You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

As I gear up for my 15th year in education, I’ve been having those restless nights. It’s clockwork – every year, about three weeks before school starts, I think about everything and anything. This year is no different; but each year I become more and more adamant for trying to ensure the best education for every student I am responsible for. I don’t care where you come from, your socioeconomic status, or what football team you like, but I do care that I, along with my staff, will do everything and anything to create the best learning environment possible and allow the learner to gain as much knowledge as possible. This includes starting the school year off  with the expectation to all teachers that they should have high expectations and not assume that a learner can’t or won’t do something given their background or whom they are.

I am always pondering about how I can level the playing field for all learners. I’ve been consistent in every community I’ve worked in; I have not fully delved into my new community yet, but it’s clear that the Board (a reflection on the community) wants what is best for their children and prepare them for a successful middle school and high school career.

I’ve been thinking about my recent stint and how leveled the playing field — and most of it was done on the premise of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” When I first started there, I was told over and over by everyone that this was a “different place and pace” from what my career has been exposed to thus far, but it initially didn’t sink in. I’ve worked in the country before – with beautiful horse farms, sprawling estates, and even some dirt roads… Along with million dollar homes and the average  house paying a good 20k in property taxes. The education average was a Masters plus 30, and most worked in NYC or in very affluent communities. 

There was horses, farms, and dirt roads, but the socioeconomic class was complete opposite. The biggest factor – no municipal tax. The easiest way to explain – do you rmemeber the TV show LOST? Do you rmemeber the Dharma Initiative?  If you didn’t watch the show, you occasionally crossed a resident with college experience, and most only knew one way of life – their way. I will never forget sitting with a board member and them saying college was NOT the end game. I was shocked. But after really giving it thought, I understood. The mantra wasn’t oppression and “no outside education or college”; the goal was focus on something you want to do and get the skill set to do it. If that was college, great. If not, no biggie. The board wanted their learners to be prepared for their high school experience, and took Lincoln’s quote to heart — “Whatever you are, be a good one.”.

This logic was new for me., and with the new mindset came a new culture and an entire different type of people. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Nothing wrong with that — in fact, I enjoyed the different pace and atmosphere. There’s certainly something to be said for having simplistic conversations and solving problems without scads of lawyers or red tape. 

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