Message from the Superintendent

November 2016

Through the Eyes of a Child

Just recently in mid conversation with a colleague, I was confronted with a simple, yet quite thought-provoking question that has made me stop in my tracks.  Why do we control so much of the lives of our little people?  I am guilty of this myself. When I was a teacher and principal, I made sure to tightly control much of children’s days to maintain a sense of order and productivity.  As a parent, I monitor much of my child’s world, often jumping in too soon, when he would have remembered to say thank you on his own…or telling him exactly which writing tool he needs to use when he could have made that decision himself.

I am not saying that organization and order are not a good thing. Highly organized, well-managed classrooms and schools are efficient and they foster productive interactions, appropriate choices and behaviors, and high levels of learning.  Guidance, teaching, and redirection are a part of good parenting. And we all benefit from a certain level of orderliness in our lives. I know in my own daily life it helps to be organized and intentional with priorities, tasks, and routines.

What I have become acutely aware of is how much our children benefit from learning how to make their own choices, how they learn when they are required to think for themselves about how to navigate through options, how to relish the rewards of their good choices and learn from their mistakes. That’s what being a kid is! And now, perhaps more than ever, it is imperative that children are confronted with relevant challenges in their lives that give them the chance to think and reason independently.

Adults do not live and operate in silos and neither should kids. Where do we adults frequently go to meet and work on something? Quiet bookstores have been replaced by coffee shops where conversation is welcomed.  Starbucks is filled with adults conversing together, working on projects, planning a next meeting...Common areas in malls are typically full of various groups of people talking and sharing…Open air corporate office spaces encourage group dialogue and team collaboration.  If we know children want to (and need to) think and relate with people about ideas, are we providing them with enough chances to do so, the right spaces in which to work, ample student voice in controlling some of the pieces that help them best learn and collaborate? Why, in schools throughout our country, do we have much of our school space dedicated to outdated school structures that limit how our children and teachers function to meet the demands of a changing world, a world that demands we change with it?

As I reflect and look around at others who are grappling with parenting and educating our children, I believe I am not alone. So much of a child’s life is tightly controlled and manipulated to the point that I wonder what it would be like if children did have more opportunities to make decisions based on what they know to be best and right for them. More choice about how they best learn, where they best learn, and what they learn. I am not promoting a system without rules of operation, just wondering what our system could be like if we provided children with more ownership. Provided context and support, every child can and should be encouraged to make choices suitable to him/her as an individual.  That is the real world.

As a district, we have exceptional teachers who are great at teaching children to write, read, think mathematically and scientifically.  How can we support their impressive teaching and learning with opportunities for students that further develop skills to solve problems confidently and creatively? This is the challenge of every school today. Our students must be armed with the skills those in higher education and the business world consider essential; the mindset to better the world; and the resolve to take action.  It is our obligation to provide children with “just right” challenge and choice, conducive places to learn, and innovative experiences.

Please follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DMUSD_Supt.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your families!

Sincerely,

Holly McClurg, Ph.D.

Superintendent

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