I was totally moved by this story shared on Imgur the other day:
“Oh the Places You’ll Go…”
I graduated High School this week. When my Dad said he had a present for me I thought I was getting some cheesy graduation card. But what I received was something truly priceless. Following the ceremony he handed me a bag with a copy of “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” by Doctor Seuss inside. At first I just smiled and said that it meant a lot and that I loved that book. But then he told me “No, open it up.” …On the first page I see a short paragraph written by none other than my kindergarten teacher. I start tearing up but I’m still confused. He tells me “Every year, for the past 13 years, since the day you started kindergarten I’ve gotten every teacher, coach, and principal to write a little something about you inside this book.” He managed to keep this book a secret for 13 years, and apparently everyone else in my life knew about it! Yes the intended effect occured… I burst out in tears. Sitting there reading through this book there are encouraging and sweet words from every teacher I love and remember through my years in this small town. My early teachers mention my “Pigtails and giggles,” while my high school teachers mention my “Wit and sharp thinking..” But they all mention my humor and love for life. It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful. I can’t express how much I love my Dad for this labor of love.
I was so moved by this story (as many were) and as always, thought about it in the context of our schools. Often we look at school in “one year chunks” yet we don’t realize that the impact we have on a child can (and should) be forever. When schools look at their vision, are they building it past one year, or are they looking at something longer lasting, and as the above story illustrates, something more powerful.
Last year, I saw the “Dear Sophie” commercial from Google Chrome, and I still get goosebumps every time I watch it.
For the dad in that video, he saw the long term vision that sharing and archiving his child growing up would be something that would be extremely powerful for his own child. I am sure, however, that he did not think it would reach millions of others through the video that was made.
Within our work at Parkland School Division, we are moving into our second year of our digital portfolio initiative for our students, and the vision is that students will have created an archive their learning for all of the years they spend in our schools (any school) that they can take and build upon long after they leave. This is not to say that there aren’t struggles with this work. Many people would feel comfortable using different platforms such as Kidblog because they may be easier or they may be apt to use, but we are trying to build a vision where the platform is secondary to the learning. If we all use the same platform to create these portfolios, we can then get into truly deep and transformative learning.
It would be easy at any point to throw in the towel on this project though. It would have also been easy for the dad to give up on the project for his daughter with the book, but he wanted to do something special and make a difference that would go far beyond a simple graduation gift. He wanted to give his daughter something she would truly cherish.
Do we as schools have a long term vision that will help transcend what we do past “year chunks” and into lifelong learning? Do we have the patience to see projects through that go far beyond any single year? Do we build capacity within our schools so that no matter what leadership is in place, that long term vision can be achieved?
I am hoping our answer to all three of those questions is a definitive yes.