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Convocation Speech 2013

posted Sep 10, 2013, 11:02 AM by Dianne Georgantas

Longmeadow High School

Convocation Speech

Marie Doyle

August 2013

 Dear School Committee and Staff,

 It is elating to present this opening day speech for our convocation.  The summer months flew by much too quickly for many of us, but I know that we will rally, as we have every year, to acclimate to a rapid fire pace.  The changes facing education today are real, and place us on a treadmill with the setting marked on high.

 Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, discussed innovation at a symposium at Boston University.  Welch said that although people often think innovation is limited to practical scientific advances, it's much more than that. It's about expansion. When you see something done, Welch says, you have to take it to new levels. To innovate is as important as to invent. 


So what does that mean for educators in Longmeadow?  It means that teaching students to think-helping them to gain a proclivity for imagining and inventing- is the key that will unlock the doors of the future.

 There was an article in the Washington Post last week that asked whether we had reached the Age of the Jetsons.  How many of you remember the cartoon, the Jetsons?  For the many of you who are too young to remember, the Jetsons was a TV show that aired in 1962.  It was my favorite cartoon as a child. 

 The Jetson’s family captivated my imagination as various nexuses made life seem full of possibilities. It was the first time I actually thought about traveling in space. This cartoon  demonstrated innovation and creativity at its best.  Let me show you the intro that was used in 1962…

 Jetson clip

The cartoon predicted what life would be like in 2026.  Here are some of the predictions that were spot on:

 Students visiting different countries

·         Teleconferencing

·         Skyping

·         Private air travel

·         Treadmills

·         Moving sidewalks

·         Airpacks for individual flights

·         Cars that drive themselves

·         Cars that also could fly

·         Hair dryers

·         Space travel

·         Computers that took food orders

·         Microwave ovens

There were parts of the show where they missed the mark such as:

·         Still having a traditional wife

·         Shopping malls rather than

·         Books rather than electronic devices

 Other innovations from the Jetsons are now becoming a reality in ourtime. In New Zealand, a permit has been issued for first responders to use flying back packs to travel.  Airports now use rolling sidewalks to help us move quickly through huge complexes. Robotics are in our homes with items such as the vacuum robot.   At MIT's technology lab, they are creating robots that not only do tasks, but 

actually respond to human emotions.  Teams work on holograms and 3-D pictures.   Finally, robots are being used to help the disabled. We are certainly in a period of a technological revolution.

 So should we expect anything different in the field of education? After all, we are the ones educating the next generation to surpass our dreams and to go beyond with the Jetsons portrayed for us in 1962.  

 In less than a single generation, from 1962 until now, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Today, innovators set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there's an Internet connection.  China and India are now competing in this new global economy. Their emphasis on STEM careers, particularly in math and science, is paying off. Just recently, China has become the home to the world's largest private solar research facility and the world's fastest computer.

 The future is not ours because it belongs to the children, and we need to prepare them for this new global economy.  As President Obama said in his last State of the Union Address:  “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.”

 And so this responsibility rests with us.

 The first step to the future is promoting American innovation. Teachers must light the fire of creativity and imagination in our students who are maliable and eager to learn.  This is the country where electricity was discovered, the car was invented, the first men landed on the moon, the airplane was designed and Google was released.

Already, we're seeing the promise of renewable energy.

 We are in our third revolution of education as the technological age strikes and a global economy mandates that countries work more closely together.  Schools need to promote creativity, an understanding of culture, math and literacy competencies, technology and team work.  At the same time, the amount of knowledge doubles every four years and technology brings the world into the schools; this has overloaded the schools with new curriculum mandates.  Teachers are stressed as demands increase, and the only way to meet the societal needs, as well make teaching possible for staff, is to revamp our educational system.

 Leadership is playing a more vital role than ever as education traverses in a new direction.  School administrators need to handle the pace and demands placed on our teachers.  In addition, leaders need to think out of the box about curriculum, as well as instruction, since technology will play a major role in how students learn.   The Partnership for the Twenty-First Century (An alliance of businesses that met and determined skills that students needed for future success) calls upon schools to look at the four "C's": communication, creativity, cooperation and critical thinking skills.  Add to that list technology, literacy, math skills and STEM; it becomes clear that change in education is at a revolutionary stage as we prepare this generation to be stewards of the environment, creative thinkers, problem solvers, ethical citizens and global partners.  

 It falls to teams of leaders- teachers, principals, assistant superintendents, superintendents, special education directors, businesses, community leaders and more- to come together to plan for this change and to support one another as we move forward.  It behooves leaders to look at the four "C's" to understand the difference between what students needed to know in the past and what they need to succeed in the future.

 The 4 “c”s permeate my thinking as the State pushes for testing but the economy, community and environment beg for creativity.   Here is the challenge I give you for the year: prepare students for the work force in which they will enter.  Teach them well and the test scores will take care of themselves.  Address the 4 C’s: communication, creativity, critical thinking and cooperation while remembering reading, writing, math and STEM.  I ask you to work together as team work brings the best results.  Think of ways to make learning interdisciplinary as life is not taught in segments.  Think about your new role a coach and facilitator rather than a lecturer.  Promote creativity through active learning where you make learning visible.  Let students take the lead in their learning where they innovate, imagine, create and make mistakes.  Through these experiences, they will be ready to face the work force ahead of them.  I know that you can lead these changes as you are outstanding educators.

 Just to juxtapose what I’ve just asked of you, I want to remind you how well our students perform and how closely our system is linked.  Did you know that all students at Longmeadow High School passed the tenth grade MCAS last year?  That is a result of years of support for our students.  As Larry Berte likes to say, “We are a district that prepares children for life- it is not just the high school that teaches our children. It is all grades that make the difference in helping students succeed.”   Thank you for your admirable work.

 I look forward to working with all of these teams-the staff, the administration, the LEA and the School Committee as we truly care about providing the best education for our students.  Together, we can keep Longmeadow an educational leader in the State as well as the nation.