The following are Thom Jackson’s remarks to the Ohio Bridgescape educators on August 3 in Columbus.
This morning marks the beginning of the new school year. Wow! Think about that for a moment…a new school year.
I have not known what that means as a teacher, counselor or instructional leader. I do remember what it meant as a student.
For much of my primary and secondary education, a new school year meant three words: Breakfast and Lunch. It meant that I could get two regular meals each day, which I saw as the real reward for showing up. What happened in between — classes, quizzes, tests and homework, well that was a necessary by-product until…until wonderfully committed teachers, like you, helped me to realize that I had it backwards.
The best meals were served over Shakespeare, Emerson and Frost. Following the drinking gourd was not just a song, but a lens into the strength, character and culture of a people and a nation that really is pregnant with opportunity and potential. Conquering Polynomials and understanding Pythagorean built mental toughness.
Many of the students with whom you will work will not have such an idyllic view. Some have failed of their own volition; others have frankly failed because they have been failed. All, however, will look to each of you to give them one thing…hope – an enduring belief that they are in the right place — the place where they can turn things around, where someone believes in their innate ability to learn.
I have often said that “Education is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” It is hard not just because our country has yet to truly commit the resources necessary to ensure educational equity regardless of a child’s socioeconomic circumstances. It is hard not just because of the adult agendas that generate polices which frustrate academic progress and perpetuate dropout factories in our communities.
It is hard because of the cumulative effect of each of these and the sheer battle ground of issues our children face even before they walk through our doors: personal safety, extreme poverty, verbal, physical and emotional abuse, and failed schools.
These are the issues our students carry through our doors. They are the issues that only a profound sense of hope can help them overcome. And so, they look to you….to each of you.
As I thought about my remarks today, it occurred to me that your job not only underscores the importance of our 8 Core Values, but actually exposes their incompleteness. Think about it. As you succeed in creating an environment of hope, our students learn how to endure, how to work from “I can’t” to “I can”. In progressing from drop out to drop in to graduate, they not only learn hope, they become resilient.
Resilience is the ability to overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s challenges. My great grandmother used to say, “Trouble don’t come all ways, but it always comes.” Each day during this new year, you will help our students develop the academic tools that will become the life skills they will need to overcome many and varied challenges they will face throughout their lives.
Therefore, I find it no better setting than today, here in Columbus, to announce a 9th Core Value. Resilience: The ability to overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s challenges.
When we announced our 8 Core Values nearly a generation ago, we recognized that indelible link between character and education, or as Aristotle said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
Each day, in our Bridgescape Learning Academies across the country, we are educating mind and heart, teaching and building grit and determination — helping our students to mature into strong, resilient adults. Indeed, even as we teach them, we, too, become more resilient.
As you plan and prepare for the new school year, I ask that you think intentionally about this new core value. Indeed, you may conclude, even as I did, that it is not only an appropriate Core Value, but that it is the end product of successfully teach its 8 predecessors.
Thank you for your time, and in advance, I thank each of you personally for what you will do for our students throughout this new year.