Winter is upon us. Since this is traditionally the gift-giving season, I have chosen that perspective for this week's column. Together we make up the St. Johnsbury learning community, and it is by combining and celebrating our gifts that we gain strength as an educational community and are able to translate that strength into empowering learners. I have chosen five gifts for discussion which I feel are important in education.

The first is vision. It is so much easier to get somewhere if you know where you are going. In educational terms, that means a clear focus and an intentional path. At the St. Johnsbury School we are committed to twenty-first century student learning as our focus.

The second is dignity. We need to live each and every day honoring our own and everyone else's dignity. If there is respect and communication, even the most intense struggle or strongest conflict can leave the dignity of everyone intact.

Another gift is insight. Insight is not so much intellectual prowess but openness to new learning, flexibility, commitment to continuous improvement with an understanding that many directions may lead there. Insight means thinking, reflecting, exploring, and raising questions as an educational community.

The next gift is compassion. The greatest mind is of little value without the heart. Woodrow Wilson said, "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world."

The last gift is promise. We need to make a promise -- a promise to celebrate others for who they are, a promise to celebrate their talents and gifts, a promise to celebrate them as unique human beings. As a learning community we celebrate what we have done and what we will be able to do -- together.

These gifts are important as we continue our work together as a professional learning community in continuous improvement. Nationwide education is in a time of great change and complexity. But whatever issue we bring up, we have a common focus -- a focus that has not changed and will not change. What is that constant? Kids, our children, our youth, our learners. No matter what initiative or task we become involved in, ultimately we are doing our work for children.

Our children, our learners, are on an exhilarating journey -- their life, their future. We have the incredible privilege of being part of that journey and the opportunity to use our gifts along the way.

Excellence in education is certainly within our reach. The question is not "Will we get there?" but "How can we best use our gifts to get there?"

I hope you enjoy reading about what is happening in our school in this column. I encourage you to visit our school, your school. On behalf of the St. Johnsbury staff, I wish each of you a healthy and fulfilling winter season, and I thank you for the gifts you bring to the St. Johnsbury school community.


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