Let me start by apologizing. Typically, I really dislike when people enter conversations by apologizing, but in this case I think it is warranted. My goal is to write regularly to share what is happening across our schools. That has not happened this school year. My last blog was around the start of school. That is the longest stretch I have gone without writing something during my four school years in Fairbanks.
As I was pulling together my thoughts for this blog, I thought about why I hadn’t written something. There were several convenient excuses I provided to myself – lack of time, other priorities, writer’s block, etc. Each of these were just excuses, not meaningful reasons. On Sunday, I heard something that shifted my perspective.
Kyle Hammond is a church leader in Powell, OH. I have known Kyle a long time and my sister’s family attends his church. Last Sunday, my nephew invited us to see his baptism and that led to hearing Kyle speak. In his comments, Kyle asked the question “Are you a consumer or a contributor?”. Kyle’s purpose, passion, and leadership is contagious. This line in particular resonated with me. Reflecting on why it stood out to me, several things came to my mind.
Consumption is something we are all confronted with everyday. We are a consumer society. This is a personal fear for me inside of education. In a consumer culture, we can see education as a transaction. “If I do this, then I will get this”. I fear this for our students, teachers, and the future of education. While educational attainment does benefit all of us in a market economy, that is only one small purpose of formalized learning. Transactional education misses the mark in so many ways, in particular how it diminishes the potential that is in every student, teacher, or person connected to our schools.
Contribution is different though. Being a contributor means adding value to the places you have an influence. Tonight is homecoming in Fairbanks. We will be able to witness so many people that contribute to making our community special and meaningful. In our schools every day, we have contributors that build experiences for students, students that take steps to influence the lives of others, and community members that contribute their time to make a difference for Fairbanks. We are a “contributor community”.
Since August 17, our school community has been contributing to so many different experiences. Volunteering at food pantries, giving time to support booster groups, running school book stores for students, and all the innumerable other ways our community contributes to add value to others is truly remarkable. Kyle’s question stuck with me. It was powerful. It made me ask “Am I a contributor?”. My hope is that everyday I am.
- Adham Schirg, Fairbanks Local Schools, Superintendent