George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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,

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

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Comments (20) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Maureen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a faculty director at an allied health career college and your words resonate for my faculty members as much as they do for K-12 teachers. Many of the students who come to us come with less than stellar experiences with traditional schooling because of a myriad of reasons. Many students are trying to change their own history and build a better life for themselves and their families through career education. I'll share with my instructors your words, paraphrased a bit, to envision the students as the allied health professionals they are becoming not the students they are at the moment. Thank you for words that speak to educators everywhere!

Jennifer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I found this message inspiring to read. It shows great leadership, and it is a great way to start the year. As professional teachers, we often times to want to blame ourselves. After reading this, I realize that we cannot point blame at anyone. I cannot put blame on my students and I cannot look down on myself. My goal is to step back and realize what I need to change to better direct learning or help their behaviors. It is tough because as a teacher, we do have so much responsiblity, and when things do not go as planned, or they simply do not go well, we are harder on ourselves than others are on us.

Thank you for sharing this with us. I love the bullet points at the end, which we all need to keep in mind often. We need to have fun, laugh and enjoy each moment, and realize that we truly can have a positive impact without even realizing it.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This letter is very inspiring. At times it gets very tough and I feel like a failure. I admit I do not look to my colleagues too often for advice. This letter gives me a new outlook on the professional. I hope to utilize the information presented in this letter to keep my spirits up.

Christine's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How refreshing!

Your letter speaks wisdom to all teachers. How we all need this as a life-long reminder!

Your letter reminds me of this statement:
"It is the warmth and nurture of human relationships that... children most easily respond to. Learning most easily takes place in the context of a safe environment in which people feel secure enough to experiment, to take risks, to venture beyond their capabilities into the great unknown." (Kottler, 2005, p.48)

Thank you for sharing this letter of encouragement.

Kottler, J. A., Zehm, S. J., & Kottler, E. (2005). On being a teacher: The human dimension (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

From NM's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow! You're letter is amazing. It makes me want to come teach at your school. I want my children to attend your school. I have printed out your letter and I hope you don't mind if I share it with others. You have made me excited to teach again.
Thank you.

Carli's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I loved your letter Bob! I'm so glad you shared it! It is so inspiring, who wrote it? I would love to come back to school with a letter like that. I absolutely love and live for the advice in the bottom...Laugh, cry, inspire, be inspired, make a difference...That is why we are teachers!
thank you for sharing!

Jason Flick's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I thoroughly enjoyed Bob Lenz's comments in the Blog entitled "The Journey Continues." All I desire to contribute basically, however, is a mild correction... The perfect school, in my opinion, is not one without students... but one without administrators and law makers... haha. Serioiusly,
I was intrigued by the challenging and inspirational ideas that Bob suggested. I was particularly drawn to the idea of establishing rapport and that until we as educators are able to make a connection, we are seen by students as just another teacher in the chain of teachers that becomes the "educational machine." This is the first Blog that I have attempted submitting to as well... "Hello Bob. first time listener, first time caller!"

This has been a particularly helpful experience as I am currently pursuing a Master's of Education in the area of "Integrating Technology in the classroom." I can see that "blogging" offers a definite advantage of exposing oneself to alternative perspectives outside one's own personal classroom. "Blogging" itself could be seen as a concrete demonstration of the importance of , as Bob Lentz suggested, "feeling safe in one's environment". Perhaps "Blog time", would be a highly effective tool at the beginning of a classperiod, to allow students to have some quiet reflection time to prepare themselves for the forthcoming class. In this way, "Blogging" could be utilized as a communications tool for a successful classroom learning strategy.

In the future, perhaps, "Blog time" will become a standard feature of the daily educatioinal program in which students spend a 1/2 hour period every day, simply blogging as a means of practicing constructive self expression. Perhaps in the future there will be "Blog Stations" in the hallway such as there are at college campuses.
These are just some "cyberspeak" possibilities to consider for the future of educational strategies.


Tracy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We all need to be reminded of the positive things we do in our work. While your words are great for the start of the school year, I think I would really appreciate them in Februrary. In some ways, reading your words reminds me of Frederick, by Leo Lionni. Frederick is a field mouse who brings color and light to a long cold winter with his words. Thank you-

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was drawn to this entry because I am from the Hayward area and have a great deal of family still living there. I am so glad that as I was scrolling through entries and Hayward caught my eye. This was so touching. What a wonderful letter to send at the beginning of the year (or anytime for that matter)! There are several points that are made that are oh so true and oh so easy to forget! (don't blame the kids, don't blame yourself, laugh, cry, etc) It is great to be reminded of them from time to time. I would love to teach in a school that shared as this letter has. How inspired and supported the teachers must feel! :-) Thank you!!

Victor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I know that there is no such thing as the perfect school, however, those teachers that received this letter must have felt like they worked for the perfect school. That was such a wonderful way to start the year. I think that most administrators do try to start the year off with something that is similar to these words. For instance our administrator always has had a welcome back breakfast to kick off the year. Everyone is very motivated and excited to start. This year for some reason our administrator had the breakfast for us and started the year great with all her enthusiasm but has not done much more to keep our moral up through out the year. It is now the end of March with only about 8 weeks left of school and the teacher moral has been down a great deal. Many teachers have turned in their transfer forms and are talking about not enjoying themselves because of the discipline problems we are having that are not being addressed by the administration. Teachers are feeling that things are being swept under the rug sort of speak. Unfortunately, it can be contagious because I too have found myself feeling down about things happening at our school. I believe that to many times administrators get caught up in the "test scores" that nothing else matters and therefore a letter or statement like this one in this blog would really be nice for our staff right about now. I am glad that I have a great class this year and none of the problems that are causing teachers to be upset are from my room. However, because they are from my grade level I see and hear all their problems which is why I get down too.

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