“May you live in interesting times”, is often referred to as the Chinese curse. It is reported that it was the first of three curses of increasing severity, the other two being:
“May you come to the attention of those in authority.”
“May you find what you are looking for.”
May I say that for the Cowichan Valley School District the first two are certainly true, and I can only hope that the third curse also arrives to provide some balance.
School years begin with an optimistic sense of renewal, excitement, and opportunity. The challenge every year is to sustain that optimism amidst the variety of pressures that are annually expected of the system. The forces of change continually rain upon us from society, government, our communities, our employee groups, and from those we serve, our parents and their children. It is what makes working in the system so interesting and yet so challenging as the interests and expectations are very high and often compete for limited resources that are never enough to meet the demands.
This year in the Cowichan Valley is certainly no different than in other years. While the pressures may change, the expectations remain high, and the resources insufficient to meet those expectations. Like other years, we will do the very best we can to keep student learning at the centre of our priority, and to continue to improve the opportunities for students so that they leave us with dignity, purpose and options.
Driven by technology changes, students now have the ability to learn what they want, when they want to, with whomever they want, as long as they have access. This creates an enormous push against a system of education that is steeped in time and place learning. This also creates a tension for teachers to let students create their own learning experiences while still delivering the expected curriculum. Much has been said and written about the need for education to fundamentally change to a personalized learning environment for students. My personal perspective on this is that there are indeed forces that are forcing us to re-examine the what, where, when, and how’s of education and that we should not see this as fearful but hopeful. We all want the best for our youth and while we sometimes disagree on how to achieve this, if we can also build in choice and flexibility, then I believe we will meet the needs of a much larger number of our youth than we currently do. This cannot be seen as anything else but positive.
Today schools still look and feel a lot like they did in the past but inside the walls, things are beginning to rapidly evolve as the shift of control for learning is moving away from the teacher and on to the student. The teacher role is shifting to more of a facilitator of knowledge acquisition, rather than the deliverer of knowledge. It requires a different skill set for teachers, learning to be comfortable with uncomfortableness. Instead of having total control of the learning that takes place in the classroom, they need to be more flexible and adaptable to the learning needs of the students, and how they may demonstrate that learning.
It is a challenge but one which I am confident we can transition to the place where we are reaching a much greater audience of students than we have in the past. For unlike the past, education is no longer a choice to pursue for some, but a necessity for all.
Through our continued work this year I hope that the third curse – ‘May we find what we are looking for’- comes a little closer to reality.