Your Schools: When it comes to education, change is the one constantMy 40th high school class reunion this weekend (Class of ’69, Eden Prairie High School, Go Eagles!) has prompted me to reflect on how many new starts to the school year I’ve had in my life.
By: Tom Westerhaus, school superintendent, River Falls Journal
My 40th high school class reunion this weekend (Class of ’69, Eden Prairie High School, Go Eagles!) has prompted me to reflect on how many new starts to the school year I’ve had in my life.
If I calculated right, I think this is my 54th start of school, counting my years as a student, a teacher, a principal, and a school superintendent. Wow! That’s a lot of back-to-school sales!
I’ve witnessed many pendulum swings in education over those years. “A Nation at Risk.” “No Child Left Behind.” “Megatrends.” “Values Clarification.” “Goals 2000.” “School-to-Work.” “Back to the Basics.”
The list goes on … It would be a fair criticism of educators that we rarely, if ever, keep things the same.
But that is also a compliment to education. Just like no two students are ever the same, likewise no two school years are ever exactly the same.
We who work in education are very blessed to have the opportunity to start fresh every fall…new students, new colleagues, new courses, new curriculum.
In a world that changes rapidly, we too, need to change and grow and improve our students’ educational options every year.
Sometimes those changes and possibilities are exciting and invigorating, like those presented to our staff in fall pre-school workshop by speaker and innovator, Jim Benson (“Setting the Base for the Pace of the Race”); or in the prospects that come with our district’s “action planning” phase of strategic planning that begins this fall and will bring enthusiasm and hope for parents and staff, alike.
Sometimes the changes are scary and energy-zapping — like when dealing with $1.5 million less in state aid for education this year than we had anticipated before the legislature set its ’09-’10 budget, forcing us to prepare for 2010 budget cuts that dwarf those made in reductions for this year; or in planning for the mysterious and unpredictable H1N1 swine flu virus and its effect on children and members of the community.
Either way, scary or exciting, change is inevitable, and it is good to have staff and students returning back to our schools for a new year to continue the life-long process of learning, changing, and growing.
Maybe the reason I’m in my 54th year of starting back to school is that I’ve still got so much more to learn! Maybe all of us do.
“Each day I learn more than I teach; I learn that half knowledge of another’s life leads to false judgment. I learn that there is surprising kinship in human nature. I learn that it’s a wise father who knows his own son. I learn that what we expect we get. I learn that there’s more good than evil in this world; that age is a question of spirit; that youth is the best of life no matter how numerous its years. I learn how much there is to learn.”
A special thank you to the editorial staff of the River Falls Journal for once again agreeing to print my columns twice each month in the newspaper for the coming school year. Just when I think no one is reading them, someone mentions they want me to keep writing! So, as long as there’s public interest and educational topics, I’ll continue writing this column.
Thank you, Journal, for giving me a way to speak to the community, and thank you, River Falls School District residents, for listening and letting me know your thoughts on the topics.
Have a great new school year, everyone. It’s a prime opportunity to begin again anew!