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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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