by Chante Jillson, Principal, Phillipston Memorial School
As the summer quickly speeds into fall, dreams and fantastic opportunities await in the school year ahead of us. Dreams inspire our passions but, without direction, we never see those dreams come true. A journey is more meaningful when it fulfills a dream and speaks to our passions. A dream is just a dream until you make it come to life.
My family took a family vacation to a place we have never been. We knew our destination, but in order to get there we needed direction. If we had traveled 30 years ago, we would have contacted Triple A to get one of those nifty paper Trip-tiks. Anyone remember those? The page by page spiral flip maps that Triple A highlighted for you mapping out the best route to your destination? Alternate routes were possible but you pretty much stuck to the map. If you were real ‘old school’ you may have planned your trip using your pleather bound atlas; the one your parents gifted you when you got your license, that may have been years outdated!! You just followed that map, page by page, or grid by grid and you got to where you were going. It worked; you didn’t question it; especially if you were traveling to a new place for the first time. Your goal was to just get there.
Fast forward to our recent family trip; we still needed a map. We still needed to get to where we were going, but the difference was we had the beauty of technology. We used an electronic GPS map, an interactive app that got us there and back with ease. It served the same purpose as the Trip-tik paper map, or that handy dandy atlas, but it was “live” so when traffic was backed up or we needed gas or a snack, it provided quick options to change course and meet those needs. We had a virtual advisor giving us advice and support along the way so when there was a need, it was addressed, quickly and immediately! We had options and choice to make the trip more enjoyable and way more easier. We actually avoided a 2 hour back up by a simple route change given to us by our virtual coach. We did not have to struggle through unexpected traffic jams or endless excursions off the highway to find a bathroom or gas station! (In the old days, those excursions or stopping to ask for directions would make or break a relationship! Let’s face it, asking for directions is not an option for some!)
Now, let’s compare trip planning and preparing for a new school year. There isn’t much difference. Years ago, we had limited resources, limited time and a prescribed plan by a program or publishing company. We planned and taught in isolation. Asking for support or getting suggestions to make it better was a sign of weakness or being inept. It was sink or swim on your own. We may have considered roadblocks or traffic jams but, when they happened, we waited, endured and hoped that the light would turn on or we’d just move beyond the wreckage knowing that at least “it was taught.” We spent endless time and money on excursions to that “teacher store.” We’d purchased additional resources at our own expense to make the dream of inspiring our student come alive. How many of us begged to stop at that really cool, really big teacher store on the way home from vacation because it was just off the highway knowing our significant other would really prefer to just keep driving home? These excursions surely tested relationships!
Today, we have so much more to offer to reach the dream of inspiring students to love learning and to seek knowledge. Planning the journey is still essential but the planning is so much more enjoyable. Common standards outline what we need to teach; they make the journey clear. Collaborating with colleagues gives us virtual coaches, advisors and mentors along the way. We still decide how and what to teach, the standards provide the map to reach the dream. The dream that every child can read, think, analyze and evaluate to solve real life problems is the goal of every educator. If we are stuck, we have endless resources at our fingertips. We can search online, collaborate easily with colleagues from within a district, around the state or across the country at anytime. We have coaching, mentors and support at our fingertips. We are not alone or expected to do it by ourselves. We have support to thrive. We can utilize technology resources and websites like Facebook, Twitter, Voxer or Google to maximize our efforts and get support to avoid roadblocks and traffic jams regarding student struggles and learning trajectories. It makes our dreams, our passions, come alive.
So as the new year approaches, seize the opportunities to make that dream a reality. Plan well and make it easier by using all the resources available to you. May your journey be enjoyable. Try a new resource that you haven’t dared use because you were skeptical. That GPS mapping system we used on this trip, well, let’s say it was met with resistance and skepticism but now, it’s a most trusted friend. Reach out to spread your wings this year and embrace the fantastic opportunities to make this your best school year journey yet! Make your dreams come to life this year by planning well!
Chante Jillson is currently the Principal at Phillipston Memorial School, a PK-4 school in Phillipston MA. She taught Special Education, Kindergarten, and First Grade for 23 years before becoming a Principal. She can be reached on twitter@chantejillson, FB@Chante Jillson or Voxer @cjillson
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