This Old (School) House

A typical school entrance building in AustraliaImage via Wikipedia

My house was built in 1953 – we bought it in the early 2000's.  We've put in new floors, repainted a few times and been redoing things.  Anyone can build a new house, but if you have an older one in good shape, that says a lot about the people who live there.  At least that is what I tell myself as I struggle to “whip things in shape” around here.

As I was working in the front yard today, it struck me that this relates to what is happening in education. If you have the time and money and resources you can build a new school and have exactly what you want — TODAY. But how long will you have it?  The longevity of a school is determined by the culture and the leadership and the teachers and ecosystem that evolves in that place.  Sure, starting from scratch is attractive and if you have a complete failure of a school (or a termite-ridden house) – this could make sense.  But most often, we have existing schools and have to re-work, reinstitute, re-do and improve things. 

I just think that often the desire to start over completely is sometimes needed but with budget cuts and struggles we instead need to re-invent ourselves.

I think the part that irritates me most in the US is hearing politicians criticize the “state of education” when their many mandates and true lack of understanding of schools and what is needed is much of what has put education in the state that it is in. 

The point is that systemic educational improvement on a nationwide basis – means the empowerment of each school to do what it takes in their location to reach their students and when we're being pushed to massive standardization, you pull some of the uniqueness that makes schools special, unique, and distinct from one another.

Again, I'm thinking out loud here – but I just have my own frame of reference which is a measly $25,000 a year budget to maintain 100 computers – 4 servers and buy whatever new we need and our computers are OLD — we can still collaborate globally and do some really cool things WITHOUT the money.  The answer is not money it is heart.

Heart to fix up the old schoolhouse — energy, tenacity, and some old fashioned sweat.

We've got what we've got – we have to use what we have.  But we can view this time as an opportunity to get busy or we can whine about the “good old days” which probably weren't much better than today — or we can long for that money to start from scratch and have a good new school for a few years which will eventually turn into a school that needs to be renovated and redone again – just like the ones we have.

For me, it is kind of like this 40 year old body of mine — I've got to make the best of it – I'm not getting a new one.  I can look at myself in the mirror and criticize and complain or I can do the best with what I have and renew my mind daily and push myself to be more and do more.

So many schools are doing amazing things! There are many great stories out there.  We have to focus on what we're doing and what we can control. We cannot control politicians or corrupt school boards or parents who don't care if their kids come home much less do their homework.

You and I are educators – we CAN control a few things:

    The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. Grubleren, in Ny...

  • Our attitude
  • Our work ethic
  • Our classroom
  • Who we decide to listen to.

This is your day – this is your schoolhouse. Throughout history there have been people who were in tough situations who have overcome – they are called HEROES. 

HEROES and HEROINES do not emerge in easy, relaxing times but rather are hewn from the rock of impossible situations.

Chip. Chip. Chip.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Matthew Walton March 30, 2010 - 8:17 pm

I loved this blog. It is so true that people waste so much time complaining about what they do not have, and if they spent that time fixing up what they do they would be much better off. Also, I liked the part you said about how people are always trying to make every school the same and taking the uniqueness out of the schools. I think this is another huge mistake that school districts are making.

Eric April 6, 2010 - 2:46 pm

What an inspiring way of looking at education. I hear it often and I agree, don’t complain unless you can offer some solutions. We need more renovations and less criticism of what is currently set up.

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