This blog is inspired by my great friend, Joel Gaines, who wrote a Converge blog “Three Lessons I Can’t Unlearn from 2020.” If you haven’t read his thoughts, I would highly encourage you to; however, this blog is not a follow-up to Joel’s, but inspired as I am more convinced of things, I’ve written about in the past as we prepare for the future.
Digical Education is here to stay, but what does that look like. As many know this is the title of my podcast, but was inspired by a blog I wrote in 2015 entitled “Innovation and the Digical School” that encouraged us to merge the physical and digital worlds into what it means to be a learner in our current world. I ended that blog with this statement:
I haven’t fully worked out what a digical school will or could be because I think each will be unique to the context in which it operates; however, I do know that there are already schools further along the path to integrating new digital tools with traditional physical spaces. Likewise, I think digical schools are less of a revolution in education and more of an evolution to a new reality. Lastly, unlike some of my more Luddite friends, I believe that these types of schools will be able to create synergies in productivity bringing about greater dynamism to our schools and profession.
As digical education was forced upon us these past 16 months, I hope that we won’t go back to 2019 school and just restart, but that we’ll filter out what didn’t work with what could work as we return to greater levels of normalcy.
An institution-wide commitment to professional learning is essential for the work we do in an ever-changing reality. We feel it with so much of the world shifting around us, and we cannot possibly hope to create a healthy learning environment without a core commitment to professional learning within a school. I wrote about an experience in a blog in 2019 “A Year of School Visits: Four Lessons” where at the DaVinci School in Los Angeles and their fierce commitment to 20 days of internal professional learning as they sought to fulfill their mission in a transient and unstable community.
The question I most commonly get from school leaders is “how did they build it into their calendar?” The answer is quite simple in the sense that they started with this as the core of their work and built the student learning calendar around it. As you seek to meet the needs of our changing world, I would highly encourage a commitment to the learning of the adults in the organization as you jump into significant work on digical education, student well-being, issues of gender and race, faith formation, and worldview development.
In the five years I’ve been a Senior Fellow with CACE this has been a primary focus on my writing. One of my favorites from 2018 that I share with friends as an encouragement and board leaders as a wake-up is “Cost of Leadership,” which I am working on an update for 2021. But in “Building an Engaged School: Get a Leader,” I stated:
I have never met a school board member yet who doesn’t want their school to be a success, and every school board I’ve ever met wants the best leader available. However, few school boards truly understand what they are asking for when they seek a dynamic leader to build, develop, and foster a great school…We all want to develop and foster schools that are teeming with engaged teachers and students, so find a leader, commit to long-term hard work, and make the short-term work fun!
Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had the opportunity to host a weekly Zoom meeting with a group of California Christian School leaders who confirmed that this statement is truer today than it was when I wrote it in 2016. They confirmed it through their school leadership, professionalism amidst chaos, spiritual wisdom for cultural and political battles, and daily preparation to meet the unrelenting demands of the job. As you rest and reflect this summer wherever you are, may this be an encouragement to you as we await new surprises in 2021! And make sure you join us in San Diego in March 2022 for a big party and celebration if you haven’t registered yet!
Erik Ellefsen has served in education for 21 years as a teacher, coach, consultant, Grievance Chairman for the American Federation of Teachers, Dean of Academics at Boston Trinity Academy, and as Principal at Chicago Christian High School. He currently serves as an Academic and College Counselor at Valley Christian High School (San Jose, CA), a Senior Fellow for CACE, a Senior Fellow for Cardus, podcaster for Digical Education, and as Vice President of CCEI. Erik regularly organizes Christian school leadership seminars and speaks on issues pertaining to academic program, student leadership, and organizational development. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.