The “Bear” Necessities

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Mark Marinucci

It’s often hard for me to not discuss politics, as it consumes the subjects that I teach and half of the discourse that I engage in with my friends and family. In our current political climate it would appear that our country is indeed in need of quality leadership, on both sides of the aisle. In the world of education we have a new leader at the federal level. The following is an excerpt from an interview that Secretary Betsy DeVos did with Townhall.com:

I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more successful from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.

The part that is in bold has received a lot of attention from educators as it can certainly be taken as a “teachers don’t know what they are doing”, or “teachers themselves are incapable of fixing our schools and helping our children.” Betsy DeVos is one of the most controversial appointments of our current administration. I have thought about this quote a lot and not as to her meaning or intention of it, but to the actual point – are teachers waiting to be told what to do? There is certainly a great deal of change that is taking place with regard to education in our county, and within our schools and classrooms. Many teachers have often felt that there are educational hoops that are created by various bureaucracies for them to jump through. As I thought about this quote and where education is headed I also thought back to the book Focus, by Mike Schmoker, which Mrs. Campbell asked the department chairs to read when I first came to OMHS. The book had you look at what was most important to the teaching and learning process. To look at basic concepts like how can we get kids to read, respond to a text, and then go into greater dialogue with a class discussion. The book even said that there can be noise in the educational world that can try and disrupt our focus.

As I reflect on what leadership means to me I am reminded that as teachers we are all leaders in our classrooms. We all as teachers should focus on what is best for the teaching and learning process that will affect our students. Thinking back to what DeVos said about teachers waiting to be told what they have to do certainly has had a place in what many of us experienced/are experiencing this year with lighthouse. There were some pretty big changes with technology and small group instruction to the point where it was easy to feel like you didn’t know how to start, or if you tried something new and it didn’t work you would want someone to show you how it should look. I recently went to observe another lighthouse school and their S.T.A.T. teacher said that they just aren’t comfortable with small group instruction based off of formative data yet, so they are just building in splitting the class in half (parallel instruction) to establish one component of it at this point. Being a leader in your classroom doesn’t mean that you have to know all of the answers or master all of the new changes all at once. It does mean that you can objectively look at what is best for our students and make strides to obtain that becoming a reality in your classroom. For those teachers that are still struggling with these changes it is important to keep in mind that lighthouse was not supposed to be a one year fix and that while there can and will be educational noise at the federal, state, and county levels we should all maintain focus on how to take what is being asked of us and how that best serves the teaching and learning process within our classrooms. Being a leader in your classroom means that you are willing to at times take risks and fail, at times know what is best for your students, and at times to be humble enough to know that none of us have all of the answers which means we have to be open to change.

 

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