Summer Lemonade

I’ve just enjoyed a fresh glass of lemonade. The summer has been a very hectic one. I’m doing way more work building houses that I thought I would be and this has really cut into the time I was expecting to be doing other things. I have not been keeping up with my reading or my writing as I had planned but, I’ve learned, that’s sometimes how it goes. See, in a life before education, I worked in the construction sector as a painter. It evolved from a summer job to a company with 20 employees then back to a two man operation. Since entering the education field, I’ve kept up my skills, redecorating and remodeling each house that we have moved into each time we move. Since moving to our present community, I have done some work in town which has led to the present situation in which I am building houses that, eventually, I will be painting. I really didn’t plan that this “2nd” job would take up so much time.  With the heat and the days being rather long, I’m usually wiped by the end of the day which means very little online activity and absolutely no blog posting.

However, one of the benefits of this is that I’m learning all sorts of new skills that will help me along the way. I get to work with my hands and work in a totally different environment. It has removed me from the educational world that I spend so much time in throughout the year and gives me a different perspective on how things look according to the people with whom I work. I also found this was the same when I was painting, working in various new building projects where the individuals had a different perspective on how things looked given their background and what they did. I often worked with people who were immigrants and their stories and views were very interesting.  These people were very good at what they did – good enough to make a living. I knew that I could make a very good living doing this but it wasn’t challenging me intellectually. I wasn’t being pushed to think and try new things or experience new ways of doing things. The money was very good, probably what I make now but the hours were long and I just didn’t think it was where I belonged.

Now, 17 years later, I know that I made the right decision. I am constantly learning new things and getting to experience life through a great number of different avenues. It has allowed me to stay connected to what is going on in technology and how technology is shaping and affecting people’s lives. It has allowed me to move to different locations and experience the different areas of this great province, Saskatchewan and meet and make some great friends along the way. However, it’s always good to get back to do some work and get out of the educational environment and realize that, for the vast majority of people, how I see the world is not how other people see the world. In fact, in the past two weeks, I have been reminded on a number of occasions that what surrounds me daily and is the world in which I live isn’t the reality of other adults.  They work with other adults and their is a structured hierachy, however loosely structured it might be. So, as I work with the crew, they remind me that here, I’m the student and the results are immediate, observable and have consequences. Like, who knew that 1/4 inch could be so important! It’s just a 1/4 inch!

What we do in schools is so far removed from what I’m now doing every day. Although our students need to learn how to read, write and do math, they also must learn to work in an environment that is totally opposite to what they are doing now. On the job site, everyday is a collaborative effort to get things done. Without knowing who does what job and accepting that role, things take twice as long to complete and there is often things that go wrong. (note 1/4 inch is a big deal!) So what does this have to do with school?

Everything! We continue to discuss and talk about how we want to see schools change and move away from the current model but, as I’ve been reading, I wondering what model will replace it? What will we do in schools that is going to radically change how our students are educated that will introduce them to the skills that they will need? How will they learn to work collaboratively using new technology. (Like how to run a power nailer without nailing your shoe to the floor!) Will they have the ability to ask questions and listen so that mistakes, when they happen, build their experience and take it to the next “level”?  How do we teach them to problem solve in a dynamic manner so that they can use previous skills to solve problems and apply previous knowledge to new and unique situations?  Our present system does not do this as it is focused on knowledge retention for the sake of testing. We add new ideas to the present system like PLC’s or other such things but we continue with the same system, just with a new paint job. The underlying foundation is still the same and it needs to be changed.
Like Greg Farr, I believe that it is time to for action. After having many conversations the young men with whom I am working one of which is still going to school, I’ve learned many things  about school and what they have found lacking – and what was good. But, I’ve also learned that school is not providing them with the skills that they will need after they leave school – new technologies being just one of these. To wait any longer is just to prolong the current situation. Like Greg, I’ve been thinking about how I, as the school leader, will be required to move away from the status quo, helping teachers to broaden their experiences and look at school and education in a different manner. Really, this post is the prelude to my next few posts as I establish what I, as the educational leader in the school, will need to do to bring about changes that will directly impact student learning and not just for tests.

I’m off to reread Greg’s and do a bit of reflecting.  Maye I’ll just pour myself another tall cool glass of lemonade before I begin. After all, it is summer!

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