Good Work: Back to School Apologies

Thanks to all the educators that went back to school.  You’re doing the most important work in the world.  Unfortunately, you’re doing it with crude tools, tough conditions, and what may appear to be weak career options.  The good news is it’s getting better fast.
Sorry you don’t know more about the kids that showed up—we’re going to fix that.  You deserve a gradebook full of information about each one and some sense of how they learn best.
Sorry we didn’t replace all of those textbooks with rich customized digital learning experiences.  A lot of you aren’t waiting for your district and have flipped your classrooms. Many of our students have found free online resources like Khan Academy.
You probably don’t have as many computers at school as you should.  That will improve over the next two years before the state implements online assessment.  In the mean time encourage kids to bring what they have and put it to use.
You deserve to work on a team where new members are supported and where the knowledge and skill of experts is widely shared.
Your district has big change planned for this year and next.  It’s going to be hard because we didn’t spend enough time to build what Michael Fullan calls “skinny solutions”—hard to build but easy to implement.  We need to do a better job of building change supports that “capture people’s interest and give them enjoyable, worthwhile experiences.”
Sorry the country and the campaigns seem to be ignoring the huge percentage of children growing up in poverty.
Thanks for your commitment to kids and their academic success. Sorry it’s so hard.  It will get better.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Ed Jones

And thanks to all those teachers who broke from the pack, ignored the nay-sayers, and took a chance. Whether you allowed software into your classroom, served as a beta-tester, advised a development team, spoke up, bought something ...thank you. We can't make it to the end without those who take the first steps.

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