November 2014

November 2014

Marvin Sims, Jr.

What have I learned thus far? Ever sense I found out that I was selected as a Bush Fellow my life has truly changed. I learned that the power of the human spirit is AMAZING. I have gone to several Bush events and have met so many brilliant people I don’t truly don’t know where to start. Well, I guess it started at the Bush Connect Conference in August where I had a chance to meet Angela Duckworth, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Angela is a expert on the topic of Grit, her research on grit is changing the way educators work with kids. I have also had a chance to meet another expert on Grit, that’s Meb Keflezigh, the 2014 Boston Marathon winner. These two people along with a ton of others have taught me to march to the staccato beat of “anything is possible.” I have traveled to schools in Los Angeles and New York and seen first hand schools that are closing the achievement gap. Schools that are graduating 100 percent of their students and they all are heading to college. I can vividly remember the first time I walked into Medgar Evans College Prepatory School in Brooklyn, New York. This particular high school has sent 95 percent of their students on to four year colleges around the country. Most of the students where living in poverty and trying to navigate living life in the inner city of New York. I had a chance to interview several students about their hopes and dreams after leaving high school. They all said that they were going to college but what really impressed me was the fact that they also said that they wanted to come back and change their neighborhoods. They wanted to be more than just college graduates, they wanted to become change agents. These kids taught me so much about the human spirit in just a few hours. I learned from them that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you were born, what type of family you were born into – none of this matters! What matters is how hard you are willing to work to make your dream come true. On my plane ride home to Minnesota, the only thing I could think about was those students at Medgar Evans High School. They taught me to listen to the one voice that truly matter at that voice is your own. I have to say that I have been in education for 17 years and I have always wondered what it would be like to travel the country and see what other schools around the country are doing to inspire students. The Bush Foundation has opened up another world for me. They have allowed me to go see farther than I used to see. They have exposed me top things I would only dream of, but what the Bush Foundation has giving me is the staccato beat of “you can do it Marvin!”

What I’m currently learning?

What I’m currently learning is how to process all the experiences into common themes that support the work that I currently do in education. The Bush work supports what I do each and every day. I’m learning that you must have the right people around you at all times, people who will not be afraid to challenge you and get the best out of you. I’ve also learned that you cannot have a big enough network to support the work that you do. Most importantly what I am learning from the people I meet is that they are specialist in one area. In other words, they specialty spans a foot wide but their expertise is three miles deep. This has taught me to focus on one thing but do it incredibly well. I’m also learning that I have a lot to learn and not to be afraid to ask for help. Its mind blowing how many people are out there with good hearts and want to help but just don’t know how. I’m also learning that after the experience has worn off, knowledge is the residue that is left. The Bush Foundation in just six short months has taken me on an unforgettable ride of a life time and the ride hasn’t stop yet.

Where I’m going and the road blocks that maybe ahead.

At the end of my fellowship I would like to one day travel around the country and train teachers on how to inspire students to learn. With that being said I would like to become a building principal and turn an underperforming school around. I’m quickly learning that in order to do this, I must me able to work effectively with adults. My current role is a district administrator who works throughout the district. I have a chance to work with teachers from all levels across the district. This is particularly changing because of the different set of experiences we all have in education and the fact that sometimes adults are the hardest to change. I am currently working on how to inspire, staff to believe in the mission that we all signed up for when we got into education. That mission is simply to what’s best for kids at all times. This is simple but it rarely happens in schools. We don’t need more teachers, we need more educators! Educators inspire students to snap reality in half; they inspire students to dream big, they show kids that anything in life is possible. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do right know. I’m trying to get adults to see that they need to change, not the students. I’m trying to get adults to remember why they became an educator and to bring that passion to their kids in the classroom. This is the biggest fork in the road for me right now. But my plans are to drive through the fork in the road and just keep going.

How is my learning impacting my current leadership and the work of my Fellowship?

I have been able to see through a lens that most educators cannot see through. I have been blessed with the opportunity to live in spaces educators only read about. This has given me a chance to share what great educators are doing across the country with our teaching staff in my district. The stories I’m able to share is that with principals in that it can be done. There are schools across the countries that are not afraid to try something new if the old way is not working for kids. I have also had a chance to meet some many great educators who have beaten the odds themselves and have made it their life mission to save the life lives of young kids. This speaks to the self efficacy one must have to do this kind of work. I share their stories when I’m talking with principals around the district. It’s a constant reminder of why they took the responsibility to lead a school. I too am growing as a leader after every experience the Bush Foundation has given me. I’m only six months in and cannot wait to see how much I have grown in the next six months.