No profession is more important

I hope we all take time this week to thank all of our teachers who work selflessly everyday to inspire, challenge, and care for our children.  It matters not whether we are thinking of our 4-year-old kindergarteners or our soon to be 18-year-old graduates, the work teachers do every day has a profound impact on the future and well-being of our country.  We all remember special teachers who have impacted us.  Every year I like to think of one or more of the “special teachers in my life.”  This year, I choose to highlight my freshman college English Professor, Dr. Bob Thorne.  I believe Dr. Thorne was “the one” who inspired me most to become a teacher.  His classes were very non-threatening, yet his standards were high.  His students rarely missed his class, because we wanted to be there, not because we had to be there.  I was also privileged three years later to ask Dr. Thorne to be my university supervisor when I was student teaching.  I must admit, at the time I was considering a business offer that would have doubled my prospective beginning teacher’s salary.  But I wisely chose to teach.  I haven’t regretted a minute of that decision.  Thank you Bob.  I’m glad we are friends after all this time.
Things have changed in our business, and we are on the cusp of even greater transition with the advent of technology, with the call to inspire students to innovate, create, collaborate, communicate and  think critically.  The challenges are daunting.  But no profession is more important than being a teacher.  We have our critics, and perhaps from time to time, some of the criticism launched in our direction is warranted.  However, from my perspective, we teach children better now than ever before, using technologies that we could not even dream of when my career began.  The pace of change is ramping up.  The future is bright and it is exciting, in no small part due to the great work that teachers do every day.  Thank you to all of our teachers today and everyday.

Factory Schools vs. Creative Schools


I am reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book Creative Schools.  A stark quote from this iconoclast is:

“Our schools systems are now a matrix of organizational rituals and intellectual
habits that do not adequately reflect the great variety of talents of the students
who attend them.”

From my perspective and reflecting upon my 35 year career, I believe Dr. Robinson is correct.  Not only do traditional school systems often not  reflect the talents of our students, but I tend to think that our rituals, rules, and organization of how we run schools actually quells the talents and curiosity of many.


It’s vital to focus on the whole child and allow them to help shape their own learning

I had the privilege recently of listening to Madeline Wright Adelman at the South Carolina School Boards Association Annual Convention. The message she shared resonated with me, specifically in regard to the Darlington County School District’s 21s century education transformation.

There are so many things that continue to need our attention, but I was inspired by her gracious thanks to educators for what we do. Her thanks were followed by her plea for us to do even better.

Ms. Adelman presented a theme of “Leave the baby in the middle of the table.” In my view, she referred to the moral imperative that all of our decisions as educators must be in the best interest of all children. She further challenged us to focus on the whole child.

Now, I believe in my heart that we are trying to do just that. We are currently opening another Carolina’s Kids Clothing Closet in Lamar. We are also going to implement a summer feeding program in Darlington, Hartsville and Lamar this year. We understand that children who are hungry, poorly clothed and/or lack adequate housing simply have more difficulty learning.

These kinds of efforts aren’t new, but they are nonetheless critical to the success of our children. We also understand that we must “raise the floor and the ceiling” to provide the best possible chance for our children to lead happy, productive lives in an incredibly fast-paced world. Children can learn more, especially when they learn in environments that foster creativity and collaborative problem solving. Children can learn how to learn, especially if we ask them. Allowing children some choice in how they learn can reap rewarding benefits.

Please share some of your success stories on how you may have experienced an opportunity to shape your own learning or allowed your students to create their own opportunities.


Integrating technology in our 21st century teaching designs


I’m finishing an interesting book entitled “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.” Authors Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker state:

“Blended learning entails more than layering technology on top of traditional classrooms; it involves a deeper redesign of the instructional model… The responsibility to integrate teachers successfully into the design is no small matter. Intuition and a good deal of evidence show the lasting influence that good teachers have on student outcomes. Students cannot afford a failed experiment with teacher integration.”

Please share how you integrate your technology with 21st century design. How do students collaborate, think critically, communicate and create in your classrooms using technology. How has your job changed as a teacher?


Take time to reflect on Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. / Library of Congress

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. / Library of Congress

As we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s all think critically about the life of Dr. King and the existential causes for which he worked peacefully and tirelessly. Dr. King strived for freedom and justice for everyone.

We should continue to learn from the Dr. King’s example of leadership during the Civil Rights Movement, both as professionals and students.

True leaders are vital to our progress in education. Collective leadership allows us to come together to make the appropriate, though often difficult, decisions required to ensure a better future for our children.

A leader like Dr. King demonstrated that no matter how impossible a task might seem, we must press on together to improve our society and ourselves. The result will be worth the means.

I’d like to share an excerpt from President Ronald Reagan’s November 1983 speech that he gave when signing the bill to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday.

“In his own life’s example, he symbolized what was right about America, what was noblest and best, what human beings have pursued since the beginning of history. He loved unconditionally. He was in constant pursuit of truth, and when he discovered it, he embraced it. His nonviolent campaigns brought about redemption, reconciliation, and justice. He taught us that only peaceful means can bring about peaceful ends, that our goal was to create the love community.”

Rather than simply enjoying the day off from work or school, take advantage of the opportunities available that honor Dr. King and bring us together as a community. Think about how we can use his teachings today to achieve our ongoing goal of providing the best education possible – an education our students deserve.