It Works Every Time

I've said it for years. When I'm busy, behind, frustrated or increasingly concerned about the state of the world (which happens a lot), I have to get out; out of my office and into schools, that is. So last week, I spent part of the quiet period for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln spring break on the road visiting educational leaders in Western Nebraska. And is the case every single time I head out, I came back reenergized, renewed, and reassured about the future. I entitled this round the #NebraskaEDADSpringBreakTour so I could share my travels and learning via Twitter.

In Gothenburg, I met with the leadership team of the Gothenburg Public Schools. I heard about the way their teachers have embraced learning communities, the number of students engaged in Future Farmers of America, the donated greenhouse that's operated by students who develop business plans, apply for loans, and reinvest the profits. I heard from Superintendent Dr. Michael Teahon, who earned his doctorate at UNL Educational Administration, about the longevity of teachers and leaders in the district, because sometimes when you find a good place, you stay there. For a long time. I even got the chance to meet some community leaders at the Rotary Club's lunch meeting. They're engaged in making their school, community, and future a better place. And they asked great questions.

A  few miles down the road, I met with Associate Superintendent Dr. Tami Eshelman, also a proud UNL Educational Administration alum, and UNL EDAD current doctoral student and Director of Special Education Peggy Romshek about new initiatives underway at the North Platte Public Schools. We talked about growing new school leaders for rapidly changing environments, supporting families, all types of students, and other day to day challenges of leading schools.

The next day provided a great opportunity to head northwest past the iconic Chimney Rock and countless historical markers along the Mormon Trail toward Scottsbluff High School  and Western Nebraska Community College. There I learned about how few in Scottsbluff have not been touched by WNCC's people and programs over the years and how they're working to address worker shortages, build innovative programs, and power the future in the Nebraska Panhandle. Down the street at Scottsbluff High, @NebraskaEDAD alum Dr. Andrew Dick showed me Scottsbluff's career pathways, forward thinking school safety initiatives, and inviting new building. I saw the greenroom outside the video recording studio, the state of the art health sciences classroom, and the culinary arts room that rivals any commercial kitchen.

And while I'm a new Nebraskan, I shared with my peeps that I've been around long enough to know that when you're near Paxton, you don's miss Ole's Big Game Stakehouse for supper.

The final leg of my 900 mile round trip took me to Hershey, population 663. The pride I sensed from Superintendent Jane Davis and the Hershey Public Schools team reminded me of Seymour, IA, where I began as a teacher some twenty years ago. High school students were assembled together in the gym, learning about ACT tips. The industrial tech teacher was working with students taking the lead on renovating the shop. In the lobby, a community member and student chatted as part of Tom Osborne's thriving Teammates mentoring program. Big kids shared high fives with little kids on the way to the library.

Taken together, I was reminded of so many things. I've spent my life in schools, working with students, leaders, and teachers. Our challenges are many and our hearts are big. Next time you hear a gloom and doom story about what's wrong with these kids today or an expose on our supposedly failing schools, loss of pride, lack of innovation, and ineffective teachers, consider the source. Ask  how much time they've really spent in schools. How many educators do they know?

Then give me a call. I'll put you in touch with some folks who can show you what's really going on. You'll see how the remarkable happens routinely and how those who make it happen roll on to the next challenge, the next innovation, and the next big impact. With little fanfare. They're just doing what they do, with soul, energy, and care. 

I'm willing to bet that like me, you'll return to your job with a renewed sense of purpose, energy, and gratitude for the work happening in our schools and community colleges. If you want to feel better about the possibilities of our collective future, taking a close look at what's really going on in schools works every time.

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