"School has definitely changed..."
The title quote came from a recent visit from our local State House Representative Nancy Jenkins during the 'takeaway' segment of her "Bring Your Legislator to School Day" visit to our school district. Our day was jam packed (Agenda Here), with visits to the Board of Education office, visits to our Elementary, Middle and High Schools as well as a lunch with student government representatives for a Q & A session.
My role after securing the visit was as Rep. Jenkins' guide throughout her day. Our trip showcased classrooms centered on self-paced and/or differentiated lessons that had frequent use of technology and concluded with a meeting between our Superintendent and Rep. Jenkins which I had the pleasure of moderating.
Her visit resulted in 2 big payoffs for not only our school but for education policy in general:
1. It raised awareness and opened a line of communication with our legislators for staff and students.
Staff members were anxious to know what Rep Jenkins thought of her trip. Engagement with legislators and their personal opinions is rarely part of an educators day. Typically laws are passed and educators may like/dislike them but they feel as if it is an inevitable/ever-changing part of the job versus something they can have an effect on. After this visit multiple staff members have asked how they can best reach out to their local Representatives (as some live outside of our district) and what talking points they should focus on. In addition, a group of students met with Rep. Jenkins during her lunch and they too have piqued their interest in education politics. Students have brought up everything from school funding to current open carry firearm legislation both in class and in correspondence after speaking with their legislator.
2. Representative Nancy Jenkins has carried her experience back to Lansing and to other legislators.
Onsted Community Schools hosted a legislative breakfast in conjunction with Lenawee county Superintendents and Boards of Education a few weeks after Rep. Jenkins visit. In a panel discussion, Rep. Jenkins lauded her visit as an amazing way to see the education policies enacted by law on the ground level. She mentioned that her visit helped her to "earn an appreciation of how much more technology is used in the classroom to assist in teaching students." While I was not privy to all of her conversations during the breakfast, I do know she communicated positive principles of her visit with us to both state and federal legislators present as well as Onsted Community Schools Board Members (some who accompanied her the day of her visit). As a member of the majority party in Lansing, her visit can only improve and broaden her input and voting on educational issues.
"School has definitely changed..."
This parting comment has stuck with me since Rep. Jenkins' visit. As a passionate educator, I eat, sleep and breathe education. Change is the only constant during my entire career and it has been coming at light speed the last 10 years. Differentiation of lessons by student needs and utilization of technology on a daily basis is nothing new to current teachers. I thought this was understood by the greater public, but when a legislator who makes weekly, if not daily, decisions on education policy does not know this I begin to question how well we are doing as a profession to tout our hard work and tireless efforts to engage all learners.
As educational leaders we need to continue to make our classrooms, buildings and craft transparent. I encourage all educators, community stakeholders, and legislators to collaborate frequently, not only by correspondence, but face to face to facilitate growth in our students and entire community's future. Education policy is best crafted by informed legislators. We are all very busy but need to work together to utilize technology to plan (Doodle.com, Google Calendar) and execute (Skype, GoogleHangout, GoToMeeting etc.) frequent digital or face to face contact. Schools working tireless to update and change as our society changes cannot be a surprise to anyone, anymore.