For an entire century, we have been conditioned to see education and how it is supposed to work through a very narrow lens. What if students could have a voice? What if Students could direct there learning based on their passion? What if there wasn't homework? What if we taught students about finances, civic responsibility, empathy, and the environment and did not have enough time for Advanced Placement classes? Would our students be failures?
My name is Cliff Wright and I am what some define as a non-traditional educator. My background is in business to business sales and management. As I think back on my own school experience and I can not think of one academic moment I enjoyed. It wasn’t because I came up in an under-performing school district or had teachers that were not invested in my growth, I simply hated the entire concept. My mother long ago showed me homework with comments from my Kindergarten teacher. It stated, Cliff is polite and very smart but he just doesn’t seem to want to do his work. I can tell the reason, even at that very young age, was because I could not understand why after the teacher taught us, (shared content or process) needed for me to share with them that I heard it.
School was so completely boring to me. Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying I was overly smart but it was just information. I do not know about your experience but for me, I do not have many memories of teachers telling me how the information could be used in my life. They did tell me why I needed the information (to get a job). However, it was just the same thing over and over again and for a child wired like me, it was a nightmare.
In 2003 I left my cushy job in sales and management to start a nonprofit to address a growing concern I was seeing. Young people didn’t seem to have the basic skills they needed to perform entry-level jobs I was hiring. Things like time management, going above and beyond, dealing with conflict etc. By 2006 I was in education as a dean of students at a high school boarding academy. This is where I learned our educational system is not designed to help students discover their passion or utilize the talents they might already possess.
I focused intensely on social and emotional learning because as a dean it was easy for me to see why a student was not performing well in algebra. It usually had nothing to do with their ability to comprehend. It many times had more to do with some other factor that had nothing to do with academics. Things like depression, anxiety from being away from home at 14 or a phone call right before midterms from a parent telling them that mom and dad are getting a divorce.
It is truly a blessing to partner with GGA community in this Christ led opportunity of developing our students spiritually, socially, and academically for His Kingdom. I have prayed, looked at data, prayed some more, talked to people, researched, prayed some more and looked at more data and I am excited and confident about our journey forward. We are Seventh-day Adventist which means by our association with Christ everything we do must be excellent so that we properly represent Him. My vision is that we are intentional about building positive relationships that influence our community for God’s Kingdom. I may not know where we have been, but I have a realistic picture of where we are now. What I believe is essential to our success moving forward is collaboration, communication and the resiliency to create an inclusive culture of equity. The tradition and love are evident, and I want to build on those strengths by providing clear expectations and a framework that gives structure to clear expectations.
I have a plan but as you know, plans are only as good as the people that buy into them. Our vision must be backed up with clearly defined standards and desired outcomes that are regularly evaluated. Every person we reach is uniquely individual and of equal importance.
We have to prepare students of today for jobs that do not even exist. Understanding this to be true, it is my belief that if we don't completely change our approach in how we prepare them things will only get worse.
I ask you to join our efforts in disrupting education and building a new innovative way forward.