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Respecting our Differences, Rather than Erasing our Differences

This year, for spring break, my wife and I are redoing our kitchen.

There are some things that I really want to learn how to do, and will spend hours studying so that I can understand them better. (Technology and leadership.)

Then, there are some things that I can learn, and learn quickly. (How to lay vinyl flooring.)

Then, there are some things where I can understand in principle how to do it, but I cannot ever do it "right." (How to hang cabinets, sew, and tie knots.)

A big part of our education system is broken, and I believe that it is in part broken because of this exact problem that I am learning this week.

Everyone has different skill sets, talents, passions, abilities, life experiences, and dispositions.

Rather than respecting and honoring those differences, we seek to make everyone the same.

We really need to find a way to make respect our differences, rather than erase our differences.

Worth it.

I was talking to a disheartened student today. He was really down because of his grades.

They were bad.

I talked with him and he was still down. I told him I was proud of him for a decision he made earlier that day because it showed he had integrity, even when others didn’t want him to make that choice.

I got him working with our student learning coach, and checked in after about 30 minutes.

He was chipper and happy.

I asked what changed.

He said, “I guess it is just that people saw me for who I was on the inside, not just the outside.”

What we do with kids matters.

My Testimony for Alaska State Legislature

My name is Jethro Jones, resident in Fairbanks and school principal in Alaska for the last five years. My whole time in Alaska I have seen budget cuts and had to lay off great, excited, young teachers. It’s hard to find people to teach our kids in Alaska. And harder still with budget cuts looming. While the PFD may be important it should not be a choice between funding public education or cutting education by 25% in order to pay for the PFD. Please honor the commitment made last year to continue forward funding education at high levels so we can meet the needs of our students, the future.

It’s not hard to write a few sentences to advocate for education.

Sharing Ideas

Sharing ideas is important.

When you share an idea, it can take on a life of its own.

When you share an idea, other people can add to it or take away from it.

This happened to me last week, when I asked a colleague for feedback, and she gave me something even better than what I was planning.

It's amazing.

Over initiatived

There is an ancient proverb, some attribute to the Russians, others to the Chinese:

“He who chases two rabbits catches none!”

When deciding what our focuses are in school, we need to narrow it down as much as we can.

One focus.

At my school, everything serves personalizing learning. If we’re not doing that, we shouldn’t be spending time on it.

Sometimes, we have to do other things, but everything that I am doing is focused on that one objective.

We Should Not Try to Raise Graduation Rates

I saw a stat about a public school that raised graduation rates from 55% to 82%.

Here’s the problem: raising graduation rates in most situations means “We found a way to get kids to sit in their chairs longer!”

We need to change school, not keep kids in their seats longer.

A high school graduation means a kid sat in a chair for a certain number of hours.

When are we going to start talking about how to make sure kids are ready for life after high school?

Teach to Mastery not Test Scores

It's always good to review great TED talks. Here's one by Sal Khan.

Even though this conversation has been going on for years, we are still, by and large, still doing school the same way we have always done it.

What will it take for us to move to a mastery or competency-based system? We need to have the conversations.

The hard part is that it is hard. It takes effort for teachers, who already work hard, to do things differently. To stop trying to cover, and start trying to ensure mastery.

A real question is, what happens when kids start to master things?

They start to believe they can do it.

Can you imagine if all kids started to believe they could learn anything?