Thursday, May 26, 2011

Possessions of GREAT Value and Our Guiding Principles

In my last year of university, I lived with a friend who was working full time already.  One afternoon I was studying intently on the sofa in our living room, and he came home and woke me up to tell me had a new car.

A Porsche 911.

The context here is that a Porsche 911 has been my dream car for some reason since I was a little gaffer.  Thinking he was pulling my leg, I replied with a laugh "Sure you did.  Let me take it for a drive then, I've always wanted to drive one."

When I grabbed the keys that were flipped to me, I saw the Porsche key ring.  The Porsche key.  And when I went to our parking spot, I saw a red 911 Targa.  Before he changed his mind, I hopped in and took it for a drive.

After getting over my initial surprise that I fit in it, as legroom is often an issue, the drive was everything I thought it would be, and then some.  I brought it home, gave him his keys back, and vowed to myself I'd never drive one again until I owned my own.  As I came home from work today, 20 years later, driving my mini van and not having driven a Porsche since, I was reminded of that story by a new 911 passing me.  And I thought of how that story applies to my current context in education...

Someone I can't remember once made a comment about the chances of people asking strangers to hold items of great value.  I wish I could remember who raised that point, I'd love to give them credit, as I think it is brilliant.  I  really don't think I know any strangers who would walk up to me and ask me to take care of their $100 000 car for the day.  Or to hold their 5 carat diamond ring while they go to work.  Yet that is exactly what countless people do on the first day of school every year.  They drop their most valuable possessions, their children, off with mostly complete strangers, the staff at the school.

Why?  It speaks to trust, doesn't it?  Thinking of that trust they have in us, it makes one think next of responsibility, doesn't it?  We have a responsibility to ensure we live up to our responsibilities!  I was doing some writing tonight about ethical decision making, and thought of the 5 Universal Guiding Principles we have adopted in our school district.  When we are making decisions, we need to consider our Guiding Principles, which are:
  • Is it good for students?
  • Will it help build trust and good relationships?
  • Will it help us improve?
  • Is it the responsible thing to do?
  • Is it open, honest, and ethical?
As I reflect tonight on our guiding principles, I've reaffirmed my belief in their value.  Those are the kinds of principles that support people entrusting their children to our care.  Reflecting on our Guiding Principles consistently, regardless of where the decision is being made, and building practices that will support their use is evidence of our commitment to the responsibility we owe our parents.

There is a lot involved in answering these questions.  We need to use good research to identify what practices are goo for students, for example.  We also need to balance costs and benefits to determine if an improvement is worth it.  Etc.  These are not easy questions to answer.  But that does not mean they are not worth the effort.  Haven't you ever noticed the most satisfying things in life are usually those you have to work the hardest to attain? 

That is likely why I still drive a mini van.  But one day.  And in the meantime, I have the honor of working to support our staff, students, and parents.  More valuable than a Porsche, for sure, but not quite as filled with the same potential!


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