We have completed our first days of "Restart" or how I really prefer to think of it as a "Relaunch" at North Rowan High School. While our technical status is "restart," I really feel that we are more appropriately "relaunch" North Rowan High instead. As I write this post, I searched the differences between start and launch. While these terms are often used interchangeably by speakers, there are subtle differences that cause me to prefer the term "relaunch." One site that I found references the difference as launch meaning that it will "continue with its own momentum." As I think about this, I really feel that this is what we are working to accomplish at North Rowan High School.
I met my new students for the first time this past week. I found many of them to be eager and interested in the relaunch. There were some, understandably so, that are less certain and some that are just unsure about school in general. I will team teach with a super team of two other teachers. Due to the size of our school, we will teach all sophomores. This includes all levels of students ranging from honors, standard, and students with various disabilities. Added to this mix are several students who are non-English speaking as well. As we attempt our ambitious and vital goal of implementing Design Thinking with students, we must be cognitive of keeping all of out students and their various abilities and backgrounds in mind. Our goal is for students to be successful at a level that is appropriate for them. This means that we must measure success in new, different ways or metrics than have been used in the past.
As I experienced in the classroom last week, students have a range of abilities, talents, and skills. Some students are particularly advanced in several skills while other students are still developing their skills, abilities, and talents. In doing so, the way that we measure their successes will vary tremendously among students. It is our charge to figure out where our students are and how we can help them to move forward. I explained to the students that our course will be very different from their other courses. What we will seek to do is to help them learn about their individual passions, interests, and talents and help them develop and expand those into strengths that can be used in the future. While our initial goal is to help our students graduate high school, our hope is to provide them with skills and experiences that will create a more successful and fulfilling life in the future. Regardless of their plans after high school, we want our students to have the skills, knowledge, and experiences needed to create a life that brings them joy and gratification.
I shared with our students that their school and community historically have provided strong leaders who continue to move our county forward. Some students looked at me puzzled. I asked them to think about the different regions in Rowan County. Many of our county commissioners, school board members, leaders of various organizations, and other community entities have a North Rowan connection. I do not think that this is by chance. I explained that this was due to individuals who attended school in the North Rowan area understanding how to work effectively and productively with individuals who are quite different from them. In our classes, we had a diverse mix of students from various backgrounds (ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, different family structures, religious, etc). One of the reasons that North Rowan produces strong leaders is due to this diversity. Individuals learn how to work with others who may hold very different viewpoints. They find common ground and are able to work to make our community a better place to live by generating solutions that make positive impacts.
As we move forward, our work will be challenging. We will need to work to shift many mindsets. Many of our students were surprised by the acknowledgement of the leadership capability that occurred in class. We will continue to challenge previously held mindsets and help move students into new ways of thinking. In our class, we will stress the importance of failure. Failure is not a bad thing. In fact in my experience, I have learn more from failure than from success. With failure, we are challenged to reflect and think about why we failed. We attempt to answer "Why was I not successful?" and to find possible solutions. We then relaunch into a new solution carrying with us the lessons that we learned from our failure. As we move forward at North Rowan High, the fear of failure is no longer a concern. In fact, we will embrace failure and help our students see the value of learning from failure. We will move into a new mindset where our students celebrate their failures by learning from them. I realize that this will be a challenge and require a lot of investment. But in the end, it is really what we need to give to our students the most. As a chemistry teacher, I can teach various algorithms on how to solve problems and equations. In the past, I have graded students based on how well they are able to replicate the algorithms and that determines their success. While we must do these kinds of things in various classes due to the restrictions and expectations that we have as public schools, we now have the change to let our students see that there is so much more to preparing them for life than taking a standardized test in the end. Their value and worth as a person is not determined by a test. Life, itself, is much more complicated that this. We must work to prepare them to meet the challenges of living in the 21st century and to adapt to a world that will change exponentially in the course of their lives. Just as we have heard previously, our students will work various jobs that do not yet exist. We cannot even imagine some of these jobs today. Thus, our work at North Rowan High is much more important than just helping our students prepare for "THE TEST." The most important work that we will do is to help students master the skills needed to have a productive and passion filled life where they understand failure is something to celebrate and learn from as they are able to generate new solutions to solve problems. It is our hope and goal that they will learn how to use what they learn from failure along with their own skills, talents, and aptitudes to move forward in the complexity of life. Thus, they will propel their own selves and move forward as needed. This is why I see our work at North Rowan as a "Relaunch."
We also received some great coverage from the Salisbury Post on our first day.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.