioned me, trusted me, disagreed with me, inspired me, partnered with me and were fully committed to this important work. They are more than colleagues; they are my family.

My two children inspire me the most.  They are now grown adults and both college graduates. Ryan and Emily inspired me to want more for them and in turn want more for all the learners I have had the privilege of serving. They are very different from one another and yet both very bright and talented in their own right. Ryan is an artist and Emmy is a nurse. Because I love learning so much, experiencing the thrill of learning, mastering, or creating something new, especially when it is challenging, made me want to give this gift to all children.

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