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Sup't Viewpoint By Dr. Rod Rock

Superintendent has lots to be thankful for

December 01, 2010 - Blessings in my life include: Eight weeks as superintendent; two amazing daughters and a wonderful wife; healthy and happy parents and in-laws; warm house, car to drive (and deer to hit), and an able repair shop; books and ideas;

Teachers who care deeply about kids; a custodian who's spent 30 years in Clarkston and loves every day as if it were his first;

Students, who write me e-mails, proudly introduce themselves to me, hit the high notes, play music, perform in plays, design robots, and demonstrate amazing character on the playing surface;

Alumni who write me after 25 years away from Clarkston, looking for their 3rd grade teacher; central office staff who works together to ensure learning for all; a school board that cares about kids; thousands of PTA members who support all students;

Disability Awareness days that help students understand differences; Harvard Business Review; smiles; laughs; turkey; an amazing volleyball team who set new standards with a trip to the quarterfinals (and congrats to the 1976 team who made a similar run); championship swimmers;

Hundreds of high school students inducted into NHS; student writers of The Paw Print; college football; laptop computers; service men and women; pay at the pump; salt; thoughts and feedback from colleagues;

Parents who want the very best for their kids; ping-pong; food service staff (have you tried one of their cinnamon rolls?); down hill skiing; time; woodstoves; iced tea; the Internet; big ideas to ponder; NPR; freedom; building and grounds crew; faith; friends; local businesses; snowplows; and safety personnel.

In my October column, I spoke of three ideals that guide my living and learning:

1. Learning is a consequence of thinking (Perkins, 2002).

2. Children grow into the intellectual lives around them (Vygotsky, 1978).

3. We—as citizens and educators—are collectively responsible for who our students become as a result of the 13 years spent in our schools (Ritchhart, 2002).

I'd like to take a few minutes here to share my thinking on the first ideal.

Dr. David Perkins and his colleagues, Shari Tishman, Ron Ritchhart, Kiki Donis, and Al Andrade (2000) of Harvard University, subscribe to a dispositional view of intelligence, wherein "dispositions concern not what abilities people have, but how people are disposed to use those abilities" (p. 1). Of course, knowledge is a key element of intelligence—"we can't think without facts" (Perkins, 2008); yet facts aren't enough.

Additionally, we must recognize opportunities to apply what we know, posses the motivation to apply what we know, and have the ability to apply what we know—particularly in novel contexts. As an example, Dr. Ritchhart says that most children know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide; they just don't always know when to do these things.

Obviously, intelligence is important, both individually and collectively. If you believe in a changing climate, an increasing global population, a lack of food and clean water in parts of the world, nuclear proliferation, declining natural resources, increasing debt and overspending, pandemics—some of the elements of globalization—then you likely also believe that our children will wrestle with these issues and that the decisions they make, both individually and collectively (across the world), will have major consequences relative to sustainability.

So, knowing alone won't do it for our children. If they know and don't act, or if they know and don't recognize opportunities to act, or if they lack the motivation to act, then what good is knowing, even if they did well on the test, earned straight As, achieved high honors, or went to a great college?

As I lead, live, and learn, with the ideal of learning as a consequence of thinking serving as a guide, two questions remain on my mind:

1. If we want students to think (globally, altruistically, long term), how must we think, learn, act, make sense, interact, talk, debate, decide, revise, be, and become?

2. If we want students to think (globally, altruistically, long term), what must we notice, model, assume, question, learn, and unlearn?

I'm really interested in your thinking on this ideal. Will you let me know what you think at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us?

Finally, I found this quote in the October 2010 Harvard Business Review:

"There simply are too many touch points to allow a single person—or even a few—to effectively manage a community. Everyone must be an ambassador" (Ross Kimbarovsky, Cofounder, crowdSPRING, http://darmano.typepad.com/).

What do you think? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Holidays!

Rod Rock, Ed.D., is superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools.

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