Is Your Main Thing the Main Thing?

Wonderful week in the life of our schools. Monday brought a variety of opportunities for professional development and collaboration. Several of our teachers enjoyed another outstanding session with Chuck at the Science Museum – we continue to be thrilled with that partnership.

Several of us enjoyed an outstanding session with Yong Zhao at the University of Richmond Thursday night. Using the backdrop of the current economic climate and historical perspectives concern education around the world, Yong challenged us to stop preparing students to become employees – and start preparing them for what global citizenship and success in today’s landscape really calls for: entrepreneurship and creativity.

Matt Covington, Erin Yearout-Patton, Sarah Rowan, Beth Ferguson, Bea Cantor, Peter Martin, Dianna Gordon and Board member, JD Wright, experience internationally recognized author & speaker, Yong Zhao at University of Richmond.

Dianna Gordon, Director of Elementary Instruction, offered an inspirational view of the Elementary Enrichment Day. Click here to learn about this exciting event and see a picture of Terry Hazelton, White Hawk Cafe, performing for your children!

As mentioned last week, Dr. Geyer delivered a fascinating look at GCPS numeracy & literacy achievement data in comparison to our regional neighbors, divisions in VA who spend the most per student delivering education, and those who spend the same as Gooochland does. We remain in the top two or three in every comparison. In addition, Goochland was one of 34 divisions out of the 132 in the state that met the new AMO’s (Annual Measurable Objectives).

From the BLOGS:

Last week I shared that Lisa Landrum, Supervisor of School Nutrition, had collaborated with the principals to develop a partnership with the Food Pantry. A student-led project at all five schools began this week in which students are able to share certain unused food items with the community. Mike Newman, GHS Principal, explains more below:

Don’t miss The Goochland Players’ production of Dracula, coming November 2-4 at Goochland High School. Liz Khuns, Director, and Neil Burch, Producer, invite you to experience this unique production. Find more information on Neil’s blog here – and make plans NOW to attend.

November 2-4, Dracula at Goochland High School!

I noticed yesterday ASCD is soliciting anecdotal essays about best practices for student engagement.  Click here for the details.

We’ve talked a lot about engagement here in Goochland. In fact, it’s becoming our first priority in so much as it is fostered in an environment of sound, challenging instruction and pedagogy. We aren’t the only ones having that conversation. Educators around the globe are gradually making the shift from emphasizing achievement scores to pushing (and measuring) engagement and intrinsic motivation.

We’re all beginning to see that setting up a bar on a given morning, then spending the next year celebrating the success with which we got kids over that bar – and designing complex intervention on behalf of those that missed it – is not the grand vision we signed up for.

When I asked our Leadership Team what impact they wanted to have, not one of them mentioned test scores. They certainly want them to be good. But that’s not the purpose to which we want to devote such a big chunk of ourselves. We want more. So do parents. And kids.

Engagement requires a relentless appeal to students’ interests and passions. Their individual strengths have to be important to us, which means we need to have relationships that have ensured that we know our students. In that context – only – we can begin to cultivate the propensity each student has to realize the unimaginable and to do truly great things.

Sir Ken Robinson has made the assertion that most of us have no idea what we’re really capable of doing – not just students, children, but adults. Too many children enter school creative and come out disconnected from their own creativity. How does that happen?

One way is to de-prioritize our children’s creative genius and make isolated literacy & numeracy skills our end game. The world for which we are preparing our students cares little about their ability to excel in those academic building blocks if they cannot apply them in complex situations that demand problem solving, innovation, and internal drive. In other words – creativity.

We have to stay more enamored with the big picture than with where kids – and teachers –  have colored outside the lines. Goethe said, “The things that matter most must never be subject to the things that matter the least.” That’s not always the case in public education – anywhere – unless the leadership is intentional about causing that to be the case.

Are children the only ones who get alienated from their creativity over the course of “doing school?” What about the rest of us, the adults? Do our innovative spirits stay in tact as we push through our various roles?

Again, how much more important are the important things than the unimportant ones? What does the division value?

Let me ask it differently. Do our mission and vision statements unite us to seek a common purpose that not only taps our creativity but encourages - even develops - it? Is your innovation central to our ability to move forward, or is it in the way?

Our behaviors reveal the true answers to those questions.

Accountability measures don’t crush creativity in children. Regulations and bureaucracy don’t rob adults of their entrepreneurial innovation. We aren’t automatically disengaged by things that don’t appeal to our creative genius. We disengage when the things that require the least from us are more valuable to the organization than the things that require our best. It’s the importance we place on those rudiments that can eclipse what’s meaningful, what’s really at stake.

We disengage when the things that require the least from us are more valuable to the organization than the things that require our best.


And therein lies one of the fine arts of leading others. Identifying what’s really important and ensuring it stays at the top of the priority list – when you’re building a budget & cutting checks, in the hiring process and evaluation meetings, during Board room discussions, and most especially in classrooms.

Define your Core, decide what you believe, know who you are – and live & lead accordingly.

As we press ahead towards the goal of defining our mission, who we are & what we believe – let’s keep the main thing the main thing.


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