Usually I write funny little stories about how to prepare better for the school year: http://valleytalking.blogs.sonomanews.com/2018/08/04/change-growth-hopefully/but this year we’re a couple of weeks in and already I’m in desperate need of a recalibration of my personal homeostasis.
Am I getting old? Yes. Have I taken on too much, teaching Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Physical Science, Art, Golf and Life (my favorite and most important subject)? Yes. Am I going through a huge guilty-that-I-haven’t-done-enough stage with my two kids out of the house and living in San Diego. Hells yes.
But forget all that, yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper. Lets talk about what really matters, like today and the future.
Our district is the most awesome district in all the districts. I say that not only because I have been a cog in the machine for 20 years but also because I know many of the other cogs in the machine and I see what they do on the daily. People like Ellen Gruenhagen at Adele who plug away year after year with little fanfare and few accolades, happy to be improving whatever little being walks through her door.
But as a sociologist (BA in Sociology, UCSB 1987, Go Gauchos!) we have to look at societal trends and tweak our services accordingly. Either that or stick our heads firmly in the sand and hope that things will return to the way they were before screens and economic realities and racial differences.
And sure, these topics are unpopular and cause disagreement and get people heated but we need to get heated because that’s how change happens. I mean, have you seen our CAASPP scores? Have you seen the academic trends in the district? Have you talked with students and teachers and administrators? You should, because playing nice together is my first solution.
- Up your game with empathy. Everybody-students, teachers, administrators, community members, we are all in this together and the quicker we learn that, the better. Stop dissing people you disagree with and understand why they think like they think. Agree to disagree, nothing wrong with it. More Red and White Balls and fewer unproductive meetings are a good start.
- Consistency.The goal of our superintendent, and now our schools, is a K-12 curricular articulation (the same courses and expectations for each school and grade). More clarity=less confusion=better student understanding. Some change is always good but we need teachers and administrators who stay in this district to build it as they grow. Union President Justin Hollander put it best when he asked in his back to school speech how can we expect to attract teachers when nobody can afford to live in our community?
- Student centered teaching. Sheesh, do I need to say it again? What are screens and poverty and bulletproof backpacks and vaping and ICE raids doing to the minds of kids? Remember my platform for principal, http://valleytalking.blogs.sonomanews.com/2018/03/15/walt-williams-svhs-principal/still true.
- Inclusion. Color, gender, race, disability, orientation, special needs, and my personal most hated label: at-risk. Can we just move past labels and go with students? I just sent my yearly letter of inclusion (how my school’s students should have full access to sports, activities and electives at the high school) to the district heavy hitters. Will it help? We’ll see, and if it doesn’t, I’ll send it again next year.
But, things are going the right direction. Like I said before, I wouldn’t be a cog in the machine if I didn’t like and believe in this district.
Look, you chose to live here just like I did. Out of all the places in the world you landed in little Sonoma and you should be proud of your decision. It’s expensive and kinda snobby and more than a little segregated and has a lot to figure out but you could do a whole lot worse. Embrace the good and work to fix the bad. Appreciate what the school district has to offer and mitigate the stuff that drives you crazy (My version of the SVUSD serenity prayer).
Be more like Ellen.