I have always been goal oriented. I learned as a youth that without goals you never know where you are going. Stephen Covey encourages people to establish goals in all the critical areas of life such as family, relationships and work. I can’t say that I still adhere to once-a-week goal sessions, but I continue to strongly believe in establishing and evaluating goals. It has made my work much more focused.
Last night, members of the Lincoln Board of Education and the Lincoln Public Schools executive team spent four hours evaluating our progress from last year and then creating a new set of priority goals for 2012-13. As you would imagine the conversations were energetic as we realized these goals and mutual commitment to meet them would make great things happen for our students and community. Although we are still editing these goals for School Board approval, I can tell you that our major objectives relate to: technology, career high school, facility and infrastructure planning, and continuing to assess the effectiveness of our teaching and learning. Of course, we also will maintain ongoing efforts to sustain our legislative advocacy, focus on graduation rates, rebuild LPS District Offices and sustain the Community Learning Centers.
The general public would be proud of efforts from our School Board members, who put in an amazing amount of time and ALWAYS place the interests of kids as their highest priority. It is a pleasure to work and plan with such dedicated individuals.
Meanwhile, my apologies for ending the blogs from China without bringing that amazing experience to closure. Unfortunately, around day No. 8 in our travels, many of the members of our traveling group became ill from a gastric illness. Most were able to shake off the effects, and though mine lingered a few more days – just as I was feeling better my wife became ill and was hospitalized when we returned home to Lincoln. Linda is fine now but we sure learned a great deal about the effects of dehydration.
Despite our challenges, the school visits in Xi’an were outstanding. We saw systems where disparity in class size ranged from 50 students to one teacher in some classes with older kids – to 5 kindergartners to one teacher in the lower levels. Our hosts made sure we saw only the very best that each school had to offer and we were wowed by six-year-olds who could sing, dance and speak perfect English. The Chinese government continues to emphasize personal discipline, integrity and memorization of material. The competitiveness for status begins when children are around age 3, and their parents plot and plan to get them into the “best” pre-school.
There are signs, however, that the Chinese government is interested in learning more about our educational system. I believe they are envious of our students’ performance on international standards as well as their creativity and critical thinking skills. In fact, I have been invited to serve on an advisory team to help a top-rated high school in Beijing create an international school that will be immersed in English and American teaching styles. They will offer three-year opportunities for U.S. teachers to work in the school while the government offers them a competitive salary and free housing. This school (scheduled to open in about a year) will seek to have student exchanges, and I am looking forward to our students having the opportunity to participate in a dual-country international diploma program.
A few final reflections as I end the China trip experience:
- The Chinese people are among the most hospitable in the world.
- Economic growth seems “fueled” by the automobile, as traffic has to be the worst in the world.
- Speaking of traffic, the Chinese are the worst drivers – as defined by the volume of their horns.
- The crime rate is amazing and that is a reflection of their culture.
- The government tries to take care of its people but some of the rules (mandatory retirement ages, one child per family, lotteries for who drives a car and censorship of social media), make it difficult for westerners to relate to their ways.
- Finally, I repeat and underline what I said fours years ago after my first trip to China: If the Chinese ever figure out how to truly merge capitalism and communism, the rest of the world may find themselves left behind.