Guest blog by Courtney Carpenter, the Principal at Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary school in Midlothian ISD.
Why do we continue to speak of the desperate need for 21st century learning in our schools when the 21st century started 17 years ago? Where is the “let’s do this”; the action part of it? Why do we still see industrialized learning environments focused on compliance and regulations instead of innovation, design-thinking, and character building?
Fear. Failure. Change. Test Scores. TITWWADI. All are reasons and excuses for keeping things the way we’ve always done them, sinking further and further behind in a day and age of choices for parents and for students. Our learners deserve to be exposed to learning outside of the walls of our school. With advances in technology, they are becoming in charge of their own learning, anytime anyplace. They do not necessarily need our school building! We must create experiences for them to WANT to learn with us!
So as a campus leader, where do you start? You start with your own mindset. You start with lighting a flame deep inside for a commitment to do what is right for kids. Reflection, collaboration, seeking collegial conversation outside of your own walls and district – all begin leading you on a journey to grow capacity for transforming education as we know it.
Two years ago, I was charged with a life-changing opportunity. Little did I realize the day I as named as campus principal of a brand new elementary school that my entire professional vision would transform into something that I can truly define as my passion.
Having a full year of support from a brand new superintendent and admin team was monumental in the process. When a new superintendent comes in as a visionary with high expectations, you either choose to grow or stay the same. Growing was my only option and figuring out just HOW to do that became more important than ever – enter doctoral leadership program and the TASA Visioning Document. Both became driving forces behind the vision for transforming the landscape of an elementary campus. It was to start with our new building. Eric Sheninger states, “How do we transform learning environments to make them more reflective of the world our kids be expected to succeed in?”
When you believe in your vision, you begin living it every day. When you hire to match the vision, the vision will be woven into the fabric of every moment of every day and a culture of innovation is born. When you release some of the rules, regulations, and compliance issues the learners will soar beyond expected expectations. We believe it. We live it. We expect it. Raising expectations, trusting that our students will do the right thing. A culture of character is now our way of life. Collaboration from kindergarten to fifth grade. Flexible learning spaces to expand learning environments outside the four walls of a classroom. Innovation through makerspaces and STEM bins. Studying passions through LAMP Time. 1:1 Technology in the hands of teachers and learners to transform learning experiences and connect globally. The sky’s the limit. What is holding YOU back?