In the year that pushes us all to find positive, silver linings, in the year that challenges us to stay out of despair, in the year that causes us to change technically and adaptively, we move forward with vigor, hope, and execution.
This year marked the Hybrid Learning Model that had, as part of it, in-person learning and virtual learning. This year marked the Remote Learning Model that had, as part of it, District teachers and teachers from private companies. This year marked the rebirth of the words synchronous and asynchronous 🙂 – This year also marked the realities of scaled-up technology implementation and inequities, equity, equality, trial and error, loss, gain, and so much more!
In North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park & Highwood, IL, we are marking the fourth and hopefully final first days of school! We started school 9/3, 10/21, 2/1, 3/30, and we’re starting again on 4/6 and on 4/12.
This is a year of remarkable agility and flexibility and creativity and change and resilience. The teachers and educational support staff, the students, the administrators, the families, the community, the Board of Education — truly – EVERYBODY- has been exceptional!
Tonight we shared our “schooling update” … so far this year, we’ve shared about 34 videos, board presentations, in addition to podcasts, app notifications, and what feels like 100s of emails as part of our commitment to clear, consistent, and coherent communication.
In this post, we’re sharing the slides from the presentation (videos are located at our Board of Education pages), we’re proud, tired, exhilarated, and energized – we have hope, grace, gratitude, and energy! Our students have but one time to experience their particular grade level — we make it count in D112!! #112Leads
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Schools in North Shore School District 112 are poised to welcome students and staff in less than one month. The first day for staff members is August 31 and the first day for students is September 3. This is not a normal back to school situation. Folks are not excited like they usually are. Folks are not eagerly awaiting the happy return to “normal”. Thanks to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19, there is no return to normal, and while we make every effort to be upbeat and optimistic, we’re not really “happy” right now.
In March 2020 our world changed in public schooling. The places where we facilitate learning, brick and mortar school buildings, were shut. Closed to students and staff, closed to learning and socializing. Closed to one of the foundational and fundamental cores of American culture. In-person learning and teaching is what we were all trained for. In-person schooling is all we have known since the one-room schoolhouses of the pioneer days. We know school … we know “normal”. We know our routines. Actually, we knew our routines. Nothing is like it used to be.
Just like that in March 2020, we stopped going to school. We stopped holding classes, clubs, sports, plays, musicals. It all just stopped. From March to June we just sort of hobbled through the crisis with society shutting around us. With jobs vaporizing. With socializing coming to an end – we just sort of “locked down”. Just like that – all that we knew came to a crashing halt. An end with little clear explanation. An end with little understanding. An end with little normalcy.
The school year ended in June. Then summer came and we as Americans are usually an optimistic lot … we looked for fun … but the 4th of July was pretty much canceled. Camps were scaled back. Recreation was frowned upon. Summer school was remote. Uh, what happened to our world? What happened to our society? Summer was not really summer … again, where was the happy recreation that we knew so well? It was gone too – just like normal schooling.
The fall back to school is always a fun, exciting, invigorating, and economy-boosting time … but not this year. This year it’s anxiety-provoking, uncertain, defeating, scary, and anything but normal. Not that we want to be normal or return to normal anyway … but what is happening? We close the schools in March – we’re opening again in September – right? Well, sort of. Not exactly, you see, the virus is still here. National leadership is absent, state by state leadership is mixed, we’re pretty much like we were as a people like we were during the Articles of Confederation. A fledgling nation with a rudderless ship and no real agreements at all. What happened?! We the people … in order to form a more perfect union — wait, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good …
I’m not even writing about the revolutionary call for an end to racism and a call to arms for anti-racism. The brutal murder of George Floyd in Minnesota roused to anger, despair, and energy of our nation and the world against injustice. This was all going on with the pandemic in the background.
I’m not writing about the complete and total failure of national leadership on putting forth a coherent plan or strategy to combat COVID-19/Coronavirus. I’m not writing about the begging that leaders like I have to engage in so state and local health officials will release/share/explain science and metrics. Public school leaders making community-based decisions about public health should expect – no should demand – no should be entitled to – guidance, coherence, and leadership from public health leaders – right?
At least we have local control in Illinois. School districts are governed by seven community members — UNPAID volunteers — who oversee the public trust, public funds, and professional staff in facilitating learning and teaching. In our local district, we have an excellent board.
In this post, I’m writing about an excellent planning process leading to a good plan for the restart of schools in my local school district, North Shore School District 112. The consulting group with who we engaged started our meetings with them using the quote that serves as the title of this post: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. We are taking the reality of a dangerous and uncertain virus and public health response to it and we’re weighing the needs, rights, and contractual obligations we have to do our jobs in these uncertain times.
Even though we had more than 50 teachers, administrators, educational support staff, union leaders, parents, board members, students, & more engaged in planning, dialogue, discussion and review, we do not have a perfect plan. We have a very good plan. We do not have perfect answers. We do, though, have answers. We do not eliminate risk, but we do a heck of job in mitigating and reducing risk. Our board remains committed to the safety, health, and general welfare of its employees and its students and its community.
As a superintendent of schools, I cannot cure coronavirus – I cannot declare safety and all clear in this pandemic. I cannot fix the void in national and coherent strategies in global pandemic mitigation. I can, though, instill pride and care in the community I serve to the Board I serve and for the students and staff, I serve. In my slice of the world, with around 4500 people in my direct sphere, I can lead, plan, collaborate and implement a good set of plans that mitigate risks and bring some sense of enhanced normalcy to kids, their families, and our staff. Our plan is very good, it’s not perfect.
For the good of our calling as educators, we have students who only get one chance to be in X grade. In our system, it’s PK-8th grade. We must facilitate learning for them. It’s not ideal to be in the middle of a global pandemic. There is no easy choice to potentially put anyone in harm’s way. We have a moral obligation to teach and learn. We have contractual obligations to teach, work, and serve the community that supports us.
We can do this! We’re not perfect. We are very good. But we’re the public school. We have fire drills so we do not die in fire or smoke. We have severe storm drills so we do not die in tornados or severe storms. We have ALICE training so we do not die if a bad guy comes in to cause us harm. We mitigate risk through investments in safety and training. We practice drills so we can survive and thrive. We do not let fear close us down. We do not let a pursuit of perfect shut us down. We persevere. We lead. We serve. We honor our commitments.
We are a public school. We feed the hungry. We call the department of child and family services when we suspect abuse or neglect. We teach everyone. We serve the public. We deal with whatever comes our way. We love our students and we help them become resilient and strong leaders of tomorrow. We protect one another from the challenges of serving the public.
We are a public school. We are planning the reopening of schools in this most uncertain time with our chins up in this evil pandemic. We are outfitting our teachers and staff in masks and face shields. We are requiring face coverings for all students – no ifs, and, or buts. We are hiring specialists in cleaning and sanitizing. We are reducing the density of people to 50% or less at any one time; we are setting up 6ft social/physical distancing. We are investing in indoor air quality enhancements. We are doing anything and everything we can do to mitigate risk, reduce risk, and keep our staff and students safe. We may be afraid of the virus, but our calling is higher than fear. We may wish for a perfect plan, but we will not let perfect be the enemy of good.
We are the public school. We may have anxiety and concern and worry. We may hope that the public adheres to risk mitigation and tells the truth with the self-certification of their children. We may even be scared. We are essential, critical care workers. We shape the future. We teach children. We serve the public. We demand that everyone takes this virus and the need for risk mitigation seriously. Wear a mask. Maintain physical distance. Wash your hands. Protect us!
I’m proud of our Board of Education, our return to school planning teams with union leaders, teachers, staff members, parents, board members; input from students and local partners. We forged collaborative and inclusive planning where perfect has not been nor will it become the enemy of good.
We are the public school. We work, we serve, we educate. We are called to action and even in the darkest of times, we open the doors, we turn on the lights and we provide safety and consistency for the children we are employed and honored to serve.
We are about to start schooling in the most uncertain of times. I’m grateful to our courageous staff of more than 500, our student population of nearly 4000, and our communities who entrust us to fulfill our mission and vision. It’s not easy — nothing worthwhile ever is.
“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
June 1, 2020
An Open Letter to our Community,
The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, brings racial violence to the forefront of our country and our psyche as a nation. While our nation and local communities have made strides regarding racial equality over the years, the reality is, our nation has a lot of work to do. The current sadness I feel and that is felt around the nation and world is not sadness that should be present in our society. We are all and we are each better than this. Everyone deserves respect and honor as a human being.
Our school district takes great pride in serving families of many races, creeds, ethnicities, religions, languages, etc. While we value these as strengths of our district, we continue to look for ways to respect and engage our differences. In the days, months, and years ahead, our district will need to engage students and families in exploring their own identities and learning through a lens/perspective different from their own. We must go beyond celebrating diversity in surface-level ways. It’s time to go deeper. It’s time to raise the generation that will erase the legacies of institutionalized racism.
I recently watched the History Channel miniseries on Ulysses S. Grant, it was a three day, six-hour documentary of Grant’s life, leadership, trials & tribulations. It also chronicles the American Civil War and the Reconstruction efforts in the South. Through literal bloodshed, slavery in the US was abolished and racial equality was legislated and put forth into law. In the decades that followed the US Civil War, the evils of institutionalized racism reinstituted a 2nd class society for people of color. Each time achievements were made in our nation, there were steps backward. Perhaps this is the time for us to step forward and stay forward.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Dual Language Two-Way Immersion, Spanish-English program in District 112. The blending of race, culture, language, ethnicity, and personal family histories serve to strengthen our schools, our children, and our communities. I’m proud to oversee an ethnically and linguistically inclusive educational program.
Standards-aligned curriculum & instruction serve to support the facilitation of balanced and thoughtful learning in all grades PK-8. Flexible changes in school boundaries and attendance centers sometimes appeared to be the greatest challenges and “problems” we faced in our district. World and national events surely put all of this into perspective as we reflect on the abundance and joy in our school district. If ever there was a time for perspective — it is now!
As we reflect on recent national events (racial oppression and inequity) and global events (worldwide Pandemic bringing nations to a close), I call upon us all to rise up above the myopic views that sometimes stifle true understanding and growth. In North Shore School District 112, we are committed to educating each one of our students. We are also committed to supporting each member of the staff. We stand by equity, justice, kindness, respect, and good character. It is no longer enough to be against racism and oppression, we must become anti-racist and accomplices in the fight for equality and justice for all.
Remember our motto is Inspire…Innovate…Engage through our collective efforts and unity in kindness and good we can help to create a more just and bias-free society. While we endure the uncertainty of a Pandemic and we bear witness to the tragedy of racism and systemic oppression, it is my belief that we can unite and learn and grow in partnership for the good and right!
While we commit to embedding the tenets of social justice and anti-racism in our core, we are not there yet. We have work to do to actualize equality in both action and results. We are committed to this work and to ensuring that each child is able to grow in an educational environment that is safe and actualizes their greatness. To our students and families of color, I commit to start with me. I commit to not just reflect and discuss but to act upon injustice. I commit to acknowledge the rich contributions of Blacks and Latinos in the curriculum, to both listen and to act. I commit to using my power and privilege to fight against racist policies and practices. I commit to lead a school district that pays back the educational and societal debt that is owed to you.
Sharing a note I sent to the North Shore School District 112 Community with greetings of holiday cheer and links to some recent success metrics in our District.
“You don’t owe me a thing, I’ve been there too
Someone once helped me out,
Just the way I’m helping you
If you really want to pay me back,
Here’s what you do
Don’t let the chain of love end with you” – Rory Lee Feek and Jonnie Barnett, performed by Clay Walker, The Chain of Love,1999
Dear North Shore School District 112 Community,
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this year, I want to share a message of gratitude on behalf of the Board of Education and the leadership team of North Shore School District 112. In District 112, we have so much for which we are thankful. Each day, when I reflect on our service and work, I am so thankful. I am lucky to work with so many talented, professional and effective educators in such an engaged and thoughtful community!
We have accomplished so much in just over one year, we’re optimistic that our future is going to be bright and exciting! As you know, we are on a journey of continuous improvement. The important work we do puts our children on the path to success. Some highlights of our successful work include the following:
To our community members who make supporting the local schools a priority and a focus – we thank you as well! We firmly believe in educating all children in a learning environment with high expectations. As the center of the community, all of the schools in Highland Park and Highwood are honored to Inspire, Innovate and Engageall students every day. We are grateful to our teachers, support staff, parents, grandparents, community members, administrators, and members of our Board of Education.
In this episode of Lighthouse 112, District 112 Chief Financial Officer Chris Wildman shares a bit about his personal story and the operations of the District. Chris shares what he is most proud of this year and what he’s working on for next year. Chris also shares some awards and recognitions that his leadership has yielded in the proud stewardship of the DIstrict finances and operations. Finally, Chris shares how he stays current and at the front edge of leadership in school finance.
“Success in life comes when you simply refuse to give up, with goals so strong that obstacles, failure, and loss only act as motivation.” – Unknown
In North Shore School District 112, we’re committed to changing the narrative of public education to one of despair to one of distinguished excellence. In our historic school system, we’re proud of our mission, motto, and current reality.
Our Current Reality is: Excellence in Education! The Future Starts NOW.
One of the main ways we can get our messages out is finding out where people are getting their information and meeting them there. We use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and now we’re launching Lighthouse112, a podcast! in this blog post I’m sharing a video promo about the Podcast as well as an embedded link to the first Podcast Episode.
With effort, commitment, courage, joy, appropriate risk taking, modeling the way, and inspiring a shared vision for excellence and innovation, we show the world that what we do matters on behalf of ALL students, staff, and one another.
We enter 2019 confident of our past, present, and future success! Success in financial prudence, fiscal responsibility and responsiveness. With a focus on guaranteed & viable curriculum, enhanced instructional methods, construction projects with insights and input from experts within the district and within the community – – and so much more!
North Shore School District 112 is back on the block as an Inspired, Innovative, and Engaged place to raise your children and educate our youth!
Please listen, share, offer feedback, and share the stories of education — the narrative of public education is positive, powerful, and here to stay!
Check a brief video promo for the Podcast, then take about 10 minutes and check out the Lighthouse 112 Podcast’s first episode.
Team effort goes vain when individual effort is in the wrong direction.”
– Ram Mohan
This blog post content is also published in the Highland Park Neighbors magazine December 2018 issue on page 11 (Best Version Media)
Survey Says …
In North Shore School District 112 we take community engagement and stakeholder input very seriously!
As part of the Long Range Planning process, the District worked with a telephone research partner (Fako group) as well as with an online community engagement service called Thought Exchange to solicit community input and thoughts. People are encouraged to visit the District’s Long Range Planning Web page for more information: https://www.nssd112.org/Long-RangePlanning Those efforts in addition to the 25 member Superintendent’s Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) gathered for several months to review, refine, draft, question, and advise the superintendent of schools.
In addition to community engagement for facilities and finance, we seek input on a regular basis to learn and grow as an organization. We believe that what you respect you inspect. We respect input and voice and we take action on an ongoing basis.
In addition to the statewide survey of school climate and learning conditions, 5Essentials Survey, we also conduct additional engagement surveys. It is essential for the leadership team to know what families think, what students think, and what teachers and support staff members think about the school district.
This year we conducted an INSIGHTeX organizational survey of all employees, and we have set goals by school and administrative department to act on and improve culture. The image shows that 72.41% of the 438 employees who took the survey indicate they are completely engaged and satisfied in the work they do in the school district. That survey measures culture on 15 dimensions (including communication, pride, growth, mission, quality, communication, recognition, etc.)
Starting in December, the District will be sharing the results of the student and family engagement surveys. Student voice, in addition to teacher and parent voice, is instrumental in leading the district on behalf of and with the people most impacted. Sometimes school districts overlook the voice and input of students; in our District we make it a priority to engage and involve students in our leadership. To that end, any facilities upgrades or improvements will include student and teacher voice (as well as community input) as part of the refinement process.
In addition, the District will also share the results of the Bright Bytes innovation and creative practices survey. The results of these surveys continue to drive change, improvement, and quality in our local school system. The Bright Bytes survey asks questions related to four major areas of technology impact: Classroom, Access, Skills, Environment. By learning what our stakeholders perceive, we’re able to see if there are gaps between perceptions, reality, and desired outcomes. Using survey data and the voice of the people so to speak, allows the District to lead in an inclusive and open manner.
District 112 sent information to students, teachers, and parents for completion of the Illinois mandated 5Essentials survey during the first week of December. The Illinois 5Essentials Survey provides a comprehensive picture of a school’s organizational culture in an individualized report measuring five “essentials” critical for school success:
From the U Chicago Impact site: Twenty years of research at the University of Chicago in more than 400 schools has shown that schools that were strong on at least three of the 5Essentials were 10 times more likely to make substantial gains in improving student reading and math than schools that were weak on three or more of the Essentials. Those differences remained true even after controlling for student and school characteristics, including poverty, race, gender, and neighborhood characteristics.
The survey was deemed an important component to balanced accountability under the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan by stakeholders, which resulted in state legislative changes requiring the survey annually. Principals and superintendents will receive 5Essentials Reports in March 2019. Survey results will also be reported publicly on the 5Essentials reporting site in Spring 2019 and on theState School Report Card website in Fall 2019. On behalf of the Illinois State Board of Education,UChicago Impact is providing Illinois 5Essentials to schools statewide.
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: Speech recognition. Learning.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? – Definition from Techopedia
So today I’m walking my dog Harley around 6:00am; it’s still dark outside where I live at 6:00am (latitude 42.187665, longitude -87.804106). I started thinking about the relevance of technological tools, learner interest, opportunities to learn and the acquisition of knowledge. In doing all of this I was enlisting the support of Artificial Intelligence to check my thinking — to validate or refute my hypothesis — to think and learn. Are we helping our learners take full advantage of the tools and technology at our fingertips — are we showing the relevance of tools and are we affording our students choice to show what and how they learn??
GPS was made public in about 2000 (it had been around militarily for decades, since the 1960s). I’m using 18 year old technology tools to determine my location writing on a blogging platform that’s about 20 years old, describing some technology that was “discovered” in the late 1940s and early 1950s. So why don’t educational institutions for the masses (public schools) maximize and harness these relatively old technologies to increase student learning? In our District the motto is Inspire…Innovate…Engage. Do we use all that we can to fulfill this motto? Do we rely on old tech, new tech, modern tech, ancient tech — do we integrate the artificial and the natural? Do we do all we can to make our learning environments as relevant and desirable as possible?
So in thinking about the old and new technology and the technological tools at our fingertips and at the fingertips of our teachers in our schools, I often wonder if we’re doing all we can with what we have to facilitate learning for all students. As the superintendent of schools I often ask myself “Am I doing all I can to increase student agency, learning, and experience?” — I hope so! Today I was reflecting on the vast and powerful technology at my fingertips as it relates to engaging learners in exploration and growth. I was taking an interest I have (stars and planets) and using my choice and agency (voice) to figure out if I was correct in believing there was a planet in the sky visible to my eyes — and I wonder if this is analogous to students learning in our classrooms today.
The anecdote I’m sharing in this blog post describes my encounter with the planet Venus today using widely available technology tools. Are our classrooms taking advantage of the tools at their fingertips to best engage our students in relevant, meaningful, interesting, and innovative learning?
I would love your thoughts and comments on this blog post. What is so artificial about artificial intelligence? Does the fact that it’s “machine language” or “computer generated” make the intelligence any less natural? What about the fact that humans designed the structures and systems for this artificial intelligence?
Are we facilitating learning environments that blend the real and the artificial to maximize learning for all of our students?!
So … back to my story … This morning, I’m walking my dog Harley around 6:00am; it’s still dark outside where I live at 6:00am (latitude 42.187665, longitude -87.804106). In the sky, over the horizon to the east, I noticed a really bright and large object in space (in the sky). I accessed my longitude and latitude at work using my computer’s virtual assistant and global positioning satellite technology. Was this use of artificial intelligence any less accurate or meaningful than if I had found a paper map or used a globe to determine the longitude and latitude? What is artificial about my determining lat/long? Is it less valid since I used “the computer” to get my answer?
My schema/prior or background knowledge led me to believe that the object I saw in the sky was a planet. It was really bright and larger than what I have seen in the past as stars.
As a learner, I learned that really bright large stars are often planets that can be seen by the eye without a telescope at certain points in the year due to orbits and the like. I’ll call that knowledge or intelligence “natural intelligence” as opposed to artificial intelligence, or AI.
So, I asked my dog if it was a planet, but my dog Harley wasn’t sure if it was a planet (just joking); I went to my (really) smartphone and opened up the app Star Tracker, one of many apps that turn your phone into a night star landscape astronomically speaking. So, in a matter of seconds, I turned the app on, I pointed my smartphone in the direction of the bright light in the sky, and lo and behold, it, the artificial intelligence via the app Star Tracker, projected the astro map including the location of the planet of Venus on the display of my smartphone.
I was looking at the sky through the screen on my smartphone and I “saw” the planets, constellations, stars, etc., and with my eye and my natural intelligence (or schema) I saw the bright light … matched up or aligned the smartphone with the AI app and my belief that the bright light was a planet was affirmed.
Now, when I was a boy, I learned that there were 9 planets (I know there are 8 now) and I knew this from the mnemonic device my very elegant mother just sat upon nine porcupines (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and what used to be considered a planet, Pluto). This mnemonic device
identified the planets in our solar system in location from the sun to “outer space”. Today when I saw Venus with my eyes and then had this fact validated by an app on my smartphone — with further validation and checking from me “asking” my phone’s virtual assistant if Venus was visible in Deerfield, Illinois today — to which “she” verified this fact.
So I go back to the title of this blog post: What’s so artificial about artificial intelligence (AI)?
The AI from my phone’s operating system and the app on the phone seem to be validating actual intelligence — what’s so artificial about this? I took my own
natural intelligence; background & prior knowledge, schema activated by my interest (from youth and adulthood) of astronomy & constellations, stars, and planets and then used tools at my fingertips to affirm and enhance the star gazing experience. My choice and voice made my learning experience relevant, meaningful, engaging and memorable.
For modern education and instruction that’s engaging and relevant, I submit we educators and we educational leaders need to integrate and bridge machine learning, so called artificial intelligence, and good old fashioned interest, engagement, relevance, and choice!
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”– Napoleon Hill
Dear North Shore School District 112 Community,
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to share a message of thanks on behalf of the Board of Education and the leadership team of North Shore School District 112. In District 112, we have so much for which we are thankful. Each day, when I reflect on my service and work, I am so thankful for my job. I am lucky to work with so many talented, professional and effective educators in such an engaged and thoughtful community!
Teachers and staff: This year, especially: Thank you. You have been faced with change this year, and you continue to rise to every challenge on our journey of continuous improvement. The important work you do puts the children of our communities on the path to success. We are also thankful for your emphasis on kindness and caring. You help your students learn and grow into kind, caring, compassionate people who can work collaboratively to resolve problems and challenges. Kindness is perhaps the most important quality you teach.
Parents, thank you for raising children who come to us ready to learn, and do so with kindness for each other and respect for the adults who teach them. Thanks, too, for your never-ending support of our schools. You generously and continuously give your time and energy so our schools are happy places.
A special thanks to grandparents. You have modeled the way for your children to be excellent parents, and your unconditional love for your grandchildren stays with them throughout every school day.
To our community members who make supporting the local schools a priority and a focus – we thank you as well! We firmly believe in educating all children in a learning environment with high expectations. As the center of the community, all of the schools in Highland Park and Highwood are honored to Inspire, Innovate and Engageeach and every person to the best of their abilities each and every day.
With warm regards,
Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
“No esperes El tiempo nunca será justo.”
– Napoleon Hill
Estimada comunidad del distrito 112,
A medida que nos acercamos a las vacaciones de Acción de Gracias, quiero compartir un mensaje de agradecimiento en nombre de la Junta de Educación y el equipo de liderazgo del Distrito Escolar North Shore 112. En el Distrito 112, tenemos muchas cosas por las que estamos agradecidos. Cada día, cuando reflexiono sobre mi servicio y trabajo, estoy muy agradecido por mi trabajo. ¡Tengo la suerte de trabajar con tantos educadores talentosos, profesionales y efectivos en una comunidad tan comprometida y atenta!
Maestros y personal: Este año, especialmente: Gracias. Se han enfrentado al cambio este año y continúan superando todos los desafíos en nuestro viaje de mejora continua. El importante trabajo que realizan pone a los niños de nuestras comunidades en el camino hacia el éxito. También estamos agradecidos por su énfasis en la bondad y el cuidado. Ayudan a sus estudiantes en aprender y convertirse en personas amables, comprensivas y compasivas que pueden trabajar en colaboración para resolver problemas y desafíos. La amabilidad es quizás la cualidad más importante que enseñan.
Padres, gracias por criar a los hijos que vienen a nosotros listos para aprender, y lo hacen con amabilidad y respeto por los adultos que les enseñan. Gracias, también, por su apoyo interminable a nuestras escuelas. Ustedes generosamente y continuamente dan su tiempo y energía para que nuestras escuelas sean lugares felices.
Un agradecimiento especial a los abuelos. Han modelado el camino para que sus hijos sean excelentes padres, y su amor incondicional por sus nietos los acompaña a lo largo de cada día escolar.
A los miembros de nuestra comunidad que hacen que el apoyo a las escuelas locales sea una prioridad y un enfoque, ¡también les agradecemos! Creemos firmemente en la educación de todos los niños en un ambiente de aprendizaje con altas expectativas. Como centro de la comunidad, todas las escuelas de Highland Park y Highwood tienen el honor de inspirar, innovar y comprometer a todas y cada una de las personas de la mejor manera posible cada día.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
On my first trip to the People’s Republic of China, 🇨🇳, as a delegate in the 2018 Chinese – American Principal Delegation, I was nervous, excited, proud and open minded. I was nervous about o leaving my family for an extended period of time, andI was excited to learn about an ancient and respected culture, and I was open minded as I was about to represent my school district with the hope of bringing Mandarin language and Chinese culture into the North Shore School District 112 curriculum & instructional programming.
In this blog post, I’ll share some background, purpose, images, and perspective from this amazing professional learningmission.
Over the years, I have visited Mexico, Germany, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and other foreign nations as part of educational and cultural exchange, exploration and leadership development.
Each trip and set of experiences makes me a better leader who can view the world and its beauty and challenges through lenses beyond those I normally see the world through. In addition, my service to the leaders who work for and with me as well as to the community as a whole become enhanced and improved by these global experiences.
With respect to this trip, the flight to China from Chicagowas a non-stop plane ride from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Beijing, China.We literally flew around the world in about 14 hours. I was traveling with a group from the College Board. There were educational leaders, board members, teachers, and others in the groups traveling on this K12China Bridge Delegation. In conjunction with the Confucius Institute (Hanban), leaders like me visit China’s schools, cultural sites, and business & economic zones on a mission of public diplomacy and educational exchange.
All in all, our delegation had about 150 educational leaders from all over the United States. Once in China, after initial meetings and orientation in Beijing, we were organized into 6 groups to visit 6 provinces around China. Our hosts in Beijing and in the provinces our groups visited rolled out the red carpet in terms of warmth, welcome, pride, and intensity.
The intensity that the Chinese support education is impressive. Teachers are highly honored professionals in the nation and in the culture overall. The schools I visited took such great pride in their founders, former principals, and teachers, made an impact on how we present our schools in the US. For example, it was normal and typical to have extensive physical space allocated for teacher offices and collaboration, school history museum areas, and student art galleries.
In addition to the many school visits and the educational forums with colleagues in China, we had opportunities to visit, explore, engage, and learn at some of the most famous and important cultural sites in the world. These included parts of the Great Wall of China as well as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, as well as additional sites in the provinces. From the sights, sounds, overall experience of traveling abroad and feeling like a newcomer to our country must feel, it was exciting, overwhelming, stressful, and rewarding at the same time. We were engaged from early in the morning to late in the night every day we were on the delegation. We visited elementary schools, high schools, and we also spent a full day of observations, interactionsand seminar work at Beijing Language and Culture University. We really got to glimpse and experience the full range of Chinese educational programming.
The American educators in the large group as well as the smaller groups shared common bonds of education leadership vision. Whether we carried the professional title of superintendent, director, principal, assistant principal, etc. we all shared the common bonds of care for the future of our nation through education. We all shared the common bonds of passion for leadership through open minded and open hearted global exchange and learning. We all shared the common bonds of becoming travelers instead oftourists. We were traveling to China to meet with and form and sustain people to people relationships on behalf of a larger global purpose beyond our individual and local objectives.
There are incredible opportunities to embrace globalism and global partnership in support of diplomacy, education, economics, and the overall future through education explorations and missions like this one.
The sights and sounds of China gripped us and impacted us from the moment we landed in Beijing’s airport. The historic Chinese language of characters was all around us as was the bilingual nature of English transliteration as well as English audio and visual translation. The world is bilingual and trilingual, and in many parts of the world, multi-lingual (beyond 3 languages). As Americans, we sometimes fall into a complacent state since “everyone learns English” — but language is far more than the ability to get from point a to point b. Language is the windows into one’s culture — it’s a personal connector; through partnerships and learning we can join various cultures together.
As part of the 2018 Chinese-American Principal Delegation, we were met by enthusiastic and able tour guides and representatives of Hanban, & the College Board. We American delegates were eager to dive in and get started on thisamazing, life-changing set of adventures. International travel is challenging in and of itself with time, distance and time changes, it’s also a challenge when you are entering a culture different from your own with unknown opportunities and plans and food, etc.
The Chinese hosts treated us like “rock stars” with local news coverage (TV, other media) as well as “paparazzi” like photographic documentation of the visits. In addition, at the Chongqing international forum, we were joined by Yong Zhao, famous author, speaker, and professor at the University of Kansas. Zhao student taught at the high school where we were gathered and he joined us to provide a keynote presentation as well as moderatea set of speeches from several of us from the USA and China.
The current realities of our school district are untapped potential for excellence through paralyzing “in fighting” and aversion to change and progress. Therefore, it’s highly energizing for me to see the future reality in the current opportunities. One of the many realities involves a world class education system emerging fromthe current one with enhanced language and culture offerings beyond and in addition to the current English and Spanish offerings. By expanding the current language and cultural offerings, we’ll take our school district to higher and more appealing heights. As the chief learner (so to speak) it’s my job to model the way by seeking additional challenges and experiences on behalf of students and staff. By joining the delegation, I became a global ambassador from my community in and with my Chinese counterparts.
My delegation group of 25 went from Beijing to Chongqing; Chongqing is a special economic and government area, like a county or municipal zone, that reports directly to the central government (like Shanghai, and a few other large and significant areas in China). Chongqing has a population around thirty million people; China, as you may know, has a population of more than 1.4 BILLION people. To say that the scale of buildings, roads, and the country as a whole isimpressive is an understatement. The campuses of the K-12 schools we visited were like US community college campuses or even university campuses in terms of physical size and scope. In my delegation, we had representation from Utah, Illinois, Florida, Texas, California, Ohio, New York, and Nevada.
Our individual experiences and sharing helped enrich the dialogue among us as well as with our Chinese hosts. Some inthe delegation, like those in Utah, have more than a decade of deep Chinese language and culture programming K-12. Others, like me, were on their first journey into the People’s Republic of China and into the possibility of adding Chinese language and culture to our local school districts and school communities.
In the US, it’s typical to have a K-12 classroom with 25 students (18-30); in China,it is far more common to have class sizes of 40-60. The Chinese and American political systems, histories, cultural norms, and lifestyles have many differences yet both cultures place high value and importance on education and child development (in parts of the US, the value has ebbed and flowed and perhaps my declarative should be more aspirational). But both nations invest in educational growth and progress. The system of education in China is centralized while the system of education in the US is decentralized.
The education system in China is following a group/national set of expectations while in our country, the education system is highly individualized and locally controlled. This adds to the fascination for a visit of this scope. I’ve visited other centralized educational systems in the Americas and in Europe; like with everything, there are pros and cons, opportunities and limitations in bothsystems. The key for delegation visits like this is not to compare and contrast, but instead, to integrate and learn. Like Confucius said: “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”, the goal of this delegation visit is for many miles (figuratively and literally) and this first visit of mine represents the first steps toward the journey and the collaboration between our new Chinese friends and the district I represent.
At the end of the day, and to start, as a result of my journey, whether we start to have one classroom teacher engage with one of the Chinese teachers with whomI met, or whether we create and offer sustained and long term Mandarin language programming, the trip and this formal visit will positively impact my personal leadership and the improvement of my school district. After visiting multiple schools, classrooms, formal settings, and cultural and historic sites, I can clearly see a long-term, sustainable educational partnership emerge between the North Shore School District 112 and schools I visited in Chongqing, China. The beautyof Chongqing was impressive; mountains, rivers, bridges, high rises, lights, food (“hot pot”), historic locales, and so much more, enhanced our education focused mission.
As our Board of Education gets ready to make a historic vote to approve the Long Range Plan Phase I recommendation on November 27, I’ll share more insightsinto this experience and the overall vision of growth, improvement, change, and leadership for my administration in the District.
We’ll be sure to share updates on the Long Range Plan webpage, district communications (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as well as at our live-streamed video and archived video system.
Sharing excerpts from a Board Presentation I made on Nov. 27 highlighting elements of the Journey to China! See video on slide 4: