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Lydia Dobyns Headshot

Let's Make 2013 a 'Build Something' Year

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Isaac Newton said, "We build too many walls and not enough bridges." That sentiment is especially true today. And so, when 2013 began, my New Year's resolution was to build more bridges with people who want meaningful education for all students. Three worthy areas to focus "bridge building" activities are addressing the political, economic and social constraints that face educators today.

I want to join with others to create a nation of innovators -- adults and youth. Learning to innovate begins with what happens in schools -- creating learning environments that instill a lifelong love of learning. Providing teachers and principals with relevant and meaningful professional development opportunities so that they experience deeper learning themselves. What better way to inspire our students to become problem solvers and develop critical thinking skills than to see their teachers demonstrating these very skills everyday? To build these kind of learning environments we need to build bridges within our communities, local businesses, parents and students.

Why are strong relationships between our schools and local businesses important? They can open doors to meaningful learning both inside and outside the classroom. We see evidence of powerful collaboration between business and schools taking place around the country; let's make this an everyday experience. To think way outside the classroom box, read Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski's great new book: Leaving to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates.

There are many ways to work together. Building bridges or partnerships take a variety of forms: financial, collaborative, advisory and operational. Within the New Tech Network of high schools, teachers partner with local organizations to involve students to solve real challenges, to provide student internships and to meet community needs. Most business leaders find it relatively easy and deeply satisfying to act as an expert for students or help launch a school project or create a small internship program.

Students benefit from community and business partnerships by seeing first-hand the connection between what they are learning at school and -- through these organizations -- the skills needed on the job.

We owe it to ourselves, as citizens, to find ways to provide meaningful education for every student. And while it is challenging to make the time to establish and nurture productive alliances with other like-minded organizations, isn't improving education an aspiration that makes the effort worthwhile?

The need to innovate and improve the way we educate is well known. The challenges are also well known. Right now, today is a compelling time to think outside the box. There's no time like the present to tear down the walls of inertia and tradition and in their place begin building "bridges to somewhere" critical to the future of our country.