It’s the New Year and, with it, a new position. Having spent the last 14 months as the Superintendent-in-Waiting, I start January as the Superintendent of Schools for the West Vancouver School District.
This past fall, I had the privilege to speak at “Opening Day” — a professional development day for all staff in our district — the week prior to school opening. At that session, the outgoing Superintendent, Geoff Jopson, shared thoughts on the last decade and I spoke about what is ahead. As I start ‘for real’ in the role, I want to come back to some of the themes — a collection of beliefs, values and commitments.
On Working in West Vancouver:
It is a great honour for me to serve in this community as a teacher and as the superintendent. I love that on most days, most people are at least a 9 out of 10. We love what we do; we love who we do it with, and we love where we do it. The district and community are large enough to feel part of a greater entity, but small enough to be completely connected.
On Being a Teacher:
It is funny that we often use different words for “Teacher”. We have teacher leaders, lead teachers, principal teachers, support teachers, helping teachers, mentor teachers, and sometimes we take the word teacher out altogether — and have educational leaders, among a range of other terms. I am good with “Teacher”. It is who I am, and it says it all. The rest is about the different roles we have, but “Teacher” describes who we are. I don’t think we actually need anything more. And while teachers sometimes fall victim to profiling in the media, and while our profession is asked to do more and more, it is still the greatest profession in the world — and there are few things better in life than being called a teacher. What we do makes a dent in our world; it matters, and makes it a slightly better place in which to live.
On My Plan as Superintendent:
And what is it that we do, and will continue to do? I have often been asked about “what will be your plan as superintendent?” I know in many places gimmicks are quite fashionable — a particular program or approach that will be the be-all and end-all. We hear this a lot from the United States as they talk about No Child Left Behind . . . if only we all just did Smart Reading, or all had laptops, or used EBS, or played first and then ate lunch, or had a particular bell schedule, then our system would move forward and students would graduate in even greater numbers. These are all worthy and can be powerful initiatives, but there are no magic bullets. It is the hard work in the classrooms everyday — the mix of science and art; teachers taking what they know about what works, combining this with their skills, and building relationships with their students — this makes all the difference. In the end, and more than anything else, it is the relationships that matter. The relationships we have with each other, and the relationships we build with parents and students.
On A Culture of Yes:
It is the “culture of yes”, we have and will continue to foster — one that embraces new ideas and new ways to look at learning and organize learning; a “culture of yes” that supports innovation and creativity for both learners and teachers, knowing this is how we will continue to evolve. It is a “culture of yes” that touches on the passions we entered the profession with, and that may have sometimes been lost along the way, but hopefully, found again.
We have an amazing community in West Vancouver — and it is exciting to take on this new role. As I said at the end of my presentation in August, “Let’s go new places.”