How should schools represent the community?

By | April 21, 2017

After a nice three day weekend it was good to have students back in class and ready to hit the home stretch on the 2016-17 school year. It won’t be long and we’ll blink and this year will be over.

Our Goodman students at South Elementary, Carver Elementary and what is now being calling “Goodman Central Office” came in with smiling faces ready to learn. I can’t thank our people enough for the amazing jobs they do all across our District. We are truly blessed to have these people working with our students each day!

For years people have tried to define the word “school.” Depending on the generation, the group of people asked, and their location in the world, this definition can be very different. In this quest to define school we will find that words really do matter; they shape the focus for how school is seen in each and every community.

Of course there are those who would define school as the bricks and mortar that make up the building, but for the purpose of this article and the purpose of defining school in our community, I would challenge us to look beyond just the bricks and mortar, and focus on the academic and emotional climate, both inside and outside of the physical space.

If we will do this it will allow us to get closer to an understanding of what should form the basis of any school.

In the recent past there has been a call to have all children, even the very young children of a school, understand what it means to be college and career ready. This thought process has invaded our schools and has pushed out the solid foundation of play and creativity that defined schools of the past. The article argues that there are many other important ways to engage the hearts and minds of young students.

As a community, we must remember and promote the childhood experience and all of its wonder. We must allow our kids to be kids, challenge them to be creative and use their imaginations, and help them define who they are as individuals.

Schools have always existed and been an expression of how a given community values its children. They have also defined how a society looks at the future; the future being a responsibility that is handed down from one generation to the next.

Schools play a huge part in shaping the future, not only of the nation but of the Neosho community. If this is true, and I believe it is, we must articulate the issues, and how we do this matters just as much as how we find the will and resources to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Author David Gamburg states the following in his article: “So, what truly defines a school? For me, the exchange between child and adult is at the heart of it. That exchange may be subtle or vigorous — not rigorous. Rigor, which shares roots with the Latin rigor mortis, implies severity, rigidity, and stiffness — all connotations that restrict the learner and the learning process — while vigor implies energy and dynamism.

“The best learning occurs when both teacher and student are in pursuit of a deeper understanding. It is a quest that is based on love, one that is filled with authentic, joyful, challenging, and impactful experiences. A school is a place of respect and wonder.”

If this is the true definition of school then all members of a community are responsible for the learning of our youth. Schools of the future, no matter their size, technological abilities, or cost effectiveness, should always begin with the best qualities of our humanity.

With this in mind, we must ask ourselves as a community what we want our schools to be, what do we want our schools to reflect about our community?

Finally, are there things we need to change as a community in order to create the schools we want our kids to attend?

Thank you for your continued partnership with Neosho School District in our quest to be the best we can be for our students.

Have a great week!

By Dan Decker

(Dan Decker is superintendent of the Neosho R-5 School District. He can be reached at 451-8600 or deckerdan@neoshor5.org.)

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