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It’s People, Not Programs…

March 11, 2010

This is one of my favorite lines from Todd Whitaker’s book “What Great Principals do Differently, 15 things that matter most.”  In the book he refers to programs as the initiatives that we as schools put in place.  He argues that the people in a school are vastly more important to student success than the specific programs being offered.  As our school continues taking steps toward our upcoming 1:1 program (which is official after a 5-0 board vote Monday night YEAH!), this phrase has taken on a new meaning for me.

As we rolled out the initiative and the reasons behind it to our various stakeholder groups, we were met with very different reactions.  Some were extremely excited and quickly began planning how they would capitalize on the wonderful new opportunities this change would enable in their classrooms.  Others were not so sure.

Like all schools we have faculty members at many different levels of experience, expertise, and comfort with technology integration into the learning process.  As we began discussing 1:1 and the changes it would bring to the learning process I could sense anxiety rising among some staff members.  Over the past several days we have set out to engage in conversations, provide opportunities for learning – including utilizing Skype to hear from students and teachers at another 1:1 school, and take every opportunity we could to clarify, discuss, and get concerns out in the open.  Throughout this process one thing has been reinforced in my’s people, not programs.

We have an amazing staff – and so do the schools we are learning from and partnering with.  As I watched our staff listen and learn from two Van Meter staff members I was thrilled to see the gears turning in so many powerful educational minds.   We have discussed many important questions as staff members begin planning for successful implementation, months before the computers even arrive.  From an email exchange about the importance of writing skills vs penmanship, to a staff member asking for tech help from their middle school students, to the number of staff members we have that have shown a sudden interest in expanding their personal learning network through services like Twitter, the can-do spirit that I see rising up in our staff is both inspiring and humbling.

As one teacher put it, we may not all be going the same speed, but we are all on the same road, going the same direction.  Some may need the occasional tow truck or to stop to ask for directions, but it is clear that we are committed to the success of this program…

The program will work…our students will thrive…with people like we have and the partnerships we are creating, it is the only possible outcome.

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