From Imaging to Remembering
Throughout my career I have encouraged myself and others to imagine the future and then create pathways to achieve those aspirations. I can remember many proposals I authored or co-authored that began with an imagine statement to ensure the reader/reviewer understood the impacts we envisioned.
I want to flip this habit a bit and — upon reflection — want to share what I remember from almost 40 years working in youth and student development, focusing on deeper learning and a creating high-quality equitable engaging learning/developing environments.
So here are the things I remember, in chronological order.
- I remember teaching college sociology courses on military bases particularly trying to create equitable and safe places for learning when most of the students came to the class in uniform and found it extremely difficult to leave their rank outside the classroom.
- I remember being a college dean at a very young age and blending my intuition to lead and the wisdoms of leaders more experienced than me.
- I remember working with 13 and 14-year old at-risk students who lacked motivation more than education and in most cases just needed someone to listen to and care for them.
- I remember university students co-leading major K-12 education initiatives in the local community that made significant positive impacts on both university and K-12 students yet rarely gained the respect of teachers who were more suspicious than supportive.
- I remember leading a statewide coalition of two and four-year college and university presidents each competing for “air time” and “one-upmanship” rather than collective thinking and working.
- I remember creating a national network of district and state education leaders where egos were left at the door and a focus on the common good was paramount and led to significant progress and success.
- I remember working with governors and other state-level education leaders and policymakers and coming to understand that the nation is made up of 50 states and a district that significantly differ in their constitution, governance, politics, policies, practices and partnerships wondering at times if they all belonged to the same republic.
- I remember being called to work in Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, on education transformation and the ability of state and local education leaders to “confront the data” and determine how to reverse negative trends.
- I remember working with national, state and local outstanding facilitators in small and large venues and with diverse audiences who taught me that high-quality protocols yield high-quality outcomes and impacts.
- I remember working with Special Olympics youth and adult leaders that daily taught me the importance of seeking out the talents and gifts of each of us and the positive impact they can have on themselves, others, schools, communities, states and nations.
- I remember having the courage recently to determine what I need to be successful is paramount to “letting things go” and hope they get better on their own.
- I remember that what began as a job almost 40 years ago grew into a vocation, passion, commitment and endeavor that guide my decisions, thoughts, habits and relationships.
You may have noticed some common threads that are woven throughout these memories including equity, mobilizing youth leaders, high-quality reciprocal partnerships, fidelity, deeper learning, focusing on the common good and reflection. Maybe these issues surfaced by accident but given almost 40 years of work in education and motivation I think they are just the opposite of accidental they are very intentional and essential to my life.