Being first isn’t always synonymous with winning, but being brave enough to follow a dream is an incredibly valuable experience. My family founded a school in south Florida in 1997. The most powerful lessons I’ve learned from this endeavor are worth sharing with you. If you are an educator, and if you are reading this, you are most likely doing something interesting at your school.
We founded our school at a time when the internet was a brand new word. Our founding vision centered on creating a personalized educational experience for students utilizing the power of these amazing new tools and portals. We did our homework, built our buildings, bought our computers, planned our infrastructure, designed our networks, hired our teachers, installed our video conferencing equipment, and opened our doors to 130 children.
We became a culture of builders- trying new things, implementing what worked and letting go of what didn’t. We made mistakes, but the surprising success of it all was the connectivity of our pioneering culture. Pioneers are trailblazers, a group of brave souls with a unique set of attributes that make the impossible possible. They are visionaries, doers and dreamers. Speaking from the perspective of an early settler who headed west toward the ed tech horizon, these three strategies should help those of you packing your wagons right now:
- Invest in humans. The only thing certain is change. Your heaviest investments should not be in equipment, but in humans that make great use of any tools they have. All planning should center on training and outfitting your teaching staff.
- Accept failure as being a step closer to success. Trial and error is the only way anything gets done. Be patient, and embrace the sentence, ‘What can we learn from this?‘
- Remember that you are planting trees. As the adage goes, ‘ a society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they will never sit.‘. Your gift to the world may not be the perfect educational institution, but it will most certainly be in the joy of trying to do so.
You may be familiar with the the notion that ‘you can always spot a pioneer as the one with arrows in his back lying face down in the dirt’, but our experience has been otherwise. Today, our school is happily growing into itself, our dreams keep moving us forward, and we are forever bound by our collective efforts to build the future. One act, one thought, one student at a time. Be brave and go west- just watch out for a few arrows. Not many, I promise.