“If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Mark Twain has been credited with first using this phrase, although others have claimed it as well and applied it to numerous areas of the country, including Virginia. Perhaps its popularity is because people everywhere can relate to both strange weather and constant change. A similar phrase has also been used in conjunction with education initiatives: “If you don’t like what we’re doing this year, just wait, there will be something different next year.” To be fair, there is some truth in this statement in our profession. We are often guilty of trying the next trendy thing—a magic bullet for student achievement—that often proves elusive.
Some of the “latest and greatest” techniques prove to be quite useful, while others are simply timeless strategies in new wrapping paper. And then there are strategies that are nothing more than gimmicks with no proven results. While there is clearly a benefit to trying new ideas or approaches, we know that the most successful organizations sustain a well-articulated focus on their mission over a long period of time while simultaneously seeking to remain innovative. As we began last school year, we concentrated on ensuring the “relevance” of our educational opportunities and “equity” in our delivery. As the year progressed, a third theme, “innovation,” naturally emerged as a priority.
As I visited schools around the division last school year, I quickly noted that these are neither nebulous, lofty ideas, nor the latest trends. Rather, they represent the best of who we are and what we do. They were being lived out tangibly in all facets of the school division. They could be seen in everything from the formation of coding clubs at elementary schools, to equity teams examining practices at both the school and division level, to all administrators committing to read The Innovator’s Mindset.
This year, the next new thing will be…wait for it…relevance, equity, and innovation. Ironically, having the same focus areas as last year may not appear to be very innovative. However, these areas of focus are not intended to be boxes to check off on an education-jargon laden to-do list. Rather, they represent the commitment that we make to our students every day.
Building from our momentum last year, we have already seen progress before this school year has even begun. In the area of equity, our division was recognized this summer by the Governor for our leadership in implementing the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support to promote positive behaviors among students. We have hired a new Coordinator for Safety and Security to ensure that the unique needs of each building are addressed, and each schools’ leadership team is examining best practices to ensure all learners’ needs are met. In the area of innovation, work is being completed on our first two “Classrooms of the Future,” which will be ready by the first day of school. Professional development offerings promoting relevance and innovation are being offered in every content area, and the planning of technology infused lessons will transform instruction this year in ways never previously possible.
We are on a wonderful path and making significant progress. Thank you for helping us to achieve success last year and recognizing that continuous improvement is essential to sustaining that success. We will continue to focus on offering the most relevant, equitable, and innovative education possible for the students and community we serve. This year, in order to highlight the great work in our division and to assist us all in learning from our own experts, I will be inviting guest bloggers to share some of our educators’ amazing accomplishments. I am truly excited about what this year holds for us, and I look forward to continuing this important work with you.