Welcome back. I hope you all had a wonderful summer and that you had time to rest, relax, recharge and prepare for the coming school year.
My summer included a decent balance of work and play. I guess it could best be described as the summer of Art and Politics. Circumstances dictated that my vacation be cancelled so we took it as an opportunity for a staycation. Home became our base and each day we explored. We enjoyed the Walkway over the Hudson, Storm King Art Center, we visited MOMA, the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park (which I really wouldn’t recommend), MOMA PS1 and the Brooklyn Museum. We found new restaurants and we learned new things. We took a painting class and a gelato making class. All in all, staycation proved to be an amazing vacation! The politics portion of my summer was much less vacation-like and I will save that discussion for the next meeting.
I must confess, I really find writing these welcome back remarks to be a difficult task, so this year I procrastinated more than usual. Each time I sat to write I supplemented my writing with eating, with making phone calls, by stepping out to shop for that most important purchase of the day - an ice cream cone. Then I paused yet again, to finish reading my book, because I was sure the inspiration to write these remarks would come from there. And then it didn’t. I did the only reasonable thing left to do - read the newspaper. And there is was! My inspiration!
David Kirp, a UCal- Berkley professor wrote in the NY Times an opinion piece that spoke to me. His piece is entitled Teaching is Not a Business. He states, and I quote, “Today’s education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.”
He continues that, “Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future and a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.”
And therein lies the strength of the East Williston Schools. Our success rises from the commitment we have to our students, with our ability to connect with and nurture the students in our charge. Each of us, every day, provide the opportunity for our students be become their best selves. We provide them with the tools to be much more than, forgive me, “college and career ready”.
Kirp argues logically and with research based evidence that every successful educational initiative aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in schools. Repeatedly, he found:
· That the best schools, like our schools in East Williston, create intimate worlds where students become explorers and attentive adults are close at hand.
· That the forging relationships of mutual respect and caring, like those relationships we build with our students in East Williston, is what counts most; and,
· That students say they’re motivated to get an education because their teachers, and I quote, “have our backs.” Just like our students feel here in East Williston.
As Kirp concludes, the work that we do - the process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. There is no substitute for the connections we make and the extraordinary education we provide.
I know as we embark on this new school year each of us will foster relationships, provide guidance and nurture this new group of students to learn and to grow. We will make connections and provide them with another year of an extraordinary education. I wish you all great success!
Meryl Fordin, writes to keep you informed of the happenings in the EWTA as well as in public education; the mundane to the insane.