January Message from Executive Director Kevin Casey

Think Small

January marks the start of a new calendar year, as well as the beginning of the second half of a school year, which creates a mild dissonance.  It also marks a new state legislative session, much of which is made up of issues that carry over from prior legislative sessions.  It sometimes feels as if January does not really mark a new beginning, but rather prompts introspection under the guise of a fresh start.

Ideally introspection is an ongoing tool of self-improvement (or at least attempted self-improvement) that doesn’t need a specific start date, but the reality for many is different.  The start of a new calendar year is a trigger to take stock, both personally and professionally.  We can all identify with resolutions to eat better, go to the gym more often, contact that old friend or to read that classic novel that has stood on the bookshelf undisturbed for years.  We are going to now catch up on our observations, engage in that professional learning that is not required and make ourselves more available to students, parents and staff, all while increasing meaningful interaction with our own family members. 

The problem with treating the new year as the start date for new or expanded activities or practices is that many of us overload and set ourselves up for failure.  What’s wrong with eating a little better in March than you did in February?  Maybe the summer is the time to tackle that novel. 

One of my concerns about education is the increasing stress of the profession as described by current practitioners.  More and more educators speak of it more frequently than in years past.  We can offer different opinions on the source of the stress, but it is difficult to refute its existence.  Increased retirement rates at first eligibility, lower enrollment in higher education educator preparation programs (impacting both teachers and administrators), smaller job candidate pools…all suggest a work environment that is evolving in an unattractive way.  This is reinforced by the admittedly subjective commentary of educators I speak with from around the state.

Self-improvement is laudable, and if done correctly can be helpful to many.  Both personal and professional growth can have a positive ripple effect on others.  My suggestion is to think small, think methodically, and above all else, ignore the calendar. 

Happy New Year to you all.

– Kevin Casey