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Just the Beginning…

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Allie Bosley

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We’ve been here for 6 full days now and yet it seems like it’s already been a month! When I decided to go on this trip to Peru, I truly didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The people are so kind, the food is better than anything I could ever make and I am already learning so much. We came to Peru to experience, something that seems so simple but I’m sure some of you reading that this includes volunteering or being a tourist. We are not here on a mission, this is not charity work nor is it a site seeing voyage, but it is an opportunity to understand a different way of life, to hear from people that are so similar yet so different from myself. I think one of the most important things I have taken away from just experiencing is that this is not a time to pity, to feel bad, or to have a privilege check.

In the The Voluntourist’s Dilemma by Jacob Kushnerit discussed the way that people often times come on a one week trip to underdeveloped countries, with no skills in building and with no invitation to come help, yet take it upon themselves to build a school or play with the orphanage kids. These things can cause serious economic and social disruptions in the communities because they are not sustainable contributions. Life is so vastly different here than it is in Wisconsin or Vermont, that it’s not a matter of who has more or less, but rather a comparison of ways of living. There are simple differences like not being able to flush your toilet paper down the toilet, cars honking constantly, and people being open to greeting you on the street. Then there are the complex differences such as building homes out of scraps, having a water supply from fog, or using sawdust toilets — we really need to jump on this water-saving technology.

The biggest connection that I see between Peru and the US is inequality amongst the citizens. There are people with enough money to eliminate hunger in their country and there are people that do not have enough money to buy food every day. In Inequality in Peru: Realty and Risks by Oxfam, which we read before we left, it talked about the differences in rural versus urban living. There is a lack of resources, opportunities and education in rural areas that makes being successful that much harder. One thing that was very striking is how inaccessible clean water is. Billions of houses are not connected to a clean water supply and if they are, it costs 3–10 times more money than it would for those living in an urban area because of the challenge getting the water to those locations. Another inequality is the income gap. Those living in the highlands and the jungle are twice as likely to be in poverty than those that live in the coast. This is, again, thanks to the lack of opportunity and resources. It is harder to find jobs that will pay a livable wage, when you also need to spend a good majority of your time caring for your children and parents, growing food, and finding water. One last large inequality we see here in Peru is based on how indigenous an individual is. Those that are 100% indigenous are twice as likely to be poor compared to those that are not. Education can also much easier to access and of higher quality on the coastline, and specifically more urban areas. Tomorrow we will visit one of the nicest schools in Lima, called Colegio La Inmaculada, and we will get to experience what schooling is like there, with the context that there are places where school can not even be in session for a full day because there is not enough money to pay the teachers. I am curious to see what differences and similarities we will encounter.

Today, I had the opportunity to go to Miraflores, which is a very nice district on the coast of Peru. In the 15 minute drive I noticed just how different the city was street to street. This part of the city was very green, there were beautiful skyscrapers, and like the article notes, more light skinned Peruvians. While it was clear to me why it was like this, it was still very surprising to me. Differences like calmness in the streets, less people and stunning houses were all indications that this district was very financially stable. While it was cool to see this area, it also made it very clear to me that this city is divided and that not everyone is being given what they need to thrive. I think things like inequality are so important to talk about when studying abroad because it follows you everywhere. There are few places in the world where there is no inequality. Especially in a country where there is presidential corruption, you can see how it affects the people. The interested of a small percentage are put in front of the interests of the entire country because of finances. We must look at this and understand this is and be aware of the fact that there are people that are not being given the same love as others and that their voices are being taken away from them because the government knows if they get those resources and opportunities and find their voices they will take back their power as well. It is important to recognize these inequalities so that you can also realize how important your voice is, how meaningful it can be and how much we all deserve to have our voices.

As I look back on this week, I have found that reflection has really helped me. We have been encouraged to try multiple forms of reflection. For my internal reflection, I have been journaling and taking time to myself through meditation. The journaling has been a great way for me to be able to remember the things that take place during that day and really process all of the emotions I went through. The meditation part of my internal reflection, I use are time to clear my head and turn down the outside world. We do external reflection as a group and bounce our thoughts off of each other. I think this is vital so that you can hear what other people’s experiences are and learn from what they saw and heard.

All and all, this first week has been even better than I expected! Another update will be out in a week, chau!

New to Peru

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Gabriela Oliveras-Bonaparte

Buenas Tardes de Peru,

Those that are reading this may know that I am in Peru for a month through the education program at Marquette University. What you may not know is what exactly I am doing while I am here. In what feels like the shortest week of my life, I have been wondering the same thing. We read a piece called “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma,” which talks about the dangers in going somewhere for one or two weeks and working on some sort of project like building a school. The issue with this is that often when people do this they are not properly trained and are taking away work from locals who are more qualified. Also, more often than not these voluntourists do not think about the future like, for example, who would be staffing these schools. Fortunately, I know for a fact that this is not what we are here to do. This past week I have gotten to know the city in which I am staying, played sports such as soccer and other games for the international day for the right to play which was this past Saturday the 25th. We have also listened to many stories from various community members. I have come to the conclusion that I am here to learn as much as I can from the people I will be working with and meeting. I am also here to reflect on my experiences and connect them to what I already know and dig deeper to find a greater understanding.

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Pamplona Alta, a pueblo joven

Coming on this trip, I think I have a bit of a different perspective than my peers because of my Puerto Rican background. Not only do I compare and contrast Peru with the United States but I also do so with Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, we depend a lot on the States for aid and protection when we need it. But since we are not recognized as a state, we do not really get a say when it comes to the United States government. I never really put two and two together to realize Puerto Rico is not the only place that depends on the United States for things. Here in Peru I was having a conversation with one of the students from the University with which we are partnered on this trip. This student was asking me about my opinions on the U.S. governments and how I felt about certain political issues. Finally I asked how they knew so much about a country that felt so far away. This student informed me that Peru depends a lot on the States for certain kinds of aid. I never realized how much the United States impacts other countries but it has been interesting to see what kinds of things the people of Peru do when depending on one another.

First things first, I want to share some things I have observed during the time I have been here. We were fortunate enough to visit Pamplona Alta, which is said to be a pueblo joven (young town); this is where some of the poorest people live near the city. These towns are created usually by people migrating from the jungle trying to get closer to the city for better educational opportunities for their children and better health care. While visiting this pueblo I was very impressed with the amount of innovation I saw, such as people building their homes out of scrap metal. Although things like electricity and water pumps are more scarce than in the city, the people of Pamplona Alta seemed to have high spirits, or at least the people with whom we interacted. Our first visit was with an older woman who had a little tienda (store) with some basic snacks and fresh fruits. She originally worked long days in construction, which was rare for a woman, but then decided to open a shop close to home to protect her two daughters during the day. Her graciousness and openness to tell us her story was something that I admired and am thankful for. Next, we visited a casitas program near the store. Casitas (which translates to little house) is an after school program. Our visit to Casitas was very brief, but in the short time we were there you could just feel all the love, joy and excitement that was in the room. We were greeted by hugs and smiles from several children from the program as I am sure they were happy to have a distraction from doing their homework. Even though we were only there for maybe five minutes they wanted to show off their English skills so one boy said to me, “Libro es book, si?” Their eagerness to learn seemed so pure. Even though these people had very little material-wise, they seemed rich in so many different ways.

In terms of power, I tried to analyze this community and how power is inflicted on them and ways they are able to take back power. According to Nyberg, “A Concept of Powe,” there are 4 types of power: force, fiction, finance, and fealty. I believe one type of power to be inflected on pueblo jovenes is force and finance. In terms of force, there are literal walls built separating these communities from more affluent areas which are put there to prevent them from infiltrating. Also it is apparent that the poor stay poor so I would believe something as well known as the poverty cycle might reflect what I would say is force in terms of power. The government seems to want to have little to do with these communities except to keep them away and on the outskirts of the city. Although force is being acted upon pueblo jovenes, we know that this type of power is not sustainable, which we have seen before with terrorist groups in Peru like the Shining Path who killed in efforts to try and get the government to recognize their needs. So if this type of power is not sustainable, I wonder what lies ahead for these pueblo jovenes and the city of Lima in general.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Hannah Lubar

This summer, we are continuing our series getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Hannah Lubar, one of our Student Affairs in Higher Education graduate students!

IMG_2913Hi and thanks for your interest in getting to know me! I’m going into my second and final year as a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE!) program, working as a Graduate Assistant in the Business Career Center. I’m also a proud alumna of the College of Ed.

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, but including my undergraduate years at Marquette, I’ve lived in Milwaukee for around nine years now. After getting my Bachelor’s Degree, I knew I wanted to stick around Milwaukee, and I taught high school English in the city for four years.

I come from a family of educators: my dad is a middle school music teacher, and my mom and sister both teach special education in the Chicago area. I’ve also got two very cool brothers and an incredibly loveable nephew and niece. I met my kind and hilarious husband, Eric, at MU.  He and his sister both just graduated with their master’s degrees from MU, so you can say the three of us are big fans of our school and of Milwaukee (and very blessed).

Major highlights of my educational experience include being part of the Dorothy Day Social Justice Living Learning Community and then my time teaching, which gave me invaluable memories, experience, and relationships. Both my extracurricular time at Marquette in undergrad and my time teaching high school sparked my interest in higher education support services as well as community engagement.

This upcoming academic year, I’m excited to explore new areas of higher education at UW-Milwaukee through my summer and fall practica.  I really appreciate how the SAHE program helps us foster connections with other institutions and gain new perspectives.  It’s something that drew me to the program. Additionally, I chose Marquette – the second time – because of its Jesuit values and commitment to others, and because I felt that my undergraduate teacher training from the College was truly quality.

Outside of education, I enjoy biking, rock climbing, trying new restaurants, watching Parks and Rec reruns, going to concerts/shows around Milwaukee, being in community with my church, gardening, and yoga. I think it’s important to make time for rest and personal interests so that we can be our best selves in our work – so I’m always trying to work on all of the above!

What I Learned in My First Year at Marquette

19260312_1571859482847597_3920726082226429607_n-700x503By Kathryn Rochford

Hi everyone!

Happy Summer! I recently just finished my freshman year here at Marquette and boy, did I learn a lot. I challenged myself academically, physically and mentally. I grew and changed in so many ways. I met some of my best friends here, I started a new sport, and I connected with professors and fellow students in class. I cheered on our boys’ basketball team all the way through March Madness. Also, it goes without saying, I even survived the polar vortex in Milwaukee, which is one of the most impressive feats of the school year.

While this year was full of so many ups and downs, I’m so happy to be here at Marquette, and especially in the College of Education. I’d like to share the top 5 things I learned from my first year of college.

College is both harder and easier than you expect it to be.
Yes, I know that seems like I’m contradicting myself, but it’s true! The hardest part of college, especially at the beginning of each new semester is adjusting to a new schedule, new professors and their teaching styles, and fresh faces in your classes. You might think you’ll have tons of time since classes only take up a fraction of your day, but between studying, working out, making time for friends, eating at relatively normal hours and getting a somewhat functional amount of sleep, it’s harder to balance than you think!

The easiest part of college I found comes with course load and making friends. As with most things in life, I quickly learned you will get out what you put in. Balancing course load is easy when you’re proactive, have your syllabus laid out every night, and have a master calendar to check on upcoming deadlines. Making friends, while intimidating at first, gets easier when you get involved in clubs you’re passionate about. It may take some time, but when you find those quality friends, hold on to them.

Having a reusable water battle is a blessing.
Yes, yes, we’ve all heard how important drinking water is, but you don’t really think about just how important it is until it’s 4 p.m. in Milwaukee and it’s still 90 degrees out and your building has no air conditioning. Trust me, you’ll want to hydrate yourself as much as humanly possible. Bonus, it helps save the turtles and cuts down on plastic waste! A reusable water bottle with a filter built into it is even easier to use since you can fill it up at any tap.

Don’t bother bringing your whole wardrobe from home.
Not only does this take up way too much space in your itty-bitty dorm room, but it’s also stressful to pack at home. And then when you do go home for break, you have no clothes to wear because they’re all back up at school. My advice: go through the clothes you own, as likely you own more than you think, and donate the clothes that don’t fit, don’t get worn, etc. You help others in the long run, and you free up some space in that closet of yours. Bringing your whole wardrobe is kind of pointless because if you’re like me, you’ll only alternate between the same few bottoms and maybe 10-15 tops until laundry day anyway. Bottom line: no matter how much you’re tempted, DON’T DO IT.

Learn how to write a professional email.
This skill is incredibly useful for so many reasons, whether it’s looking for an internship, writing for a scholarship or addressing professors, administrators and advisers. Always have a subject line that explains the problem, or if possible, highlight the class and section you’re in so professors can be more prepared to respond to you individually. Greetings are huge, and when in doubt for a class, always say professor or doctor. Get in the habit of addressing your question in paragraph form: explain what your question is, how you interpreted the solution and then ask for their suggestion to the solution. Then, explain how you can be contacted and various meeting times if needed. Always proofread for clarity and/or grammatical/spelling errors, too. By creating this habit, it establishes you as a student that invests in their learning and understanding of content, as well as helps to establish a relationship with professors.

Milwaukee is a fun city: explore it.
Looking back at this past year, the one thing I wish I had done more of was explore. First semester, I hardly even visited downtown Milwaukee, and I only ever left campus to run errands or go to the mall. Once I found my best friends, I found I had so much more fun during the week by doing quick runs to the beach, to Kopps, or Aloha Poke. Those fun little adventures created memories I’ll never forget and helped me to realize that there’s so much I haven’t seen or done yet that I can’t wait to do sophomore year. That’s the beauty of being in a big city: there’s a restaurant for nearly every culture, concerts for every music taste, and beautiful views of the skyline at night or the lake on a sunny afternoon. But, make sure you are aware of your surroundings: have a charged phone, headphones so no one bothers you but you can hear what they are saying, google maps pulled up on your phone or easy access to an Uber or the bus system. I learned more than book smarts here at Marquette, I also learned some street smarts too, and safety is of utmost importance in a big city. My biggest tip for any incoming freshman is to explore and take advantage of the warm days while you’ve got them, otherwise before you know it it’s snowing on the second to last week of school and all you want to do is stay inside.

Freshman year: you were fun, and you taught me a lot. Bring it on sophomore year!

 

The New Normal

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Street art in Miraflores, Lima.

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Melissa Gibson

Temblor: A new word in my repertoire to describe my experiences in Peru. Temblor: tremor, or what you feel during an earthquake. In the wee hours of Saturday-into-Sunday, Peru’s Amazon jungle was struck by an 8.0 earthquake, and here in Lima we woke up to a minute of door-rattling, bed-shaking temblores. To me, it was terrifying. My Peruvian friends have told me too many times about how Lima is overdue for a major earthquake and how damaging it will be to the poorer parts of the city, so when the temblores started, my heart raced to keep pace with the shaking—even though, by earthquake standards, the shaking was pretty mellow. When it stopped and Google’s disaster alerts told me everything I needed to know to be reassured, I still couldn’t sleep. Every rattle of a door, every creak in the mattress jolted my heart back to racing.

The next night, as I turned off the lights for bed, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me, and I had to talk myself down: There was nothing to be nervous about. Go to sleep. Deep breaths to calm my racing heart. It’s not earthquake season. The epicenter was hundreds of miles away. Probability is in our favor. Eventually, I gave in to an uneventful night of rest.

So imagine my surprise when, Monday night, I am sitting in my bed finishing up my preparation for the next day’s seminar and: temblor. No more than ten seconds, but the shaking was now unmistakable. A 4.6 on the outskirts of Lima, barely perceptible to Limeños because, as my friend Marisol says, they happen all the time with the change of season. (In fact, I am reminded of my first time in Lima when the toilet started shaking, and I only realized it was an earthquake the next day when people were talking about it at school.) Yes, more precarious neighborhoods evacuated their houses Saturday night just to be safe, but on my street? The neighbors partied through the whole thing, cumbia band and all. And on Monday night, I gave myself a little pat on the back that my heart stayed at a normal pace and I was able to fall asleep, earthquake anxiety at bay.

This is what it is to spend time in a foreign country not as a tourist. So many things are anxiety-producing when you first encounter them: The traffic. The piles of ceviche. The fresh fruits and salads. The toilet paper situation. The jumble of Lima’s streets. The conversations in Spanish. The walks through crowded market streets with a group of 30. The visit to a pharmacy. The mysteriously uncooperative ATM. The temblores. But then a day passes, a week passes, and without realizing it, you’ve slipped from anxious unknowing to a new rhythm of daily life. New words, new ideas, new experiences.

This first collection of blog posts from our 2019 Marquette University study abroad experience, “Education in the Americas,” lets readers in on what this process of learning a new normal feels like. You’ll hear about the students’ host families, their first impressions of Lima, their muddled conversations in Spanish. You’ll also hear them trying to make sense of it all—because, after all, this is a study abroad experience. And that’s where I come in. Our month is designed so that students acquire the philosophical and pedagogical tools to make sense of what they’re experiencing and then to transfer those understandings back to their home contexts. I don’t just want them to know the word temblor, and I don’t just want them to roll with the experience Limeño style; I also what them to be able to articulate why that experience matters.

In this first week, our conversations in seminar have focused on naming the power dynamics and structures of inequality that we encountered, and trying to locate ourselves in those systems through Ignatian-inspired reflection. While I have assigned the readings and designed the experiences, the students have to bring all the pieces together for themselves, for their own sense-making. This can be challenging for me as the teacher. There’s so much I want them to know! But I remind myself that the purpose of our month abroad is not to make them experts in philosophy or sociology of education but to help them learn how to think critically about unequal social contexts of schools. Our purpose is, yes, to experience a new normal, but in doing so, I hope we will begin to see our own normal through new eyes.

The Jesuits here talk a lot about acompañamiento, the process of accompanying or being with someone as they experience and wrestle with life. Accompaniment is an act of solidarity, of partnership, of being in life together. When done well, from a spirit of humanizing and constructivist pedagogies, accompaniment is also what we do when we teach. In this month, I am accompanying my students on their journey into a new normal, and I am accompanying them as they then navigate back to our home contexts of schooling.

These blogs are an invitation to you, dear readers, to accompany us on our journey, as well. We invite you to read in solidarity with our experiences, however imperfect or partial our sense-making may be after only one week into the trip. Let us know through comments what you’re thinking as you read, what questions you have for us or want us to answer, or what perspectives you might bring to our experiences. Accompany us as we consider justice, education and Peru.

 

Getting to Know Our Students: Jennifer Gaul-Stout

We are continuing our series getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Jennifer Gaul-Stout, one of our doctoral students in the Educational Policy and Leadership Department!

RCP_4668My name is Jennifer Gaul-Stout, and I am a doctoral student in Educational Policy and Leadership. I finished my coursework last fall and am getting ready to start working on my dissertation! I am studying how citizens use their understanding of science, specifically surrounding environmental issues, to try to enact policy change.

I grew up in Cresco, Iowa. It is a tiny farming community in the northeast corner of the state. I’ve lived in Milwaukee for 12 years — way longer than I ever thought I would… My husband is an Marquette College of Education graduate! He also has his Master’s degree from Marquette and is currently the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions. Our family is all MU all the time! We have a son who is 2.5 years old and is the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet.

I took a somewhat untraditional route to teaching. My undergraduate degree is in environmental science and theatre. After graduation I moved to Colorado and worked as an environmental educator for the Gore Range Natural Science School in Avon and for Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. After six months, the Midwest called me back, and I began trying to figure out my next step. After a couple of years of reflection (and working jobs that I didn’t enjoy) I realized that the happiest time for me was when I was teaching people of all ages about the what I love, the environment! I joined the Urban Fellows Educational Program at Mt. Mary University and received my M.A. in Education along with my teaching license. I spent the next seven years teaching science and math to 5th-8th grade boys.

While I loved my time in the classroom, I missed being a student. With the support of my amazing husband, I left my teaching job and began working on my doctorate here at MU. In addition to being a student, I’ve had the amazing opportunity of teaching elementary science methods to pre-service teachers.

When I’m not in the classroom, I have to confess that I am absolutely obsessed with The Great British Baking Show. For Christmas a few years ago my husband got me a cookbook based on recipes from the show, and I’ve been Julie and Julia-ing my way through it since. I absolutely LOVE baking! A lot of the work I do involves abstract, theoretical thinking so there is something very relaxing and satisfying about following a recipe step-by-step and creating something that brings other people (mainly my husband) joy!

Wise Words From Our 2019 Commencement Speaker: Dr. Phillip Ertl

On May 19, 2019, the College of Education and all of Marquette University celebrated the graduating Class of 2019. At our college ceremony, we were inspired by the words of Dr. Phillip Ertl, Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District. We are grateful for his wisdom and would like to share his speech with you, our readers!

0011_optimizedCongratulations to the Marquette College of Education graduates from the class of 2019 – and congratulations to all the family and friends of the graduates as I know nobody does this alone, and you have all had an impact on these graduates.

I would like to thank Dean Henk and the rest of the College of Education at Marquette University. I am incredibly honored to be here with you today on the most exciting day of the year for any educational institution–graduation day. We all know commencement means “a beginning or a start.” But of what? That is up to each of you and THAT is what makes graduation so exciting.

For me, being able to see what the students of the Wauwatosa School District do in the years after graduation is very gratifying–knowing that in some way we have had an impact. This year’s graduation has an extra special meaning for me- not only is my oldest son graduating from Wauwatosa West High School, but his time in Tosa schools also coincides with my time as Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District. So, I guess I am the only one the class of 2019 can blame if things do not go well for them!

I have had the good fortune to be in education for over 30 years with 19 of those as a superintendent of schools. My path was certainly not linear. I struggled as a student and, as many that have a similar story, was not encouraged to attend college by some staff in my school that I think should have been doing that. My real motivation for going to college was to play football. It was not until a couple years into my college experience that something clicked–I really wanted to become a teacher. After graduating from UW Lacrosse, I left for Texas for my first teaching and coaching position and loved it. I had some incredible mentors, in particular Tommy Rhea, my principal. He encouraged me to follow my dreams. I guess my dreams took me back to Wisconsin after a year, and I landed in Tomah where I also had the opportunity to work with some top-notch administrators who encouraged me to get my Master’s Degree in educational administration. After completing that degree, I thought I would give my new license a try and applied for two jobs. I interviewed and was offered an associate principal (AP) position in Menasha. I spent one year as an AP and was promoted to the middle school principal position the following year. My superintendent, Bill Decker, saw something in me that I did not. He encouraged me to pursue my doctorate, something that honestly never crossed my mind until I understood that he really believed in me.

Principals and teachers that I have worked with over my time in education have had such a profound impact on me–I could talk about each of them, but I am sure you would like to get out of here today at some point–but I think you get the jist, I had a lot of great mentors and I think it is important for all of us to serve as mentors so that others have the same stories. There are a few challenges we face in education–funding, public perception, declining numbers entering the teacher workforce, testing accountability, increasing demands on our time and energy, and mental health issues. One could argue that most of these are longstanding challenges we have faced for many years in some way, shape or form.

However, mental health concerns have become one of the most prevalent. More and more students are coming to school with significant mental health challenges, that if not addressed, will stand in their way of learning and succeeding. Everything is not known why more and more students are facing those challenges but what we do know is that we must find new and innovative ways to address those needs. I am thrilled to hear that there are a number of graduates here today in clinical mental health and counseling. We need more of you working with and supporting our students. But…with all the challenges in education there are a few things that I have learned that have made a difference in my career to help me overcome those challenges and others.

First: we are in a relationship business. We don’t make widgets or ball bearings—we create relationships that lead to greater learning. Each and every person involved in education is creating relationships every single day–multiple times a day. I believe the most important relationship is the one between teacher and student. The ability to be a great teacher is based on the ability to develop and sustain positive relationships with students. To have the type of impact that we want with students we need to engage with students on many different levels (mentor, expert and friend). The old saying that “students really do not care what you know until they know that you care” is so true. Other relationships in the educational arena are critical as well. Principal leadership matters, and that leadership can only be developed through relationships with many constituencies including staff, students, parents, and the community. Find me a great principal, and I assure you their stakeholders will talk about the relationships they have with that principal. School Boards need to gain the trust of the community and have to have trust in the superintendent. Those relationships need to be healthy for a school district to thrive. There is a reason we have moved to a more collaborative model in education– it is a critical skill that all students need before they leave our doors, and in life–and we must be committed to making sure everyone understands, supports and values strong relationships to help realize that goal.

Next: every interaction will have an impact — you have to believe that! We have all been in a meeting or class or professional development activity where we are asked to think of someone that has had a great impact on our lives. Often times the people we think about never knew that they made a difference in our lives. I, personally, have gone out of my way to make sure that those people in my life, know it. For each of them it was things they said or did that they did not think were a big deal–but really did have a profound impact on me. They were simple interactions with people I looked up to and trusted. I try to think of that when I talk with students—as well as colleagues, parents and community members. You never really know what people take away from each and every conversation or interaction—- I always want it to be something positive.

Treat people with compassion and respect as it will come back to you — In 1992 when I was teaching in Tomah, I also served the school as the head football coach. We had great student athletes that I was able to get to know and work with. I had this one young man that was our starting right tackle. He was also a hockey player, really good student and a great overall kid. That student, Dr. Eric Jessup-Anger, is now my School Board President in Wauwatosa! Of course my first question to him when he came on the Board was “did I ever make you run or yell at you too much–or is that why you wanted to be on the Board?” I really do believe that what goes around comes around with how we treat people. I think that holds MOST true with how we treat students. If we don’t show them respect–those relationships that I talked about earlier will never be as good as we would like.

Be the voice for others – The focus on equity in schools may be one of the most important shifts to ever occur—and one of the most difficult to implement. Everyone says they believe all children can learn but very few schools have been able to raise expectations for ALL students and meet those expectations. Our previous school structure was not set up for all students to be successful, it really was for “many” to be successful. We must raise expectations for all students and do everything humanly possible to ensure they meet those them. We have to change societal beliefs, challenge our own biases, and push like we never have before. It is not easy work, it is not quick work, but it is work that we need to do to be successful. There are too many students that do not have a voice in their education and we need to be that voice for them by believing in them, having high expectations and helping them meet their goals. I am proud to say it is the overriding focus of all our work in the Wauwatosa School District- and it is making a difference.

Know your “why” – We really need a strong conviction and understanding of why we are in this business. For some folks, their why is to make a difference in the world or simply that they love kids. I still have never gone to a day of work: I am still going to school. I love approaching every day with the opportunity to make a difference and that is my why. In education we are tasked with selling the why to everyone. Students say “why do I need to learn algebra?” Teachers will say “why do we need to change the reading curriculum?”, school boards say, “why should be adopt this policy?”, community members will say “why should we pay this amount of taxes?” We spend our days talking about the why so we better be pretty clear on what our “why” is and what our school communities’ is.

Failure is critical for success – This is a statement I make in every interview and ask for a response. Most of the success I have had in life is because of learning from mistakes. We must encourage students to be risk-takers and not be afraid of failure. “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I am not big on living by quotes, but this is one that I believe is important for living with a growth mindset. Too many students come to us without the willingness to take risks or the ability to deal with adversity, and we have an obligation to teach them.

Celebrate successes – People that go into education generally are humble and want to serve others. Often what goes along with that is an unwillingness to talk about accomplishments. We need to take every opportunity we can to celebrate the great things going on in our schools, whether it is an individual accomplishment of a student, a group of students accomplishing something they never thought they could, a team winning a competition that was unexpected, a whole school reaching a milestone, or a whole district implementing a new policy well. We need to make sure everyone knows the great things happening in our schools. Simple emails to parents about the good things their children are doing may be the most effective communication you make!

Focus on controlling what you can control – There are so many things that we deal with that are out of our control. As I get further along in my career, I understand that there are more things we may not have control over, but we still can impact. There are a lot of state statutes that impact what we do on a daily basis, from minutes of instruction, school start dates, standards, standardized testing, how much money we have to use in schools, as well as what subjects must be taught. I have learned even some of THOSE have flexibility in them! More importantly I think we need to understand that we don’t control who the kids are in our classes – with all the intelligences, attitudes, backgrounds, and beliefs that come with them. We need to meet them where they are and take them to greater heights. All parents send their children to us hoping and expecting us to give them our best. And we owe it to the parents to do just that.

I don’t often take the opportunity to reflect on my career as I still have a long time left, but taking this opportunity to do so has reminded me of how fortunate I have been to be around some great students, teachers, administrators and school supporters – and even better people. I hope all of you have the same experiences as you go through your career.

So, as you leave here today, I challenge you to do one thing: to be THAT person, that person that makes a difference for each and every student —every day. YOU may not know you were that person—but they certainly will!!

Congratulations again and best of luck to you in the future! And if that future involves applying for a job in the Wauwatosa School District, give me a call or shoot me an email to remind me that we met today!

Thank you.


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