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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Journey Continues: An Inspirational Message

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Today, Envision Schools kicked off its fifth school year by opening a new school in Hayward, California, called Impact Academy. Our three other California schools -- City Arts and Tech and Metropolitan Arts and Tech, in San Francisco, and Oakland's Envision Academy -- started the school year, too.

More than 1,000 students attend an Envision School in our Bay Area network. The following letter was sent to all Envision Schools staff:


August 27, 2007

Dear Envisioners,

Your work this summer has been inspiring -- thoughtful, caring, student focused, smart, and fun! When the roller-coaster ride of the upcoming school year gets you down, recall the hopes and dreams of this past summer.

I usually get a good chuckle when I tell the story of the perfect school: It's the school where students haven't shown up yet. While I still think it's pretty funny, I have to amend the statement. The perfect school is the one with all the kids present -- with all of their issues, drama, attitudes, insights, passion, and energy. So today, as Stewart Fox, former principal of the Marin School of Arts and Technology, and the MSAT team used to say, "We all move closer to perfection [because] the students have arrived!"

Remember, when it gets tough, don't blame the students. Our responsibility is to figure out which strategy will work with each student, because everyone comes with a different, compelling story. We are trying to change history, and although it won't be easy, it will be rewarding. When it gets really tough, try to envision the students they are becoming, not the students they are at that moment.

Remember, don't blame yourself. Until you develop a personal connection with a student (and even then), as Karen Wolff, the new principal of Envision Academy, says, "You are every teacher they have ever had." Look for help and support from your colleagues -- we have a collective responsibility to serve each other as well as the students. You are not alone.

Also, we work to make a difference in the lives of every student we meet; however, not every student will succeed in the short time we have with them. This doesn't mean we can give up on kids; it reminds us not to blame ourselves when we can't reach a student. Often, the life lessons we teach are not realized until the students are ready to learn them -- years after they have left your school.

Remember to

  • laugh often.
  • cry when you need to.
  • have fun.
  • be inspired.
  • make a positive difference.
  • have a great year, and enjoy the ride.

All the best,
Bob


What do you think of the message in this letter? Let me know.

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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Comments (20)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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Josh's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I wish all of the administrators I've ever had started their year so positively. Hopefully, Mr. Lenz, you'll be that excited and motivated every year.

Mary's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As an educator, I was very pleased to hear such a warm and inviting greeting from the leader of a school. I can only imagine with hope that this is what is expected from a principal and maintained throughout the school year. With that kinf of leadership, I beleive support through a day would be easy to find. Thanks for sharing it Mr. Lentz. I think it will not only inspire this staff but those who find themselves a bit in despair. Mary E.

Lisa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Your ending bullets caught my attention. Too often we are so focused on the business of school that we forget to laugh, have fun, and just enjoy the ride.

Thank you for giving me permission to be human. As teachers, we will always do our very best. With some students, we will succeed. With others, it may not be their time to learn. Whatever the outcome is, I hope that the educational experience for all is positive.

Heidi Holland's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for your words of inspiration. I think that it is so important to remember that it will be tough with some kids; but not to blame them or ourselves. I think that too often we want the student they are becoming RIGHT NOW!! And forget that it takes time. It takes time to build relationships, and if you think about it, a year isn't really that much time. I really like the thought that the lessons we teach kids may not be realized until they are sometimes out of school. That really gives me hope, and encourages me to keep going, and keep doing the things that I think will make a difference, even if I don't see the results this year. In this day of immediate gratification, I think that we as teachers can be guilty of having this attitude with the students. I need to remember that teaching is like gardening, or even being on a diet!! You may not see the results in one or two weeks (like we'd like), but we need to believe that what we are doing will make a difference if we keep doing it; and eventually we will see the results. Heidi H.

Erin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Mr. Lenz,
As a passerby reader I was so inspired to read your blog. I think that it is such a great message to any school in our nation. You are right when you say that we cannot blame the students, after all they really are still children. We need to keep brainstorming new ideas and put them into action until we come up with something that works for our students. I also enjoyed how you encourage teachers to seek each other out for help and encouragment. We could accomplish so much if we helped each other and stuck together. Once again thank you for your letter, it is a great inspiration for anyone reading it.

Erin

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have never heard of this school,but it appears to be a school that many of us would dream to teach at. I can feel the vision within each word. I try personally to start my day with the same, but honestly I need some of the inspiration later in the day, or mostly on Fridays. I agree that we never know when I child may grasp all that we "envision" for them, a life journey truly, for them and us!

Jen Feichter's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a wonderful welcome back letter! It is refreshing to see such a positive and light feeling being conveyed.
I like how you said we are trying to change history, but it won't be easy. You're absolutely right. It's rewarding, but sometimes we don't see the full reward until years down the road. Maybe it's seeing those struggling students we had finally graduating from high school. Or a thank you letter from a student we had many years ago. It's moments like these that keep us in it for the long haul. Thank you for making your school a model for many to follow!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow! What a positive way to begin a school year! Your staff was lucky to receive such a wonderful letter; ours are very dry in comparison. Although we are already a month into the school year, it certainly was an inspiration to read your words of encouragement. I was particularly impressed with the idea of envisioning "the students they are becoming, not the students they are now". It will help to realize that what happens now behaviorally is just a blip in the grand scheme of things. However, the work we do now will shape the future for these children. I also appreciate the permission to feel frustrated or upset and more importantly the permission to not hold onto blame. All too often I feel that I am a failure if I can not reach a child. It was very encouraging to see from the eyes of an administrator that it isn't so. I wish you all the best this school year.

Lori's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was truly amazed at the uplifting message that was given to the teachers. I think this message should be sent out to school districts around the country to see how they could inspire their teachers for the upcoming year. I agree that it is our responsibility as teachers to figure out strategies that work with each student. I do feel that we can make a difference in every students life. Thank you for your uplifting letter. Lori C.

Kim Bishop's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It is refreshing to read your letter. It is often too easy to lose focus of why we are teachers and that it is ok to put the standards away for a minute to be human. After all, our students will learn a valuable lesson in life from us if we are able to:

"Remember to

laugh often.
cry when you need to.
have fun.
be inspired.
make a positive difference.
have a great year, and enjoy the ride."

Thank you for sharing and I am going to be sharing your message with my fellow colleagues in my Master's Program.

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