On September 6, the doors to the “school house” opened for students! We had a great day across the district that Tuesday as we welcomed students for the 2016-2017 school year. Although we had some struggles with the detours through Cold Spring as buses arrived for the day, much of the rest of the day—and week—went very well!
Our initial reports indicate that enrollment, for the fourth consecutive year, shows a slight increase. We are about twenty students higher than we projected—which is good news for the ROCORI District! The opening day numbers were slightly higher than we completed the last school year.
As we opened the year, I shared some thoughts with our school staff about how we, as a school organization and institution, should approach the year. I would like to share the same thoughts here!
“ARE YOU READY?”
During the month of August, as we approach the start of a school year, I am frequently asked, “are you ready for the start of another year?” I find this to be an interesting question and one that is hard to answer! The challenge is that, in my experience, “ready” is a hard word to measure!
Readiness includes so many different things. There are mental, physical, emotional, and other elements to being “ready.” We can be ready in some areas and not quite ready in others.
Buildings can be clean and the physical setting can be prepared, but it may not “feel” like we should be starting school. Temperatures may cool and the air can have a fall feeling, but we may not feel like the summer has been complete.
There are a lot of ways to be “ready” for school but we may not reach them all at the same time!
SHIFT TO STUDENTS
Quite frequently, we, in turn, ask the same question of our students. We ask students a lot of “ready” questions!
“Are you ready for kindergarten?” “Are you ready for third grade?” “Are you ready for middle school?” “Are you ready for classes at the senior high level?” “Are you ready to be a senior?”
We ask our students if they are ready for a lot of things! Although I understand the question we ask of students, I think it is really not fair for us to ask them if they are ready.
In a very subtle way, the assumption behind each of these questions places the responsibility on the students. We place an expectation on the student to have done everything necessary or to make sure that they are fully prepared to move to the next stage.
While students do have some responsibility, we have responsibility as educational institutions to accept the students as they come to us—ready or not—and move them forward.
As I have journeyed through this past summer, the question of being “ready” has been posed in many different ways and has caused me to spend considerable time thinking about the question of “being ready.”
At various conferences and trainings, a shift in the concept of “ready” was reinforced. I was reminded more fully of the responsibility that rests on the institution than the responsibility that rests on the student.
There is no question it is important for students to invest in their education. However, their past experiences, previous trainings, skills and abilities, family settings, and many other factors that students bring each day should not be limiting factors in continuing and extending their education.
As the “institution of school”, we need to flip the equation around and place the expectation on us! The rapidly changing world in which we now live adds to the responsibility we hold as schools. I truly believe we, as a school and staff, have a greater responsibility to be “ready” for the students we receive as our doors open.
The focus of “readiness” needs to ask the question this way: Are we (schools) prepared to take the students—no matter how they come to us—and bring them to a higher level?
COLOR CRAYON EXAMPLE
When I first got to the ROCORI District, I often used the example of the color crayon to illustrate this point. I have shared that each of our classrooms of students is very much like an assortment of color crayons!
There is an array of colors when you look at crayons. Crayons come in various sizes and shapes. Crayons can be big crayons or little crayons. They may come in 8 packs, 64 packs, or 154 packs! We may encounter new crayons, used crayons, or broken crayons. Crayons may come to us with extensive use or very little previous use.
The point is that each crayon is different. Crayons, while alike in many ways, each have their unique elements—color, size, history, use. We don’t expect a crayon to come to us “ready” to be anything—we expect to take the crayon, as it is, and make the most of what it offers.
CHALLENGE TO STAFF
My challenge to our school staff, as we begin the 2016-2017 school year, is that we need to be an institution that is “ready” for our students—however they may come to us and regardless of their size, color, history or use.
Our task is to take our students, as they are, and make the most of the educational experience for them. Our job is to grow our students from where they are to where we want them to be!
It has been an exciting couple weeks as we have prepared to open the school doors to students. We have a lot of great things happening in the ROCORI Schools—with many things for which we can be very proud!
Our preparations will allow us to meet students and their needs as they come to us—regardless of their background, history, or level of preparation! We trust it will be an exciting and valuable journey through the 2016-2017 school year!