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Education is life itself

Over 90 percent of all children in the U.S., ages kindergarten through twelfth grade, attend a public school.
Education is Life Itself
Trail Ridge Middle School teacher Clayton Wittrock works with a student during Language Arts class. (Photo courtesy of St. Vrain Valley Schools)

 

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The moment we are born into the world, our story begins. Our blank pages fill as we experience the world, learn, explore, and create memories with every action. The power of the human brain is humanity’s greatest asset, with a capacity so vast and limitless that at birth, it contains as many neurons as stars in the Milky Way.

It is within our minds and memories that we shape ourselves and the future direction of our society. We develop empathy and compassion, build on past knowledge, and foster the indomitable human spirit for innovation and advancement.

As we learn and grow, each new chapter of our story takes shape, driven by our continued learning and access to new opportunities. To this end, our public schools have one of the greatest impacts on the growth and advancement of the human experience. Over 90 percent of all children in the U.S., ages kindergarten through twelfth grade, attend a public school. Outside of parenting, the quality of our public education system has the greatest impact on our future. It is in our classrooms that students not only gain a strong academic foundation and workforce readiness skills, but they come of age through the myriad of experiences and opportunities available to them. In our hallways – and on our stages, courts, and fields – students learn and practice intellectual curiosity, cooperation, perseverance, trust, friendship, adversity, love, and joy.

WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE?

In March 2020, the week before we were required to close our schools to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Vrain Valley Schools hosted a series of focus groups to engage our families, students, teachers, staff, and other community members in the question, ‘What is the purpose of public education?’ Through these conversations, many clear priorities and values for our system came forward.

  • We believe that students are not a statistic or a test score, but their full potential should be recognized and passions cultivated.
  • Schools are a place where students can discover who they are and what they value in a safe environment that encourages movement beyond their comfort zone.
  • St. Vrain Valley Schools provides access to new resources and opportunities, and engages students in conversations that foster advanced thinking and discovery.
  • Our schools serve as much more than a place to learn academic content, they are pivotal in supporting student health and well-being, including counseling and health services, access to food and other basic needs, and so much more.
  • Teachers recognize the needs and special abilities of every student in order to support the advancement of their individual pathways toward success.
  • We are a place of agile learning that empowers self-expression, creative analysis, gratitude, deeper and higher-level thought, and emotional intelligence to best prepare our students for success in the complex, globalized world.
  • When this type of agile learning is paired with a foundation of rigorous academics, our school environments serve as the catalyst for a true competitive advantage.

Almost two years have passed since we engaged in these conversations, and in that time, our entire world has changed. Yet, the promise and power of public education remains as important and relevant as it ever has. Much of the conversation during the pandemic has been focused on a deficit perception of learning loss, however, when we ask our children what they have learned, we see a reflection of what our community values as the purpose of public education.

When we look back on this chapter of our lives, we will find a story that transcends the antiquated measure of educational quality and experience through a standardized test. What our students learned through this experience – generating new connections in their mind – that will forever shape the future of our society included empathy, resilience, adaptability, compassion, empowered expression, independence, the importance of human connection, and academic knowledge.

In reflecting on the roles of school in society, the late American philosopher, John Dewey, shared that, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” The power of our learning is so intertwined with who we are, that to understand its value is to acknowledge and measure the whole of human achievement. Through the minds of public school graduates, we’ve walked on the moon, cured diseases, invented vaccines, and almost eradicated extreme poverty.

Because of public school graduates, approximately 90 percent of the world’s population has a device in their pocket more powerful than the super computers of the late 20th century. From those devices, anyone in the world has access to resources of information exponentially greater than any library or prior repository of knowledge, and with the touch of a button we can engage in a face-to-face conversation with a loved one on the other side of the world.

In this time of significant global challenge, St. Vrain students engaged in advanced biomedical research, designed the hospital room of the future, raised and reintroduced an endangered fish species, won numerous state athletic championships, learned new languages, created incredible music and art, demonstrated community engagement and leadership, engineered innovations in artificial intelligence, demonstrated patience and grace, found new ways to communicate and connect, and most importantly, they learned to keep moving forward.

“Education is life itself.” It is through our public schools that the next chapter is being written and the future begins to unfold and take hold – a future brighter than all of the stars in the Milky Way.

 

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