18 March 2013

ASCD 2013: Celebrate

I had the honor of meeting representatives from this year's winner of the ASCD’s Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. This award is given to schools that have done an outstanding job of developing students who are "knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling" (full press release here). In other words, they recognize that we are in not in the business of creating widgets---we work with people. They go above and beyond to walk that talk. This year, the award was won by Milwaukie High School in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Here is a brief summary of the work they've done on behalf of their students.
  • Raised $600K to build a health center for students to access free care for physical, emotional, and dental needs.
  • Both staff and students participate in various service projects throughout the community, including social issues (such as addressing the needs of the homeless) and environmental (restoring wetlands).
  • Increasing cultural competency has been a primary focus of ongoing professional development.
  • A system of support has been put in place for students and families. For example, if a student is not coming to school, there is an effort involving public services, school, and the family to determine the reason and address the barriers.This can include additional tutoring, connection to area non-profits to help solve family problems, or anything else that helps build a healthy student who is ready to learn.
  • Building partnerships with the community. At current count, there are 28 different partners who step in to assist students and families. 
I won't claim that every school can (or needs) to replicate what this school has done. They are truly a superschool---and for me, a very inspirational model showing what can happen when a community comes together around common goals. It makes my little grinch heart grows three sizes.

The group from the school who was comprised of five men. The principal, Mark Pinder, is a well-spoken and kind man. He looked a bit overwhelmed and a bit like Charlie Brown's teacher at the Christmas pageant ("Isn't this the best thing ever?"). It was the most endearing expression I've seen in a long time. The rest of the group was equally delightful and committed. And while I did ask about their group being limited to pale males, I was assured that they are being active in increasing the diversity of staff.

We so rarely take time to celebrate accomplishments in this profession. We are focused on continual improvement---which is not a bad thing, but sometimes you just need to get your happy dance on. So with that spirit in mind, kudos to Milwaukie High School!

There was another teacher-blogger at the table who was was singularly unimpressed with this school...because they don't blog about their work.


When the issue was raised about how they shared their work and whether they used social media, I watched the body language in the principal change. He used the thumbs of his interlaced hands to touch and reassure himself. This was not a conversation he wanted to have. (A little later, I whispered to him, "Are you okay?" He said he was. I told him not to worry...I'd fight for him. He seemed to relax a bit after that.)

I pointed out that this school was sharing. They were here at the conference. They had already talked about opportunities in their state to connect with other educators. They weren't withholding or hiding anything. Just because they don't have a blog or use Twitter doesn't mean that they don't share.

But apparently this wasn't good enough. In fact, they were told that they have a "moral obligation" to share their work. Does the lack of a blog automatically make one immoral...a bad person? But beyond that---whose version of "morality" are we talking about---the white middle-class Christian male one represented by the finger-pointer? Out of all that this school has done to move students forward, the only thing you can think of to say is that they've neglected their moral imperative?

There was further discussion when the teacher from Milwaukie said he didn't have time. The blogger thought that was an "excuse." Maybe it is, but if you're out there making sure your students and families have access to quality care and learning...if you're out raising $600K and building community partnerships...then I think that's a damn good excuse. And frankly, a far more important one than writing a blog post. What would you rather say you did with your time? Published a blog post...or helped a family restore the electrical service to their home?

Hey, if all you want on your tombstone is "He blogged." I'm okay with that. Rock on. What I don't support is a sense of entitlement to impose the same thing on everyone else. If the administration of Milwaukie HS doesn't want to blog, that's fine by me. Blogging is not a one-size-fits-all thing. We are educators. We each share our stories in the ways that make sense for ourselves and our communities.

At the end of the day, I want kids to have a healthy and safe environment, and equitable access to educational opportunities. I want them to learn. And I want them to celebrate every positive step along the way. We, as educators, need to support one another in all of the ways we make that happen---blog or no blog.

So, Milwaukie, go get your party on. I've got your back.

1 comment:

The Science Goddess said...

Via Hugh O'Donnell (who added the comment to my Library post):

Thanks for sticking up for the Milwaukie High folks. Reading this post had me laughing and pissed off at the same time. Reminded me of the old tales of your own teaching in high school and all the "stuff" that went along with that.