Saturday, January 22, 2011

Proud to be One

On Thursday afternoon all Okoboji Middle and High School students along with faculty, staff, and around 100 members of the community got some great reminders of what it means to be an Okoboji Pioneer and what they can do to reach their potential.

The theme of our pep rally was "Proud to be One"  The official logo, which was also printed on T-shirts that were given to every 5-12 grade student, looks like this:

The pep rally started off with the school song followed by the basketball and wrestling cheerleaders leading the entire crowd of around 900 people in the "marching cheer."  After that we showed a "Proud to be One" video that listed reasons why Okoboji is a great school and community and featured testimonials from students, staff, alumni, and community members.  You can see the video HERE

Following the video we heard some great words from our new Dean of Students and alumnus Justin Bouse about the importance of getting connected with school through academics and activities and the work he will be doing to help get kids plugged in at school.  John Adams spoke about his experiences as a student, alumnus, and community member of Okoboji.  He also shared, in his view, what it means to be One.  You can find the list he shared HERE

The final speaker of the day was Hawkeye great and NFL veteran Bruce Nelson.  Bruce was born and raised in Emmetsburg and now lives and farms in the area.  He shared an OUTSTANDING message about hard work, persevering, the power of good choices, and taking advantage of your opportunities.  Bruce's message was powerful and had a real impact on everyone there.  In addition to the 900 in attendance on Thursday we also streamed the video live on our Okoboji Events Channel on UStream.  We also recorded the live stream and it can be watched HERE.  

We will also be using the Okoboji Events Channel to broadcast live some sporting events.  Our first was the wrestling double dual we hosted on Thursday and our next live event will be the wrestling dual vs Spirit Lake next Thursday.  

It truly was a great day and a great event!  Now it is time to roll up our sleeves as a school and community and get to the hard work of keeping our kids energized about being a Pioneer and being part of something great!  Thank you for your support in this and all our endeavors.  Every great school is a part of a great community and Okoboji is no exception.  

Are you Proud to be One?  I know I am!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Competition and Cooperation in Public Schools

I love competition. In high school I competed in cross country and track. I loved lining up next to guys with all different colored jerseys on and letting the course decide who was the best. During my time as a classroom teacher I also coached both of these sports. My two favorite coaching events each year were the state cross country and state track meets. Seeing all of those different schools represented and watching all of those kids line up with nothing but a stopwatch and the next 100 or 400 or 3000 meters to separate them. Competition brings out some great characteristics and teaches some important lessons.

I love being an Okoboji Pioneer. I love watching the maroon and white square off against area schools on the field, the court, the track, and more. I also love watching our debaters go toe-to-toe with some of the best schools in the state and the nation.

As much as I love competition, today I want to talk about the need for more cooperation in public education. By cooperating, schools can provide their students with more learning opportunities, as measured both by number and quality. As we have discussed in past posts, I firmly believe that we are preparing our students for a brave new world. We are sending our kids into a world that will expect them to compete for jobs with people not only from around the state and nation, but from around the world. I also believe we need to offer a wide variety of learning experiences as a way to help students identify and build skills and knowledge in their various areas of interest and talent.

Small schools have a difficult time doing this because of limits on number of staff, size and availability of space and supplies, etc. Despite these limitations, if you drove to any one of the several school districts within a 20 mile radius, you would see basically the same programs and offerings repeated at each school. You would, unfortunately, also see very little sharing or cooperation among districts. Small schools have a unique challenge that needs to be addressed with unique solutions.

If you were to stop by a certain classroom in the small Central Iowa school of Van Meter (certified enrollment of 623) you would see, on a daily basis, a classroom filled with around 20 students and being led by two teachers. Doesn't sound very unique you say? What I didn't tell you is that only half of the students and one of the teachers is located in Van Meter Iowa. The other half, and the other teacher, are in Philadelphia, PA. This class is a great example of how, using technology, we can do something we could not before. Each of these sets of students work together with their classmates thousands of miles away to complete class projects and assignments. They learn together, just as they would if they were in the same room. This is cooperation. This is two schools working together to provide a better learning experience than either one could offer alone.

Technology advances and 1:1 computing create the fertile soil in which progressive educators can grow new opportunities for collaboration and expanded learning opportunities. Next week our Okoboji administrative team will join the administrative team from Spirit Lake to begin some very exciting discussions on how our two schools can work together to expand and enrich learning opportunities for students of both districts. Such collaboration, in my humble opinion, is essential to equipping students in small schools with learning opportunities that are just as deep and wide as the ones they could experience in a larger school, with the huge advantage of the individual attention and family climate you can only get in a small community. We don't yet know what direction these opportunities will take. By working together, both schools may be able to offer courses that would never be financially viable to offer alone. I envision a future in which Okoboji students are working collaboratively in classroom settings with students from around Dickinson County, Iowa, and beyond.

This is an exciting time for education.  For the first time we have the technology and tools available to truly expand learning outside our own four walls.  Technology and the ability to connect over time and space are changing at a very rapid pace.  Our job is to make sure the human capital - which will always be the most important part of the equation, is ready to keep pace.