As I reflect back on my history with One Schoolhouse, I have such wonderful memories of my work with colleagues, schools, students, and parents. It has been one of the joys of my life to be an educator and to work as both a board member and an employee of this great organization through the early years and into its maturity. I've made such good friends and developed some strong relationships with many of you, and as I look forward to my retirement, I want to share with you some final thoughts. I hope you will humor me as I offer a few parting suggestions and observations.
First of all, I believe with all my heart that schools owe it to their students to give them at least one opportunity to take an online class in high school. Almost every one of your students will encounter an online course in college, and what they can learn in terms of time management and self-advocacy will prepare them to be successful both in college and in a professional life in the future. What better way to prepare them for the future than to give them a safe place in which to learn and struggle and overcome and hone those important life skills?
In all of my time with One Schoolhouse, I have never met a student who couldn’t succeed in an online course. There is no question that an online course is different in some ways from a face-to-face course and can be more of a challenge to some than to others – but your students can all do it. I simply don't believe it when students say they can't learn online. It really isn't a matter of how they learn online - it more a matter of developing the responsibility of managing their own learning. They may need encouragement and support as they develop this responsibility, but the learning itself is really no different. It isn’t that students can’t learn online – they may not want to or may prefer a face-to-face presence or may struggle some with the differences, but any student can succeed.
I would also encourage you to be careful about overloading students with an online course as an “extra.” A good online course requires time and commitment and should be considered as an integral part of a student's educational program. So consider an online course as a part of your school’s curriculum. If you think it is as important as your students' other courses and treat it as such, so will your students.
And finally, as you enroll students in online courses or encourage colleagues to participate in online professional development, I would urge you to be a partner with One Schoolhouse, not a client or consumer. The One Schoolhouse faculty and staff members are amazing educators who care as much about the success of your students as you do. They do not see themselves as vendors, but instead as partners in providing quality educational opportunities for your students, teachers, and administrators. Give them the chance to work with you, not for you. I was so fortunate to partner with colleagues at schools around the country, and together we helped many a student deal with challenges, find tremendous success, and gain confidence in themselves.
I will forever value the friendships I've made with many of you and with my One Schoolhouse colleagues, and I wish all of you the very best.
With great fondness - Karen
Brad Rathgeber, Executive Director