If you had three wishes for this school what would they be?
First, we must have a desire to produce good citizens. Before we concern ourselves with academic standards, we must focus on the conduct of our students. This may be addressed with positive behavior programs and tangible awards, or it can include negative consequences, but will only mean something to children when they are allowed to truly see their personal progress. I’ve seen how etiquette can transform a “rotten apple” into a “fresh spirit”. When a kid sees the fruits of his efforts, he feels success. Even if he can’t read or spell, multiply fractions or write a cohesive sentence, he can succeed with good manners. And that’s a stepping stone to his overall success. When he recognizes that every positive, small effort makes a difference to someone else, he wants more of the feeling that he gets. Like a drug, he wants more and more, until he looks back and sees how far she has become. He looks back and he sees that he has become a new person, without the limiting weights of his former insecurities and low self esteem.
My wish is that the entire school could create and expect an etiquette program that begins with impressing visitors and results in creating good citizens more than in name alone. While recognizing our good citizens is important, it is more important that we create an entire society of good citizens who are prepared to face the world. It’s more than the eye contact and firm handshake: this also pertains to food etiquette, the use of polite phrases like thank you, you’re welcome, I’m sorry, and excuse me, and it involves referring to adults with a yes, ma’am or a no, sir. I didn’t used to think it was this important, but the time has come for a stark return to politeness. Then, we will have students who care about the other things and who will possess the drive to press upward.
Our question must be, Which specific expectations will we encourage?
Next, we must find passion. When I think about the times when I have felt the most successful as an educator, my mind’s eye zooms in on the times when I have been the most creative. They are the times when I have generated memories for my students that will last throughout their lifetimes. They are the times in which my reactions to their issues, problems, or concerns were the correct reactions. All of that is a result of a passion for what I do.
For the teacher next door or the one down the hall, passion may hide in another place. Those human preferences and individualities are the spice of life, and I should hope we would never lose sight of them. My autonomous classroom can explode with vibrancy and passion if allowed and nurtured to do so.
It is the variety of methods and the diversity of characters in the school that give it a collective persona for the community to see. If the public sees us running around, wildly out of control, constantly attempting to catch up with an ever-changing list of regulations, they will, first, feel our pain, and second, begin to blame someone. But if the public sees our passion, they are more likely to overlook the inevitable negative issues that will spring up.
The question then becomes, How do we foster passion in our staff?
Finally, we must have freedom. Of course, there is a fine line between passion and insanity, isn’t there? Just as I am positively passionate when I get to creatively choose the routes that will work most effectively for my teaching style and the chemistry I have with my students, I am also negatively passionate when things don’t make sense. My wish for Cecil Floyd is for those positive passions to feed off of one another and flourish. If the concepts of intervening, individualizing education plans, and multiple learning intelligences are true, then how true are the same concepts for teachers? Do we not have individual strengths and weaknesses, as well? Are we not also gifted and special in specific areas? Do we not have our own styles and teaching personalities? Do we not have our own ways of connecting with students? When teachers are allowed to stretch and grow, students will definitely benefit. Greatly. Behaviors will improve, we will be safer, and mastery will increase tremendously.
The question this time is, How does an administrator/leader/boss/facilitator maintain control, guidance, and accountability while allowing the teachers to stretch in different directions.
I fully believe that all of these wishes are meaningful, reasonable, and yes, grantable.