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Lifetime of learning for Dr. Rock

Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock checks out the studio at the Clarkston News. Photos by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
October 27, 2010 - The words hung in the air as Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock walked away.

"My first priority is the children," he said for his final words, a verbal commitment to students, community and all Clarkston Community Schools employees.

He visited The Clarkston News office on Oct. 19, day 10 in his new position, and talked about himself and his philosophies on education.

Rock admitted his philosophy of education was heavily influenced by the work of Peter Senge, who wrote about education organizations.

"We are all learning and constantly looking at data and trying to be better every day," Rock added.

One way to continue to get better is look at the individual student - find the strengths within and build from there.

"There is a defiency standpoint, not in Clarkston, but in education in general, a lot of times looking at what kids can't do instead of what they can do," he said.

He would like to use technology and use concepts like virtual worlds or Second Life for kids to go in and solve a problem.

Rock said a teacher can observe the move the student makes and measure understanding and use it to find more strengths.

"They are with us for 13 years, or more if in preschool," Rock added. "Who do they become as a result of the 13 years and not just the test scores. Who are they as thinkers, learners and citizens of the world? Also, knowing who they are individually, how they learn, how they make sense and how they get along with other people and connect."

He already saw Clarkston students connect with each other, their community and the world, through the internet, technology and programs like the International Baccalaureate and foreign languages.

Rock added students will have more opportunities coming in the future to experience global perspectives.

He proudly admits he is a lifelong learner and continues to learn every day. It is a trait he discovered in his 30s.

"I was applying for the principalship and hanging out with one of my buddies," he remembered. "I said 'I have been teaching physical education and coaching basketball, I don't think anyone will see me as the principal.'"

His friend pointed out a trait to Rock - he set goals his entire life and worked hard to achieve them, no matter how far out of reach those goals may have seemed.

"I learned a lot about myself through the conversation," he said.

Rock went to graduate school and continued to learned more about himself.

"We did some studies on different personalities and different motivators," he said. "It's when I really began being a learner."

Rock usually carries a book with him. Right now he is reading a biography on Thomas Jefferson, admitting he began reading about the presidents beginning with George Washington.

"I like to try to make connections in my learning," he said. "I think history is interesting."

He also finds it interesting to get different perspectives from different authors.

"There was a period I read about several physicists, it was around World War II, you might have different physicists that worked on the atomic bomb and other perspectives of what was going on in the world around that time," he said.

His wife, Karen, and two daughters, Haley, 16, and Chelsey, 13, have not yet taken residency within the Clarkston school district.

"We are figuring stuff out right now," he said, adding both daughters are in marching band and are involved with their schools.

"They have been very supportive of me. I was a teacher and a coach and went for my degree," he added. "I have always been a learner and that took a lot of time and weekends."

Rock feels blessed to be Clarkston, especially after warm welcomes from the students and community.

"Clarkston is a place that has a lot to offer - athletic programs, performing arts, community education, clubs, academic programs," he said. "Being around a few football games, the teachers have strong relationship with the kids and the parents. I recognize and appreciate that."

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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