Superintendent McLean's Opening Day Remarks

posted Aug 27, 2019, 3:56 AM by RSU71 Webmaster   [ updated Aug 27, 2019, 7:53 AM ]


I want to begin this morning diving right into the work of the year ahead of us, by saying a little bit about the themes I will be promoting during the 2019-2020 school year:

  • One is a metaphor: “one body many parts”: every single one of us is important to the mission of educating the children of RSU # 71.  None of us can do it alone. Rather we are interdependent and require the work of others to realize our own contributions. There are really no lone wolfs.

  • “Teaming” is a second theme.  Every single member of the RSU # 71 should have at least one team on which she is a member. If there are folks in the room this morning who are unsure about which team or teams they are members of, they should see their principal or director or me when we break into our teams later this morning.  Your team is a place to learn, to get support, to improve your work individually and collectively, that is to say, to get even better than you already are by accessing the gifts and skills of the people with whom you work. The best kind of PD (professional development) comes as a member of a collaborative team that is always learning how to do even better whatever it does, always for the sake of our students and their families.  In addition to being great for our students and their education, the sense of purpose and investment that is created in teaming with colleagues results in greater job satisfaction, and fulfilment for adults as well. As we work closely together our trust in one another is strengthened and our school and district cultures become more vibrant. On Friday afternoons this year we will have time to work together in teams -- which sometimes goes by the name PLCs, which stands for “professional learning communities.” We will be referring to this time as CPT --  C stands for “collaborative,” P stands for “professional” and T stands for “team.” We have also referred to CPT as “common planning time.” Many of you already have a great deal of experience in teaming and this will be very helpful for the many new colleagues we will be welcoming into the RSU 71 family in just a few minutes.

  • The last theme I want to touch on this morning I call the “Three E’s of The Learning” -  a phrase I made up to describe the elements in education that are most important to me, not only for students but also for staff. In addition to ensuring every single one of our students experiences the 3 E’s, it is my goal to enable every single staff member to do so as well.

    • Enliven is the first E - By “enliven” I mean the experience of bringing our whole selves to work and enabling our students to be enlivened through their experiences in classes and in school activities.  That means using our minds, of course. Learning is among other things an intellectual activity, despite the anti-intellectualism we sometimes see in public school systems (not ours, thank goodness).  But the intellect can’t get the whole job done well. Unless we bring the power of emotion and of spirit to the business of teaching and learning and working, we are neglecting to access the most powerful motivators we have at our disposal.  And to elicit emotion and spirit in students we must ourselves bring these to our work in our schools and school district. Finally, we are embodied. We are creatures who crave activity, who like to do things, to use our bodies in the course of learning in order to accomplish something important and real.  What is often called “hands-on” learning shouldn’t just be happening in PE, Art and Music classes, on fields and stages and in the technical education that happens at Waldo County Technical Center.  We have the capacity to make all classes active and “hands-on” in the sense of having meaning and relevance to our students and their lives. Thus our students and we ourselves must be called to use our minds and emotions and spirit and embodied selves to the learning activities we design and facilitate with and for our students. Our teaching and learning should be ALIVE: enlivened and enlivening.  We should always be asking ourselves throughout the school days ahead -- in classes, in assemblies, in community meetings and in the hallways: Who is doing the talking? Who is doing the thinking? Who is doing the creating?  WHO is DOING the WORK? To the extent possible, it should be the students themselves and in this way, they will come alive, bring their best to school and become enlivened in the business of working hard and learning many things that are of real importance to themselves, their families, their communities, their futures and the world.

    • Empower - By “empower” I mean that students and staff should develop a good sense of their unique talents and strengths as well their foibles and Achilles heels and soft spots, to capitalize upon the former and to improve upon the later. For teachers and educational technicians  I mean the specific set of research-based instructional practices known as “student-engaged assessment” which we’ll be studying and applying in classrooms throughout the district this year, putting the tools of assessment into the hands of students so that know their targets, how we will be assessing them and what they need to do to meet our standards, standards that should be HIGH for all students, not just for a few. For adults I use the term “empower” to indicate that I know that each of you has a mind and a heart and a spirit and I want to give you the permission -- not, not  the permission -- I want to give you the structures that will enable you to use your gifts and skills as mature, thinking, feeling people who will want to have a strong say in how we do things around here, in RSU # 71.

    • Elevate - By “elevate” I mean LIFT UP and IMPROVE the experiences and outcomes of all of our students and staff alike. Given the fabulous students and families we have and the talented and dedicated staff we have and the hard-working and deeply committed school board we have and the supportive and caring communities we inhabit, we can do MUCH MUCH better by our students in ways that are both measurable and immeasurable, which will make us feel very fulfilled and on fire with purpose.  More on that in the days and weeks to come!

  • So I would ask you to remember the THREE E’s: Enliven; Empower and Elevate.