Picturing Learning Reimagined and the Work Ahead

Posted by Sharonica L. Hardin-Bartley, PhD PHR on 10/7/2022 11:00:00 AM

JGEC Mud Garden pot girl stirringSHB

Pictures are worth a thousand words. And, they are also worth thousands of emotions. Our communications team has been preparing galleries of photographs for two upcoming public engagement meetings on refreshing the district’s strategic plan, Learning Reimagined. The meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, October 22 and 6 p.m., Tuesday, October 25. 

Learning Reimagined is the vision for The School District of University City’s student, parent, caregiver and community experience. It was developed more than five years ago with intensive community input and a joint resolve to embed love, joy, equity, respect, intensive learning, empowerment, and paths to both academic and career success in our students’ lives. 

The photo galleries present snapshots of children, staff and parents of all backgrounds and circumstances experiencing Learning Reimagined and its profound influence on our district and school cultures. Seeing these beautiful photos sparks many intense feelings in me. Mostly, I see that Learning Reimagined keeps the focus on the humanity of our children, which is so deep and pure. Look closely into the eyes of our children in the photographs and you will see strength and wonder; ambition and curiosity; and the yearning for more. All of these emerging qualities are just waiting to be affirmed, comforted, nurtured and positively engaged in the world around them. 

Learning Reimagined puts structures in place for our children to emerge and thrive as learners, as thinkers and as future human beings. It nurtures brilliance. When I see a photo of our high school students rallying peacefully but forcefully for social justice in the aftermath of a police shooting of a Black teenager, I feel proud that our community understands that students should have a voice to act for social justice. When I see a photo of a class of fourth graders hovered over hundreds of coins they collected for refugees in Ukraine, I feel their awe at understanding they have power to make a difference. When I see a photograph of our middle school boys talking with a visiting businessman about their coding to create new video games, I feel their sense of importance and a belief that indeed they are connected to greatness. When I see our staff committed to togetherness during Opening Day, I feel pride because the foundation of Learning Reimagined is helping to foster relationships.

There are also pure moments of joy in the photos – one of five strategic priorities embedded in Learning Reimagined. I remember what it’s like to be a little girl unfettered by bias or limited expectations leaping in a playground. I can feel the confidence building in our high school Restorative Leaders tasked with empowering a culture of respect, dignity and relationships in their school. When two middle school boys willingly dress up as bees to rally our community to restore pollinators in our neighborhoods, I feel their resolve and their vision of a brighter future for our living planet.

I could go on about the dozens of photos and what they represent. But, instead, I encourage you to come and see them for yourself later this month during the community engagement meetings as we discuss ways to refresh the vision of Learning Reimagined. 

And yes, we know that we still have much work to do.

For example, we know firsthand from the flooding this summer that devastated parts of University City, and the recent intensity of Hurricane Ian, that global warming and environmental sustainability are the challenges of our children’s lifetimes. Under Learning Reimagined, our students and staff worked to make the District a prestigious U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee. And yet, we know that some of our facilities do not embody sustainability. We know that COVID-19 has stressed our children and staff. So, we have some work that we can do to sharpen the focus of our vision of Learning Reimagined.

I welcome you with my head and heart into this work to refresh our vision of Learning Reimagined for our children, staff and school community. I hope to see you later this month at these important community engagement meetings.

Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, PhD, PHR
October 7, 2022