I remember the start of school when I was a kid. The feeling was about 50 percent excitement and 50 percent dread.
Back then, in the log cabin days, the school had two tasks, neither of which is particularly relevant anymore. First, teachers were supposed to pass on knowledge, to make sure that we all knew certain facts about a variety of subjects.
Secondly, they were supposed to sort us for placement on tracks that would eventually get us into appropriate careers. Some of us would be suited to and interested in college and others would enter the workforce, more or less confident that good, living-wage jobs would be available with little if any training beyond high school.
As you may have noticed, the world has changed and schools have been asked to adapt. No longer can we assume that college will naturally lead to a good job. Nor can we believe that a high school diploma will be enough documentation to begin a sustainable career.
The most recent statistics from the Department of Labor tell us that about half of the most in-demand jobs in the United States require very little education and pay poorly. The other half, the ones that pay a living wage, generally require significant post-secondary education or technical training. It’s interesting to note that if the trend continues, we will increasingly be educating people to take on jobs that do not yet exist.
This is an exciting time for schools everywhere. At Bolinas-Stinson we are ready to meet the challenge with enthusiasm and optimism. We are becoming a school that expects high-level learning for all students and prepares them for an exciting (albeit uncertain) future. But we are much more than a place that prepares students for what comes next. We believe our students should enjoy the present while working and playing together, while expressing their creativity and finding their place as members of the community.
Here are a few things that our students and their families can look forward to in the coming year.
Clarity on what we want students to understand. Last year we developed Essential Learning Outcomes in core subjects and will implement them from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Improved communication about student growth. We have developed a new standards-based report card that will help parents understand student progress toward learning outcomes. Rather than just a letter grade, families will get useful information about student learning.
Emphasis on math. We’ll be adding another teacher for middle-school math and have reviewed and documented our entire math sequence from kindergarten through eighth grade. One of our teachers received additional training in math instruction and will work with others to make sure that all students get the support they need. We’ll even be hosting a community math festival on Sept. 13.
Projects and problems. We know that students retain their learning better when they face meaningful challenges that require them to figure things out and use their skills. Our teachers will increasingly provide learning experiences that require application and authentic feedback from real audiences and that allow them to deepen their essential skills.
Building the culture. Our teachers will continue to promote the idea that students can be partners in each others’ learning and that people can accomplish more together than they can in isolation. Part of this work will be helping increase students’ emotional well-being capacity to interact positively with all members of the community.
Experiences. Bolinas-Stinson has become somewhat famous for experiential learning. Our students will continue to head out into the world and explore what it has to offer. Our teachers’ enthusiasm for various subjects and ideas will undoubtedly encourage more expeditions.
This is a great time to be returning to Bolinas-Stinson School. Our staff is rested and ready to start. And, unlike my own school days, I am feeling 100 percent excitement and zero percent dread. I think this will be our best year ever and hope all members of our community will take some time to visit us and see some of the wonderful work our school is doing.
John Carroll has been superintendent of the Bolinas-Stinson Union and Lagunitas School Districts since 2014. A father of two, he has lived in the San Geronimo valley for 19 years.