One of the amazing things about my job, is the ability to learn from so many amazing individuals. Donna DeSiato is one of those leaders. The vision for education, as well as the moves they are making to make that a reality, show the importance of leadership and bringing people together. The “system” is always made up of individuals, and those individuals coming together can make a significant difference.
Some of the nuggets that I gleaned from her that day (paraphrased):
“If we(educators) only focus on standards and tests, why would our parents focus on anything else?”
“We have to give permission to go beyond the test.”
“We must provide permission, support, and protection. Permission is the opportunity to try new things that we aren’t sure work yet. Support is ensuring the professional learning is in place to help educators get to the next level. Protection is ensuring that if things don’t work out the way things were planned, that are teachers know they are safe.”
As I did not get these quotes exactly the way Donna said them, hopefully I got the general meaning behind what she was saying. Inspiring words from a superintendent.
Yet one thing Donna shared REALLY stuck with me. It was regarding something that she says to parents during any showcase within her district’s work:
“We know that we have state standards and requirements that we are supposed to meet, but that is just one of the ways we show our learning. Tonight, we show another aspect of our learning and I hope you can see the impact it has had on the learning of the students. Please enjoy.”
What I found fascinating about this approach, is that Donna is making the explicit connection with her community on the importance of learning in a many different forms and mediums. She understands that there is a “box”, but that innovation is happening within these constraints, and it is important to highlight them. As I have said before, grades do not tell the story of a child. Are we explicit with those ways that we share these stories with our communities, as well as why they are so important?