Thirty Seconds That Woke Me Up

I saw this commercial the other day and it stuck with me. Thirty seconds long and yet I had to share it with others. It seemed that, in that moment, Western Governors University had summarized what a personalized education plan could/should look like. Check it out here: The University of You

Years ago I attended a PLC institute and got to hear Rick DuFour talk about public schools and this new model for how educators would come together to make student learning more powerful. Specifically, I remember him saying that what needed to be learned was static (constant) and that the amount of time needed to demonstrate the learning is what was dynamic (the variable). The idea of removing the mandate that a kiddo had to demonstrate mastery of the content taught in this classroom, at this school, in this town, by this date, resonated and made complete sense. That was nearly 20 years ago and I don’t think we’ve made nearly enough progress.

Even as we come out of the March 2020 – August 2021 virtual vs Face-to-Face school experience, far too many public schools are, in my opinion, stuck. Foregoing the opportunity to do something different, something unknown, something better for kids, we slid back into what we already knew. “Now isn’t the time to try something else because we have lost so much” is the refrain I kept hearing.

I’m not saying we blew it as we can always get better. Heck, it may have been the right decision. Yet I do believe that the next leap in public education is figuring out how to really personalize learning for a kid. And honestly, today, at this moment, it feels like too much to tackle. Sure, I’ve got early ideas of what some of the key elements might include; and certainly thoughts on what should NOT be part of it (required seat time, one-shot-assessment, etc). But how to make it all “fit”? I don’t know. Yet we’ve got to do something.

I have spent the last 12 years leading a large comprehensive high school, and I think that’s the level that is most in need of growth. I have to believe that we can gather enough intellectual and political will to change some pieces so as to improve the overall experience. I mean, we sorta have to, right? Can we at least agree that we are in a moment of urgency? Now it’s going to take lots of people smarter & wiser than me to rally together on this, at the most local level, and I’m ready to join that conversation. We’ve got to take action so that they can begin to view their 8:30-4:00, five-day-a-week, “job” as something with potential rather than another thing to endure. I know that my students are watching and they’re growing tired of waiting.

Now I know almost nothing about WGU yet they seem to have a clear vision of what & for whom they exist. And their plan signals a boldness that isn’t exclusive to them. Maybe it’ll work. Most likely they’ll learn and have to adapt and adjust. But you know what, they’re trying. And I know that, personally, for me right now, I’ve got to commit to furthering my own learning in this area. I can be better. We have to be better.

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