However, all too often we see decisions being made not based on what's best for kids, but based on finances, based on politics, based on compliance. These are pretty dangerous realities.
We want to do what's best for kids, but we have to do it within the structure of allowable growth, tax allowances, and formula mandates - that sounds like a child-centered environment, doesn't it?
We want to do what's best for kids, but we have to navigate the politics of it all. We navigate the majority party at the state level, we navigate school boards and administrators. We're even navigating the national political stage, as getting rid of the Department of Education has become a focal point of our presidential candidates (to be fair, this isn't a new concept, but it's certainly being touted a lot louder than I typically remember). I'm perfectly capable of accepting the fact that people have very different ideas of what is best for kids, but when is the last time you even heard kids mentioned in this circus, let alone what's best for them?
We want to do what's best for kids, as long as we don't stray too far from the status quo. Compliance is a key ingredient in innovation, right? We want more powerful and better and different and innovative, but we don't want to have to change the way we do things? We want kids' math and reading scores to go up, so we add more 'minutes' to their day, but we add more of the same. If the status quo was working, we wouldn't need to be adding more minutes, right? We have an opportunity to be truly innovative, but continue to choose more of same.
We want to do what's best for kids, but at some point along the way too many people forget about that 1st grader who wanted to grow up to be a teacher because he wanted to make a difference; because somebody made him feel like he was on top of the world and he wanted to share that feeling with others.
I get it. We can't just wave a magic wand and get rid of politics and budgets and regulations and tradition, but what we CAN do is take a step back and ask ourselves if what we're doing is REALLY what's best for kids. In George Couros's book The Innovator's Mindset he talks about innovating inside the box. There will always be constraints, but it's not impossible work within them to achieve amazing results, just by asking ourselves one question at the start of each day - at the start of each legislative session - at the start of each board meeting - Is this best for kids? If each of us pledged to truly keep this in mind as we made decisions, from the classroom to the boardroom to the floor of the House and Senate, what kind of difference could we make? We have to pay more than just lip service to "what's best for kids" because as it says on the bracelet given to me by rockstar educator Adam Welcome, #KidsDeserveIt.