Introverts as leaders?

Introverts as leaders?

This is an interesting op-ed article from the New York Times about leadership and introverted-ness. As we think about the children in our classrooms, the colleagues we work with, or the people in our lives, it’s important to remember (and granted I speak as an introvert myself) that introvertedness is not a social handicap. It is an alternative way of processing connections with others, sharing of oneself, and transforming the world around you for the better. Regardless of who you vote for tomorrow, regardless of who leads our country next, regardless of who you or the leaders you follow are: remember that children and people have so many different strengths, skills, and talents to offer. It is our job as educators to affirm and nurture these and thus create confident and capable leaders no matter where they fall on the extrovert/introvert continuum.

An Ode To “Specials” Teachers

After a faculty meeting yesterday, our music teacher made a thoughtful remark about how providing what each child needs at their different developmental ages and stages is one of the things that makes being a specialist so challenging. Having been a specialist myself once, as I prepared to transition into the homeroom and as I received some interesting responses to my move from specialist to homeroom teacher. What specialists do is uniquely challenging and takes a great deal of skill, energy, and thought.

I’ve been really surprised how many people saw move from science to a homeroom classroom as a professional step UP in the world of education. It seems that because children transition in and out of a “specials” (I put it in quote because I’m really not a fan of the term) classroom it is perceived as less valuable or challenging. I think teachers struggle enough out there in the big wide world to garner respect (genuine respect, not the “oh, I really respect what you do” cursory remarks) that for a specials teacher to have to go the extra mile to earn it is a shame!

These are some unique challenges that specials teachers face:

  • They need to create a learning environment that is both functional and transitional. Their space needs to be appropriate for a variety of different age ranges. Materials need to  be accessible to all learners that come in and out of the room.
  • They need to create routines that work for different ages to move into the space, around the space, and out of the space in a safe and clean way.
  • They need to  be able to create, maintain, and repair when necessary a strong sense of community that is, by nature, transitional. Any given class can come to your room in different emotional, mental, and physical conditions. Your expectations for them need to be such that they can feel emotionally safe moving to your space and that their community of learners is maintained.
  • They need to meaningfully know a hundred or more learners at very different developmental stages, different personalities, and different life situations. They need to differentiate, customize the learning experience, and engage so many children in meaningful and connective ways.
  • They need to be able to create and maintain strong professional relationships with other faculty so that the above goals can be achieved.
  • They go to more meetings because their teaching fingers are in so many places!

Overall, being a specials teacher is one of the most interpersonal jobs in a school. The sheer number of people (students, parents, faculty) they need to relate with successfully in order to make the children’s learning meaningful and successful is astounding. They don’t all assign homework, they don’t welcome or dismiss the children to homeroom, they don’t do parent conferences, but they deserve (in my personal, and certainly thoroughly biased, opinion!) to be treated as professional equals in the world of educators.

Educators all who are specialists (art, music, language, physical education, dance, etc.) ought to be proud of the ways they are able to stretch themselves for all kinds of children. Specialists step outside of themselves and into the world of students to connect with them and build a bridge for them to cross to their subject matter. Specialists partner with homeroom teachers as all strive to know each child and support them in their growth as learners and people. Specialists are often unsung and under-appreciated heroes in the educational world, we could not be who we are as teachers or as a learning community without them, and children’s lives would be less rich as well.

First Day Eve

For some of us tomorrow is our first day of school at a new place, for others it is our first day in a new role, but for none of us is it our first day of school. We have all been here on First Day Eve countless times both as students and teachers wrestling around in a stew of familiar emotions: excitement, anxiety, sadness at summer’s end, curiosity at the year ahead…certainty that we won’t have a great night of sleep as we rehearse our first day plans over and over…knowing that SOMETHING will surely arise requiring us to be flexible and change them (a constant in our profession).

We are ready. We are ready because we understand a little more about why we do what we do and what drives us. We are ready because at the center we care about knowing each child and helping them thrive as talented individuals within their community.

I invite you to read this article by Parker Palmer (author of the book The Courage to Teach) as we continue to think about how we each as teachers connect teacher, student, and content in meaningful and transformative ways.

Click to access rr_heart.pdf

“One student I heard about said she could not describe her good teachers because they were so different from each other. But she could describe her bad teachers because they were all the same: “Their words float somewhere in front of their faces, like the balloon speech in cartoons.” With one remarkable image she said it all. Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching–and, in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self, subject, and students in the fabric of life because they teach from an integral and undivided self; they manifest in their own lives, and evoke in their students, a “capacity for connectedness.” (Parker Palmer)

I count myself lucky to work with a group of good teachers who are in so many ways so different and yet share a common vision. Lay out your First Day clothes, prime that coffee maker, and get as much rest as possible….but know we’re all probably tossing and turning a little tonight together.

The ones who change the world…

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… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs

Connect. Explore. Create.

This week I am attending Independent School Management’s conference on “Leading the 21st Century Elementary School”. I have been profoundly improved as a leader and educator, and am determined to wrest from all I’ve been inundated with this week a way to bring tangible opportunities for growth into my practice as teacher and educator back at TPS.

Woven throughout the entire week has been the constant reminder of the equal importance of leading and educating in a way that is moved by mission and centered on children. Institutions are not the only organisms driven by mission, people are as well. One of the exercises they asked of us early on was to, through a variety of steps, create a personal mission statement:

I exist in order to explore my world inside and out, give genuine care for others, and promote reflective growth, creativity, and connectedness in my personal and professional communities.

One of the leaders encouraged us to try and choose three distinct words for ourselves that represent who we are personally and professionally. A “tag line” of sorts.

Connect. Explore. Create.