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Seeds Beneath the Sand: Morning Minutes, May 13, 2016

A’s like rain

to help them grow?

If I never try,

I’ll never know.

Minds like seeds

seek the sun.

It’s not enough

what’s been done.

So something new,

alas it’s time.

Give them life

each sprout will climb.

Anything’s possible

if we give them room,

they’ll stretch, they’ll grow

and each will bloom.

Please pardon the amateur rhyme, but I was inspired this morning. Yesterday, Ray Picicci, an assistant principal at CHS, sent me a link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley,” and I was deeply moved as well as strongly affirmed in my conviction to help change education, especially by his message at the end of his talk, which I have included below. I love Ken Robinson. He is an inspirational genius, and yesterday his message gave new life, new energy to that which feels a fragile sprout at times in this lonely desert of change. Thank you for the water, Mr. Robinson.

Happy Friday, all. Have a great weekend.

“So I think we have to embrace a different metaphor. We have to recognize that [education is] a human system, and there are conditions under which people thrive, and conditions under which they don’t. We are after all organic creatures, and the culture of the school is absolutely essential. Culture is an organic term, isn’t it?

Not far from where I live is a place called Death Valley. Death Valley is the hottest, driest place in America, and nothing grows there. Nothing grows there because it doesn’t rain. Hence, Death Valley. In the winter of 2004, it rained in Death Valley. Seven inches of rain fell over a very short period. And in the spring of 2005, there was a phenomenon. The whole floor of Death Valley was carpeted in flowers for a while. What it proved is this: that Death Valley isn’t dead. It’s dormant. Right beneath the surface are these seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions to come about, and with organic systems, if the conditions are right, life is inevitable. It happens all the time. You take an area, a school, a district, you change the conditions, give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities, you cherish and value the relationships between teachers and learners,you offer people the discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do, and schools that were once bereft spring to life.

Great leaders know that. The real role of leadership in education — and I think it’s true at the national level, the state level, at the school level — is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility. And if you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.

There’s a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin. “There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don’t get it, or don’t want to do anything about it; there are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it; and there are people who move, people who make things happen.” And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that’s, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that’s what we need.”

–Sir Ken Robinson, from “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley”

6 Replies to “Seeds Beneath the Sand: Morning Minutes, May 13, 2016”

  • I think this TED talk is super inspiring !! At first i was so against this idea because i wanted my class to have the A’s but now i understand why You want to do it and i know that you didn’t just come up with this idea over a dinner or something. You Have been thinking about this for a long time and doing this will hopefully start a chain reaction to other teachers around the world and doing this will help your students thrive in learning and i applaud you !!!

  • I totally agree with the TED Talk, I do think that there needs to be a change in education. School to me feels more like just pulling through rather than taking my time and actually learning something. I worry about getting my work done rather than getting it done right. So in the talk when he mentioned “water for the seeds to grow” is your “water” giving all the kids A’s next year? Personally, I have mixed feelings on this whole idea. I see where you’re coming from, that you want to change education. And don’t get me wrong, that’s a wonderful thing. Not many teachers would take it into their hands to go through such a challenge to help their students learning like that, it takes a whole lot of dedication. But there has to be balance, there has to be some worry about the grade to keep you motivated to actually do your work and study for tests. Being just given an A seems more like a right than a privilege. I think grades are privileges you have to work for, rather than just a given right. I also think if a student is given a free A, they may use it an an excuse for laziness. I like your idea, it just needs some more preparation in my opinion.

  • Personally I am not surprised that you have interest in this talk and would like to change education Sy, from what I’m familiar with you are a movable person and receive a lot of respect in this community. I’m just wondering though, what are you going to change? You and Ken Robinson (and some students) want to get education out its personal death valley, but where will you take it to? A tropical forest with a lot more vegetation and life? If education needs to change and isn’t the best it can be right now, how are you proposing it can reach that level? Also, rain brought life to that dead valley, not a factor that was already included. You live in the same world us the rest of us, it’s not a rare thing to contact you. The flowers were already at the bottom of the valley, hidden because of lack of water. But students exist already here, what can you provide that’s new? How will change education, what do you think needs changing, and is it that you think education is awful right now? Why is not perfectly fine to you?

  • This TED talk speaks truth, I agree 100%. For your students to thrive they have to have different environments sometimes you may need to “water” some a little more than others. I believe that by giving every student an “A” next year you may be giving students that normally don’t get this chance, a chance to thrive instead of worrying if they will fail. I know from personal experience because of this last year that sometimes, if you miss a lot of school, you thank god for just letting you pass. I was and still am scared to death of having to re-do some classes. I was a 3.7 GPA student, so for me to worry if my D will drop or will go up is not normal to me. So in all I think you’re doing a great thing Sy; you’re giving kids a chance to thrive and succeed.

  • That’s a very inspiring TED talk I see why you got encouraged and excited about it. I truly think it’s great how much you care for your current and upcoming students and how well you’re showing you care. You are constantly putting in effort to make our lives as students better. As a student who has had teachers that don’t try to make learning fun and interesting it means a lot to see you looking for new ways to make our student lives better. Always coming up with new ideas to better the future. I’m excited to see what the future holds. Thank you for everything you have done for my education.

  • Very true. I totally agree. You’ll do great things, and I’m excited to see what you will do when you water those seeds.

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