As I type these words, I am still in Austin, TX. While AASA's National Conference on Education officially kicks off tomorrow, I am staying to close out the final session of our state's First-Time Superintendent Academy before flying into Nashville to see the first General Session tomorrow. I stepped into the superintendency ten years ago this May and it seems like these new superintendents are stepping into a vastly different world than the one that was already inexplicably challenging when I started. In some ways, I feel completely equipped to lead them through the complexities of this work and at the same time, I'm not sure that anyone can understand what it is like to be a brand new superintendent in today's world.
But as I was preparing for my transition from this work with my first-time supts to the AASA Conference in Nashville, one of my social media platforms tagged me in a memory of my last AASA NCE Blog Post. The blog was my wrap-up from my last NCE conference and it centered around the theme of that conference (personalized education), and the lyrics of one of the songs that the Singing Superintendents performed at one of the General Sessions (Make Them Hear You). The final paragraphs of that blog said this:
Our students DESERVE an education that is personalized for them, that meets them where they’re at; where learning is centered around critical thinking and collaboration and full of wonder and passion; where equity isn't a word thrown around but where all truly means ALL. They shouldn’t have to make us hear them.
Our students DESERVE to learn in an environment that is not steeped in high-stakes accountability, where teachers aren’t afraid to take risks and are stripped of their creativity and brilliance of how to bring the curriculum to the child; in a system where campuses and districts aren't labeled with a single letter that somehow is supposed to define the life-changing work they are doing. Our students shouldn’t have to make us hear them.
It is our RESPONSIBILITY to fight for what is right for kids; to go beyond a set of instructional standards and incorporate social and emotional wellness, character development and life-ready skills into our curriculum; to build school systems that ultimately strive to create a better human existence; and to bring families and lawmakers into our classrooms and schools to see the richness that this kind of personalized education can bring.
We must advocate on their behalf and never stop. We must go out and tell our story. Let it echo far and wide. We must make them hear us. Because our students are worth it.
That blog post was written on February 15, 2020 – 25 days before all of our lives would change forever with the pandemic. But as I reread these words, I'm not sure that they've ever been more true than they are right now. I am so excited to dive into the new learning I will encounter at this year's AASA NCE. And even more excited that the theme of the entire conference lines up with the charge that echoed in the words above and drives my leadership today… Leading for Student-Centered, Equity-Focused Education.
See you in Nashville!
Dr. Jill Siler is the Deputy Executive Director for the Texas Association of School Administrators. She served as the superintendent of a school district in North Texas for nearly 10 years before transitioning to TASA this past fall. Jill was an AASA NCE Blogger in 2020 and you can follow her at @jillmsiler or at jillmsiler.com.