An Eleven Year Old Email with Relevance in 2013

In October 2013 I sent a personal reflection to the wonderful and dedicated members of the District technology committee.  I was in year three of an eight year tenure at the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns.  In retrospect, it’s as relevant today as it was eleven years ago.

—–Original Message—–

From: John Krouskoff [mailto:]
Sent: Thursday, October 03, 2002 9:57 PM
To: Technology Committee
Subject: A non-technical reflection

Good evening,
I have been doing a fair amount of reflection on what it is we are trying to achieve by integrating technology with education, and what hurdles we still need to leap.  I suggest that it is our responsibility, as advocates for the effective use of technology in education, that we continue to focus on how the technology can positively impact the students in our district.  The logical extension of such reflection is to question how each of us can help those we work with “make the connection.”  Most of you have heard my personal (automotive) metaphor  related to motivating our students by meeting them in their world with technology.   Bear with me, as the rest of my comments have really nothing to do with technology, but everything to do with purpose.

I recently heard a comment that any organization is perfectly organized and dedicates the proper balance of resources to achieve exactly what they have traditionally been achieving.  What must we change to avoid getting the same results this year?  We are all hard working and want the best for the students we teach, but what are we doing differently?  If we’re not doing anything differently, it is foolish to expect different results.  Such considerations are often uncomfortable and time consuming.

Unfortunately many of us are so busy doing all those things we have to do to continue achieving (essentially) what we have in the past, that we don’t take the time to contemplate the significant potential for positive change that is currently available to us here at Tarrytowns.  I would ask you to reflect on the following two points:

1.  Our reading scores are horrendous, but it’s worse for our students than it is for us.  To us, it’s a high number of ones or twos, but we’re trying our best and will continue to do so.  However, to those in that category, it means the likelihood of a life of low literacy and all the limitations that implies… not just for the few years they are with us, but for the rest of their lives.  We can coddle, encourage, point fingers…in short do any of those things we might likely have done in the past…but we must not be surprised when the end result is nearly the same.  We are all working at full capacity, but the result, for many reasons, is often substandard.  What can we do differently?

2.  Students in general often complain of a “disconnect” between what they are doing in school and what’s going on in the real world.  If we asked our students, for example, what does it mean to be a teenager in 2002, the answers would be significantly different than they would have been ten or fifteen years ago.  Have we considered what areas we can change in our classrooms to meet these students in their world?  What heights could they reach if they felt connected in ways we may not have even considered?

With the above comments in mind, ask yourself the following questions.  “What can I change to improve the educational experience of each child I work with?” “What can I do to encourage those I work with to consider the questions above and work together to discover ways to address those issues?

I propose to you that we are ready to address these complex issues in a substantive way, one that will impact many of our students for the rest of their lives.  And although it may be an uncomfortable reflection, what does it mean if we choose not to act?  What if we wait for a year because we’re too busy right now (as we all are) and cannot make a commitment to professional growth due to any number of reasons?  For us, it means little.  Yet next year we’ll be as busy as we are this year, if not busier.  But next year we’ll have different students, and the opportunity to impact those we currently work with will vanish.  I encourage you to look at these children and reflect again on the two points above.  We all mean well and want the best for them, but how can we transfer those ideals into action TODAY?

Regards,
John

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