Monday, March 24, 2008

Do the right thing and do it quickly!

At the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children conference in Spartanburg, SC on February 27, 2008, Jim Rex (SC Superintendent of Education) was our keynote speaker. The thing that seems to stand out in my mind is the metaphor he gave about our education system and a tidal wave. It keeps coming to mind as I read many blogs and articles about education or when I’m talking to people in my network.

He asked us to picture the big tidal wave that hit Indonesia in 2004. He remembers seeing videos of people as they stand on the beach and watch the tide pull back out to the ocean (which is normal during tidal waves). The people had no idea that a tidal wave was about to hit them but they were curious and slowly walked out into the sand towards the ocean to look at all the shells and animals that were now uncovered. These people were destined to die because when the wave came, they were completely swept away. These people did the wrong things and moved slowly so they died. Others had a gut feeling that something was wrong and moved slowly away from the ocean. These people did the right things but moved too slowly so they still died. Others ran away from the ocean and tried to get to high ground as quick as they could. These people did the right things and moved quickly so many of them lived. Our education system works the same way. If we do the wrong things and move slowly, we all lose. If we do the right things but move too slowly, we still lose. It is time to do the right things and do them now.

Mr. Rex talked about making changes and doing them in the four years of his term. He was told by many that it would take longer than his four years but he said he didn’t have time to take longer. When we are talking about the life of a student, four years is actually too long to make necessary changes and our students don’t have that kind of time.

I was really impressed by this metaphor and I hope those in position to make changes can do the right things in the quickest amount of time. I wish we could get past the politics and really make decisions that are in the best interest of our children but I sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if this is just a pipe dream. Thankfully there are people out there who don’t give up and who continue to try and whenever I fall down in despair, I reach out to them and they are there to pick me up, dust me off, and get me moving again. Thank you friends (my twitter friends, those who have commented on my blog, emailed me about issues, or talked to on chats!) I think together, we are moving in the right way and quick enough to hopefully ensure our survival and our students’ survival in the education system.

Photo credit: Tsunami tragedy by Aspirasi


Bill Gaskins said...

I like the metaphor and we are still not moving fast enough. I predict in South Carolina it will be a grass root effort by teachers like us and beyond who are coming to grips with where we are in education. I am still not sure we can move any faster but in ten years we will look back and take notice of the change.

I have been involved in instructional technology since 1992 and more focused starting in 1995 when I was state rep for SE tech committee including the SE Islands. (SEIRTEC.ORG). Then we were in no shape to move forward and for many we were still talking a foreign language.

I think the time is right for change more so than we were 12 and six years ago. I think state leadership is on the right track with some good people involved, but funding has yet to come through for more change.

I think it is exciting times in instructional technology and education as a whole. I think our PLN and Social Networks have brought me further along in the learning curve.


loonyhiker said...

Bill: I remember not that long ago, I started with a Commodore 64! If you look back on the changes technology has gone through, it hasn't take too long for major changes to take place. I hope it continues and snowballs (but I want to be on the ride too!)

John Otterstedt said...

I just found your blog today. I enjoy it!

I too enjoyed your analogy. Although I am not familiar with the issues in your state, I am the type of person who grows frustrated when innovation and needed changes hit roadblocks. I would rather take a leap and attack a problem head-on while risking failure than do nothing and wait for the right opportunity to strike. With kids, the window of opportunity is small, and we have to make the needed changes during that short window.

Thank you again.