Part 1 of a Series from my years as a Superintendent of Schools

Originally published in 2007

It was once said, “It is not enough to be busy; the question is, what are we busy about?” Make no doubt, all schools are busy. What a school chooses to be busy about not only defines the school, but sets each school apart—one from another.

Every public school in America receives about the same 6.5 hours each day. When your children return home from the last day of school this May, you will have entrusted them to our care for about 1170 hours! A lot had better happen in the lives of children when we share so much time with them. We believe a lot does happen. And this is how we choose to be busy at their side:

We read and write for authentic purposes. We help children to look at the world through the lens of mathematicians, scientists, and social scientists. We plug our learning into the world where it makes a difference. We create, construct, and interrogate. We question, research, and discover. We ask, “Why?” We ask, “Why not?” We critique, analyze, and take risks. We support each other. We nurture our curriculum of caring. We embrace the notion that the world is our classroom and it’s our responsibility to make it a better place. We create curriculum. We awaken the hearts of children. Children awaken the hearts of their teachers and this principal.

We celebrate when a child makes a new discovery. We celebrate when a teacher makes a new discovery. We hope. And together, as the marker declares as one enters our community of learning, we build our dreams.

I am a firm believer that in life, we don’t have time problems. We have priority problems. Each of us received the same 24 hours yesterday.

The only ones that didn’t receive 24 hours yesterday—died yesterday.

What is it that we choose to do with our time? We can often be so busy working that we fail to get the job done. As a father, I have been careful lately to make sure I don’t let good things deter me from doing better things. Better things, like reading to my children, spending time with my family away from the television, or simply enjoying a meal around the dinner table with all family members present.

The statement was made by our community that we are a school family of readers and writers. The world had better take notice! Jim Trelease, a good friend and national literacy consultant and author, said it well; “The path to a smarter, saner, and more civil America begins with a single page, turned lovingly by a parent who believes saying ‘goodnight to the moon’ is more valuable than whatever is on ESPN tonight, at the mall, or whoever’s on the phone.

Yep. 20 years from now, there will still be dust balls under the bed. The garage will still need cleaning out. And a big game will be on in prime time. But we have only one shot at being a parent. We pass this way but once. May we make the most of our one shot at building the school of our dreams and creating the families of our dreams.

How honored and humbled we are to share that responsibility with you.

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