Many individuals understand the Hawaiian word “Aloha” to mean both hello and good bye. However, this is only a surface level understanding. It actually means love, peace, and compassion. It is these qualities that I found more endearing about the students and staff at North Rowan High School. The students and staff in that building have a lot of love for each other. The students are truly kind and compassionate toward others. In fact, much of the fabric of the school and community is built upon this compassion and love for others. It is truly the force that connects everyone. I was so fortunate to be part of this and have been propounding impacted by this love. While many individuals outside of this community often focus on the many challenges that that the students face daily, it is even more crucial for those individuals to dig deeper to develop a true and complete understanding of what it means to be North Rowan.
During my time there, I saw students who supported each other. They encouraged each other. They picked each other up when discouraged. They complimented each other. And they kept each other humble. The staff absorbed many of these same qualities. They were nurtured and inspired them to be the best that they could be each day. Each educator saw beyond each exterior to see the potential that each students possessed. The educators worked collectively to ensure that all students were support and encouraged to perform at these best possible level. It is these experiences and observed qualities that will forever be connected to North Rowan High. I encourage others who do not know the love, compassion, and kindness that exists in the North Rowan community to take time to integrate themselves into the community to see first hand how extraordinary this community is.
This past year was a year of fundamental change that will forever evolve North Rowan High. The school is no longer one of the status quo schools. Rather it is a school that had pioneered radical and necessary changes to create learning experiences and opportunities that will propel students forward in the future. Many of the changes implemented at North Rowan now serve as a beacon for the rest of Rowan-Salisbury Schools and the state. Innovation has driven the changes at the school and this has resulted in some extraordinary learning experiences for students and staff. While many may not yet realize, North Rowan High is a trailblazer and is moving into directions yet unknown. The most fundamental of this experiences involve the use of Design and Challenge Based Learning. If schools are not incorporating these practices into their curriculum and work with students, then I would dare say that the schools are failing to properly propel their students for the future. The administration has allowed for creative thinking coupled with determination to drive many of the changes at the school. At the heart of these changes is a strong desire to prepare students for the many challenges and tribulations that they will experience during their life. North Rowan High educators refuse to let students be unprepared to pivot when challenges and obstacles arise. Instead, they seek to grow the resiliency of the students by having them experience and learn how to think critically, problem solve, share ideas, and work together with others.
Recently AJ Juliana, co-author of “LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student,” tweeted “Our job as teachers is not to "prepare" kids for something; our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything.” The changes that have occurred at North Rowan High are definitely preparing students for anything that they may encounter in the future. This is precisely what schools should be doing. If your school is doing this, I would encourage you to ask why. In the spirit of Aloha, the work and changes that have occurred at North Rowan High have come as a result of the love and compassion that exists in the North Rowan community.
It has been an amazing experience to serve as a Design teacher at North Rowan and I will be forever amazed at the amazing growth that occurred. The changes have helped to energize a community and that is inspiring. North Rowan High will always have a special place in my heart and soul. For it is these experiences that have inspired me to experience the true value of education in changing the lives of others. As a previous chemistry teacher, I used to think that balancing equations and completing calculations were some of the most important things that a student needed to be able to do upon graduating high school. But my eyes have been opened to see that there are many more important things that our students need.
When the early pilgrims first came to North America, they left the world that they knew in search of a better life and future. They set out on unchartered seas to find a new and better way of life where they could live as they wanted. It is this same spirit and need to create a better way that drove the changes at North Rowan High. Must like our early settlers, North Rowan High was responsible for developing a new way that better served all students. Earlier this year, an opportunity arose in which I would be able to share many of the new and innovative ways of educating students with China Grove Middle School. As I contemplated this opportunity, I spent much time in deliberate thought, reflection, and prayer about which path I should follow. In the end, the answer was obvious. The amazing and brilliant things that are occurring at North Rowan High School need to be shared with others. It is too much of a good thing not to use with others. As a result, I have accepted a position as a Design Coach where I will work closely with teachers and students in implementing Design Thinking, Problem Based Learning, and Challenge Based Learning. While it is difficult to leave North Rowan, I know that I will remain connected to the many individuals and practices that have occurred and will continue to occur there. I know that these practices are what are best for all students and we must spread these practices to others. This is my personal “True North.” The great thing is that I will still be able to support and learn with my colleagues at North Rowan and we can share ideas and innovative practices with each other. If you have not yet had the chance to see the many positive things occurring at North Rowan High, you must do this. It is with much gracious humility that I saw a special thank you to North Rowan High for inspiring both my spirit and heart. In the spirit of Aloha, I send my deepest admiration and love to North Rowan.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.