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This week has been one of reflection. My mind has raced to people who have made a difference in my life and the lives of many others.

First, the passing of Steve Jobs. I did not know Steve personally, yet he had a profound impact on my daily life. Not a day goes by that I do not touch something he inspired. My iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes and MacBookPro are constant companions. I cannot imagine life without them. They are my connection to the world. They provide function, productivity and entertainment. They constantly inspire my own sense of innovation and my passion to connect with others and make a difference.

I have to be honest, I did not know much about Steve’s life until his passing. Learning that he was a private man, I doubt that bothered him. On the eve of his death I watch his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech that was being shared via Twitter. Later I read the following quote on Josh Allen’s  Twitter page.

Apple: Think Different Commercial– Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. (Apple, Inc.)

My thoughts go to the students sitting in our classrooms as well as the educators in our schools. Each a genius in their own right. Each holding their own contribution to the world. How are we helping them to unleash their passions? How are we allowing their genius to shine through? How are we engaging them to be innovative and take risks? How are we guiding them to love learning? How are we helping them develop the desire to make a difference? If we aren’t seeing students fit this description (or the educators in our schools) perhaps it is time that we, too, develop a THINK DIFFERENT campaign.

Just this week, Iowa’s Governor – Terry Branstad launched a THINK DIFFERENT campaign with the announcement of the blueprint: One Unshakable Vision: World Class Schools for Iowa. This is an aggressive plan – one that could take us from good to Great to EXCELLENT. The plan asks us, as educators, to THINK DIFFERENT, not to retro-fit new components with existing ideas. It calls us to transform our schools so that our youngsters are better prepared for a competitive international workplace.  It is an exciting time for education in Iowa. I have been inspired my the dialogue on Twitter (#IAEdFuture), especially the more formal chats coordinated by Amy Sandvold, @B_Wagoner and @cathywalz as well as the relentless spirit of collaborative dialogue of Director Jason Glass. The dialogue has been positive and respectful. Any proposed plan is going to bring about differing views. But what has struck me most about the Twitter conversations is that for the most part educators here have a “we can” attitude rather than a “that just won’t work” or “how could we do that” attitude. I have watched, listened and engaged with these educators involved with education transformation for quite some time. I can’t help but be reminded of a quote from Margaret Mead,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This week I also learned of the passing of Artis Boddicker, my very first teacher-mentor in my educational career. A true master teacher that inspired me and had a role in developing who I am today. Like Steve Jobs, this lady was a quiet person who didn’t ever want the focus to be on her. Her mentor-ship wasn’t an extra assignment, it was who she was. She was a guide on the side, a confidant, a friend for many. For several years I was fortunate to have the classroom directly across from her’s – my window to a genius at work. I first noticed she was a master with a pair of scissors and she found comfort in cutting her classroom decorations EACH year. Here classroom was a beautiful, inviting and organized atmosphere.

I’ll never forget my first summer prior to the start of my teaching career. I spent countless hours at school in my classroom. I had longed for a classroom of my own for many years. I took pride in developing my classroom library and other displays. Just when I thought I was done – my jaw dropped when I saw my colleague across the corridor creating a welcoming display in the hallway. And while that caused me to expand my thinking – I soon saw my colleague was more than educator who had a well-organized, inviting classroom shell.

Her gentle, fun-loving spirit and passion for education were inspirational. Her dedication to her work and her students was awe-inspiring. Her own creativity led way to the creative spirits of her students. She inspired her students to be respectful of each other and their surroundings. I marveled at her young first graders as they became readers and writers. She truly loved going to school EACH day and teaching was in deed her life’s calling. She found her passion and lived it out each day, even into her retirement years as she assisted her daughter in her own teaching career. She, like Steve Jobs, found what she loved to do and did it with pride. She led by example. She inspired greatness for all who were fortunate to join her in her life’s path.

Both Steve Jobs and Artis Boddicker were individuals who lived out one of my all time favorite quotes:

You must be the change you want to see in the world. ~Mahatma Gandhi

To close, I borrow the words from Dr. Paul Gausman, Superintendent of the Sioux City Community Schools.

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