During his nine-year tenure as a principal and teacher at Crawford Bay school, Dan Rude made it his personal mission to get students outside the school walls and engage with the community as much as possible.
Introducing ambitious projects, such as a community mentorship program that pairs students with community members, he helped move learning from the classroom into the larger world.
“I really like the idea of looking at students as the learning leaders and having more of a conversation about where each student wants to go,” said Rude, 41, who will soon be moving to J.V. Humphries and Jewett schools in Kaslo and Meadow Creek to take over for Dan Miles, who is heading overseas.
“It’s about observing them and seeing where they want to go. What really excites me is those students who are intent on creating their own world. I’ve got one kid who wants to spend a year in Germany. He’s 14 or 15, and he’s just going for it.”
Rude said when the youngster started a crowd-sourcing campaign on his own, he was amazed by how behind-the-times he felt. “I would’ve never thought to do that. These kids have access to technologies and ideas we couldn’t even dream up.”
Another example: some of his charges are currently attempting to launch a high-altitude balloon into space, a project that appears nowhere on the curriculum.
As a principal he said he tries to “navigate between prescribed learning and exploratory learning.”
“That’s something I saw in this TedX talk a few years ago, that we have to try things that might not work. Some go nowhere, some spend millions on research and development and go broke while others spend nothing and end up somewhere phenomenal.”
He said he trusts his students’ judgment.
“We have some really serious problems to solve and it’s not going to be done by doing what’s always been done. And it’s not going to get done by telling kids what to do. They have strong passions and their world is going to be challenging. We need to listen to them.”
Rude is going to take this passion to his new gig, which starts April 15. And though they haven’t yet found his replacement, he’s been participating in the hiring process. He plans to move to Kaslo in the summer.
The new job will feature less teaching — Rude currently teaches math, science and outdoor ed — which will give him more time to focus on administration.
“Dan [Miles] and I have done a lot of traveling, looking at other schools, and part of what I’m excited about is taking ideas that work somewhere and trying them somewhere else. Dan has started a lot of neat shifts around students as learning leaders and getting the community involved. My goal is to keep it vibrant.”
He said he’s looking forward to meeting his new students.
“Learning is a partnership. To be able to work in learning is quite amazing. It involves everybody. One of my favourite books is The Big Picture by Dennis Littky. He talks about education being everybody’s business and it really is. It’s students, families, community, staff. In these small places people will care about their schools and it’s an important part of the community.”
He said he’s excited to continue to be part of it, calling his leadership style “consultative” and inviting anyone, students or parents, to feel free to engage with him.
“It’s a fascinating time. I’m really fortunate to be in educational leadership.”