Hello, Team PUSD!
I love the feeling of a new start and the possibilities that a new school year holds. I’m Dr. Marian Kim Phelps, Proud Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District. This is my 6th Back to School with PUSD!
I want to take this opportunity to kick off a new school year for #TeamPUSD by sharing a little fun and inspiration. You may have noticed folks walking around wearing red sneakers or wearing a red shoe pin like this (point to your lapel). Every single member of #TeamPUSD will be receiving a shoe pin from your site principal, supervisor or department head. Wear the shoe pin proudly on your lanyard, hat, or lapel as a reminder of your impact in going the extra distance for students. Every time you look at your pin, remember: “You go the extra distance for students. Your daily steps alongside students gives them the courage to explore their passions. Your example builds a foundation for their future. Your footprints are the stepping stones to their success."
The thing about success, is that oftentimes, the road there can be difficult. One example many of us can relate to: Nobody remembers how hard it was to learn how to walk as a baby. But many of you are parents now, or grandparents, or siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles and have seen a baby learn how to walk. It’s a struggle. There’s trial and error. They try, but topple over. They are unsteady and fall flat on their bottoms! They cry and get frustrated. They might even want to be carried or resort back to crawling.
As the adults - we help them get up, we cheer them on, encourage them. We might hold their hand, guide them, and give them something to hold onto to steady themselves. We build their confidence, praise their resilience, and they keep trying. We celebrate even the smallest milestones. And eventually - the baby makes progress and achieves their very first few steps.
No adults tell the baby that they are failing when they struggle. No adult tells the baby, maybe walking isn’t their strength. No baby gives up after a few falls and decides to crawl around into adulthood!
What if we treated learning at our schools like we did learning to walk? Where struggling is seen as a necessary part of learning and opportunities to grow. Mastery happens through collaborative effort and short-lived failures.
Adults would praise your efforts, come alongside you, offer a helping hand when needed, and not compare you or rank you. Baby steps, working towards a long-term goal, and signs of progress would be celebrated. We could say to our students:
“Maybe right now you feel like you are crawling through reading while others seem to be jogging.” -I got you.
“Maybe right now you feel like you’re barely holding yourself steady on wobbly legs in your math class.” -I got you.
“Maybe you feel like you’re taking two steps forward then falling on your bottom on a test or presentation.” - I got you.
Likewise, for those of you who can remember, think of where we were as a District just five years ago and how far we’ve come. As a new Superintendent to PUSD, it felt like we were learning to walk sometimes. For every one step forward, two steps back.
Audit findings, parent lawsuits, failed bond measures, feeling stuck in a rut with isolated pockets of excellence and innovation. Often, we felt like we were crawling forward ever so slowly.
But when we look back and reflect on all that #TeamPUSD has accomplished together, it is nothing short of amazing. One-to-one devices, inclusive practices, expansion of global languages and CTE, equity and belonging, universal TK, free breakfasts and lunches, Voyager, eco-friendly buses, a priority on mental and social-emotional health… we are running forward in leaps and bounds!
Many of you know I broke my ankle this past Spring. I was in a cast and scooter for eight long weeks. If anyone can appreciate the value of someone coming alongside to help me on my journey and relearning how to walk, it’s me.
Now that I don’t need my scooter to get around or have a cast on anymore for me! I feel like a brand-new person! This brings me to our annual PUSD Back to School music video: “Brand New” by Ben Rector. This is truly a celebration of the joy and anticipation that our students and staff feel as they return for a new year. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we loved creating it.
The lyrics really spoke to me, and I hope you’ll be inspired by them too. There’s a sense of hope and promise that this new year holds for us:
“I feel like for the first time in a long time I am not afraid
I feel like a kid, never thought it'd feel like this
Like when I close my eyes and don't even care if anyone sees me dancing
Like I can fly, and don't even think of touching the ground
Like a heartbeat skip, like an open page
Like a one-way trip on an airplane
It's the way that I feel when I'm with you, brand new”
Click here to see video
I’ll leave you with a final quote: “The start of something new brings the hope of something great when anything is possible.” Thank you for your hard work; have a wonderful start to your school year, Team PUSD!
Dr. Marian Kim Phelps