Your Schools: What will new school year bring for teachers, staff, students?As we enter the final days of preparation for school starting on Sept. 1, I find I’m being asked quite often by citizens how the teachers, staff, and administrators are doing in light of the tumultuous spring we had in Wisconsin and the many new laws affecting education.
By: Tom Westerhaus, School Superintendent, River Falls Journal
As we enter the final days of preparation for school starting on Sept. 1, I find I’m being asked quite often by citizens how the teachers, staff, and administrators are doing in light of the tumultuous spring we had in Wisconsin and the many new laws affecting education.
Having just come off of two straight days of meetings with the administrative team, I can honestly say that principals and central office administrators are just as eager and professional in planning for the coming year as they have always been. Conversations about why we do what we do, leading in tumultuous times, action plans for implementing specific parts of the district’s Strategic Plan, and the many details for starting school off on a good note…all of these permeated our two days of the in-district administrative retreat.
Likewise, making sure we have a coherent and sequential K-12 curriculum, analyzing instructional practices that ensures successful teaching and student learning occurs, training in new approaches for supervising employees, and finding ways for better assessment of students in formative (ongoing) and summative (comprehensive) ways were part of our professional development of our district’s leaders led by Director of Academic Services Mike Johnson.
As for teachers and staff members, while many of them have been working in their classrooms, attending workshops, and preparing materials and lessons for the coming year, I don’t yet have a full sense as to how the past legislative session is affecting individual employees as they begin the new 2011-12 school year.
I have, however, met many of our newly hired teachers and staff members and I am duly impressed with their backgrounds, educational achievements, and eagerness to face their students and tackle the important work of educating our children. I’ll have a better chance to size up the “Class of 2011” during new teacher inservice held this week, but I’m predicting that the hard work of administrators this summer to hire over 30 new employees will certainly pay big dividends for our district this year.
I have also made a concerted effort to interview various employees who are not new to the district and have been a part of the district for several years. I asked them simply, “What worries you in the coming year?”
Here are some of their answers I’ve heard so far:
“Being the best teacher I can be for my students; the volatile economy and financial crisis of our country; retirement and health insurance; intolerance and lack of civility throughout our state and nation; the political climate and the role of government; growing poverty and income disparity; looming budget cuts; diminished support for education; our facilities’ physical needs; knowing what to change in public education, and how, in order to better meet student needs in the 21st century; collective bargaining; the struggling farm and business economies; jobs for our students’ parents; the what’s-in-it-for-me mentality; and a declining priority placed on our nation’s children.”
Conversely, I’ve also heard from many of my employees telling me how eager they are for the new year, and how increasingly important they see their role in helping to bring hope and possibility and excitement to their students this fall. One astute teacher said, “This is the only shot that a student gets at 3rd grade, and I’m going to make it their best year ever!”
I’m reminded of two readings as we start this school year.
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
“I am the Child.
All the world waits for my coming.
All the earth watches with interest to see what I shall become.
Civilization hangs in the balance, for what I am, the world of tomorrow will be.
I am the Child.
I have come into your world, about which I know nothing.
Why I came I know not;
How I came I know not.
I am curious; I am interested.
I am the Child.
You hold in your hand my destiny.
You determine, largely, whether I shall succeed or fail.
Give me, I pray you, those things that make for happiness.
Train me, I beg you, that I may be a blessing to the world.”
—(Mamie Gene Cole)
Have a great school year, students, staff, parents, and the River Falls community! We’re ready to give everyone our best!